Jake La Botz Draws on His Grandfather's Tales for Animated 'Hobo On a Passenger Train' Video

Jake La Botz Hobo on a Passenger Train
Courtesy Photo

Jake La Botz, "Hobo on a Passenger Train"

Hobo culture is part and parcel of Jake La Botz's life; His grandfather Jinx Putnam, was, after all a "bona fide hobo," riding the rails and later on sharing his adventures with his grandson.

So it's not surprising that La Botz had something special in mind for the new video for "Hobo on a Passenger Train" -- a gritty track from La Botz's award-winning 2017 album Sunnyside -- which premieres exclusively below.

The inventively animated and trippy clip features La Botz in hobo mode enjoying his own adventures, including on a train that flies around the sun (trust us, it makes more sense to see than to read about). It was put together by the Albany couple Colleen and Tom McWatters, the latter a big La Botz fan who's traveled to check out the Chicago troubadour's gigs. "Tom's an artistic type guy and he makes these stop animation videos," La Botz tells Billboard. "I put out on Facebook one day to see if one of my director-type friends might want to make a video for 'Hobo.' Tom hit me and said, 'Look, man, I do stop animation. I've got this idea...' So we talked about it a little bit and I got real excited.

"So what we have is this really cool, kind of transcendental hobo on this ride through space and time. (McWatters) really pulled it off, better than anything I ever imagined for it."

The video also lets La Botz, in a way, live out his own hobo fantasies. "My grandfather has the best stories in the world," he says. "When I was a kid, all I wanted to be Jinx Putnam. I did not ride freight trains but I did hitchhike and groveled a lot, sold cars, lots of different things. I wanted to experience the world as a young teenager, just like I knew a lot of the old blues guys did. That was where my heart was at. So I did a lot of traveling... and I think in this (song) the hobo is sort of a voice of reason, speaking about what it means to be free or something like that."

The "Hobo on a Passenger Train" video puts a cap on the campaign for Sunnyside, which won an Independent Music Award for Best Alt Country Album. La Botz is still touring -- in the U.S. now with European dates during October -- and he recently launched a PledgeMusic campaign to help finance his next album, which he plans to start recording during November at High Style Studios in Chicago with Sunnyside collaborator Jimmy Sutton.

"We've got some songs," says La Botz, who hopes to have the album out next year. "I don't want to scare anybody, but Jimmy says there's a couple of my songs that have a little of a disco vibe. And we've got some songs about Big Foot trying to get back into the headlines. The songs are getting a little weirder, but they're also really groovy and rocking. I don't know how much to say about it yet, but I feel like there's really no choice but to be completely myself -- whatever that means at any given time."