“Puppy Songs” Is the Dog-Inspired Musical You’ve Always Wanted · The Wildest

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“Puppy Songs” Is the Dog-Inspired Musical You’ve Always Wanted

TikTok-famous musician Matt Hobbs on his project’s success, inspirations, and why the cheese tax must be paid in moderation.

by Sean Zucker
May 23, 2023
Matt Hobbs holding two small dogs
Courtesy of Matt Hobbs

Remember the first time you heard Taking Back Sunday in the early aughts and thought to yourself, This is exactly the type of whiny nonsense I need to help me navigate the world?

Or maybe you were more well-adjusted and Beyoncé helped guide your day-to-day. Regardless, we’ve all had profound musical encounters that resonate on a deep and relatable level. Well, what Bey accomplished for your thankfully stable mind and TBS did in 2002 for depressed pre-teens with a proclivity for group vocals, Matt Hobbs is currently doing in honor of loving pet parents everywhere. With his ever-growing Puppy Songs catalog, the musician is putting melodies to the mundane absurdity and joy of everyday pet parenting.

The Origin of Puppy Songs

Thanks to ultra-sharable tunes like “Big Stretch,” “Stuck on my Teef,” and of course, “Cheese Tax,” Puppy Songs has amassed nearly 900,000 followers between Instagram and TikTok since its inception three short years ago. To date, Puppy Songs has released 157 original compositions, which in TikTok terms is like a Bob Dylan-level of prolificacy. The catchy jingles have gained a dedicated digital community by capturing those routine moments of goofiness being a dog parent brings. And given Hobbs’ background, it’s not surprising he’s found success making music. “I grew up in New Orleans where music is everywhere. It’s a big part of the culture. Everybody plays, everybody sings, everybody participates. It’s just a very live organic musical place,” he remembers.  

Hobbs began playing piano and guitar at a young age, citing singer-songwriters Ben Folds and Elton John among his early and ongoing influences. He admits that today he’s nearly always singing. “I make up songs about everything. My wife says I’ve made her life a musical. She’s very used to that now,” Hobbs says. But, contrary to his musical aspirations, he initially had little experience with the other major aspect of the Puppy Songs equation: pet parenting. That is, until he met his eventual wife and her two Chihuahua / Pomeranian mixes seven years ago. Leni and Marley (aka Mar Pup) would go on to serve as Hobbs’s muses and ignite his Puppy Songs project.

@puppysongs THE ORIGINAL! Now available on Spotify + Apple Music ❤️🤘 #fyp #puppysongs #teefs #stuckonmyteef #stuckonmyteeth ♬ Stuck on My Teefs - Puppy Songs

“Leni and Mar Pup are these two tiny, but so expressive, fun animals and they’re both so different with such big personalities,” Hobbs says. Thanks to their unique traits and temperaments, the now Atlanta-based artist soon discovered a staple of pet parenting weirdness — the dog voice. “I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this at all. A lot of people endow their pets with a voice…They just make their puppies characters. I think it’s just something we naturally do so that’s something I started doing the more time I spent with them,” he adds.

The Inspiration for “Cheese Tax” and Other Hits

In truth, Hobbs’ pet voices have serious vocal range. He explains that Leni’s the more anxious of the two pups, so naturally his singing voice is a bit more nasal and stressed. Mar Pup, on the other hand, is more soulful and confident. Per Hobbs, “They have to contrast; they can’t sound exactly the same. So, Mar Pup’s more rounded and heady. When she sings, she sounds like Michael McDonald. Leni is more grippy.”

Comedically, Hobbs takes a lot of inspiration from adult animation, namely Bob’s Burgers and South Park. Speaking of South Park, Hobbs compares Mar Pup’s voice to the character of Randy Marsh and Leni to that of Eric Cartman — a chaotically dynamic duo to say the least. But that’s not to say that Hobbs isn’t professional about his work, even when the subject matter would seem to suggest otherwise. “The comedy from Puppy Songs comes from treating silly things very, very seriously,” he explains.

Hobbs borrows heavily from the sounds of Broadway and Disney flicks — both of which can be heard on his biggest song to date, “Cheese Tax.” The 30-second clip has become a sensation on Instagram and TikTok, with countless recreations and shares. In fact, it’s gotten so popular that Kraft recently released a limited edition “ Cheese Tax Pack.” Musically, he specifically drew the epic build and orchestral resonance from that of Master of the House” from Les Misérables, and the slick mischievous vibe was derived from classic Disney villains.

And while Hobbs admits he wasn’t expecting the song to blow up in the way it did, there was always something special about it. “I can never tell what’s going to do well, but I did have more fun than usual doing that vocal,” he remembers.

Leni and Mar Pup: TikTok Muses

That being said, the canine-focused artist does warn of one major pitfall of fame and the songs’ success: “I’m worried some people are giving their dogs a lot of cheese, but that’s ultimately [at] their own discretion. The song is not about how much cheese the dogs eat. It’s about the fact that the dog wants the cheese…But it’s been really wild seeing it take off.” Hobbs wrote “Cheese Tax” the same way he writes most Puppy Songs anthems, organically and largely off the cuff. As he goes about his day as a dog parent, Leni or Mar Pup will do something that inspires a new song. Then, he’ll hit the studio and record it, which he does entirely in-house and on his own from the initial engineering to the final mix.

“Cheese Tax” came to Hobbs as he was giving Mar Pup some cheese along with her various medications. Both Mar Pup and Leni are 13-year-old pups, and Hobbs notes that caring for senior dogs is a beautiful part of his life. “It’s really special to have a long-running relationship with a dog to where you know each other and you can accept each other when you change and evolve. It’s incredibly rewarding to have these two,” he says.

Hobbs has recently begun performing his Puppy Songs live and has also recorded longer versions of many songs to release them on Spotify and Apple. This momentum is something he credits in large part to the people who have and continued to support him and his music. “I’ve found a lot of fulfillment in connecting with the people who enjoy this and it’s a community now which is really cool. It humbles me every day to get to do this. It’s intimidating and it’s fulfilling and it’s wild,” he says.

As for what’s next for Hobbs, nothing is set in stone other than continuing to make more Puppy Songs because he knows Mar Pup and Leni will continue to provide him endless content. And on top of that, it’s hard saying no to our pups — even if they’re only asking for cheese. “These two dogs are really special to me and my wife, and I’m just so lucky to have them. They’re part of the family and we always say they can do whatever they want. We’ll give them whatever they want,” Hobbs says. 

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.

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