Chatting with Will Hoge
By Annette Gibbons
Country music is finally getting quite popular in the UK, people are just now discovering lots of artists like yourself, so there’s going to be some people who don’t know that much about you, how would you describe your music?
I think if you took everything from American recorded music from 1965 to 1980 and put it in a blender, then mixed it up and let it be born and raised in Nashville it would sound a whole lot like that. The honesty of classic country music also with the energy and passion of great rock and roll shows..
As soon as I listened to your latest album Small Town Dreams I knew it would become a favourite, it sounded like a classic album from the very first listen
Thanks that’s a big compliment.
Tell us a bit about yourself, I know you’re one of the few people in Nashville that was actually born and raised in the Nashville area which is quite a thing…
Well I mean I grew up very much like the – I think the character in most of the songs that are on this new record. It’s very reflective of who I am as a person.
I grew up as a – you know one of two kids with a working class mother and father. They had family in and around Nashville, music was always a huge part of our lives, not like the Carter family that sat around and played music all the time but it was always a part, we were always listening, always records in the house, a vital part of who we all are.
You know that small town upbringing is still something that is reflected and who I am today, as a writer, as a musician, as an entertainer, as a father, as a husband, those are – I think it’s a pretty direct reflection of all of that.
When did you decide that this was going to be the career for you, you wanted to be a songwriter or a performer or a singer, was that something you kind of always felt you were going to be?
No like I say I always loved music and I knew that it would be something that would play a role in my life, not necessarily as doing it but at least being around it and listening as a fan.
It really wasn’t until college when I kind of had the first long stint of loneliness and being alone and kind of finding your own path and no parents there to sort of guide you and all of a sudden school became very unimportant, classes became very unimportant but playing the guitar and trying to write songs started to consume the majority of my time so it really wasn’t until then that I started going through that first stint of really trying to be an artist, a writer.
Small Town Dreams is your 10th album, so you’ve been doing this for quite a while. You are touring in the UK later this year, why now, did it just feel the right time?
It’s been a long process and I think there were some things that happened years ago, the band and I were on the brink with a record that we had made, “Draw the curtain” and it was really the first one that kind of started to introduce us over there, and then at a broader level here in the States even and as we started to make the record that was going to be the follow up to that I had this accident that side lined me for about a year and a half so that kind of took part of the wheels off everything.
Then we made a record that again got great response and by then and everybody at the BBC really embraced it and we had big plans for the UK and then we had a management shake-up and all these things so that tour fell apart.
It’s just been a kind of series of non-starts for us for what seems like a long time so I think that finally it’s just taken this long to really get myself back in order health wise and get the band back in the right position and all of the chess pieces on the board at the same time. Trying to make a concerted effort to make a little bit more noise throughout the whole genre.
Its great a time to come to the UK, Country is enjoying a real surge of interest
You’re Grammy nominated, ACM nominated, CMA nominated, does that mean a lot to you to have your peers recognise songs you’ve written?
Yeah I mean it’s the old cliché that it’s an honour just to be nominated, it seems like something that people say just when they lose those awards but it really does prove true. There is something that is redemptive in a way about that, to have your peers and people that you respect as writers and producers and all those artists, kind of give you that tip of the cap that something is a special thing, it really was an honour.
When I was doing some research on you and when I googled you it came up saying that you are ‘Country’, ‘Rock and roll’, ‘Roots’ and that you are like Springsteen and Petty…., What would you say?
Being born and raised in Nashville to be honest country music is something that is incredibly important, you grow up around it, I don’t know that I consider – there’s never been this big edict from anybody in my camp, or especially for me to go “Okay I’m going to be a country artist.”
I’ve always been just to try and write great songs and tell great stories, make great records and play great shows and some of what that involves are things that are incredibly country. I mean very old school, very traditional country, musically, and then there’s other things in there that are closer to Led Zeppelin than they are to anything country.
I think that’s in some ways been to my detriment because it’s never given a record label or anyone that’s worked with me on that end a real easy outlet to just go, push it in this hole and everything will come. But it’s my choice, it’s who I am. I love all of it. I think that’s one of the things that we’re most excited about in the UK, like you just said I don’t know that the UK is so steeped in tradition country music that when you come over and you don’t wear a hat and a belt buckle then they don’t believe you’re country. You know it’s much more like you said people want to hear great songs and see great performances and I feel that’s something the band and I do real naturally and I feel in a lot of ways country just comes more to me and what I do naturally than me trying to fit myself in that hole.
That’s the best way to do anything. If you can be yourself and be the best that you can be at something it’s nice not to have to fit in a mould.
I read some comments where you were saying that this whole bro country, as much as it may not be your favourite, in a way it may have helped you because there’s just so many different types of music in country at the moment, that you have now been welcomed into country.
Yes I mean I think that’s the big love right now in Nashville, everybody wants to dog on real country and everybody says Florida Georgia Line is the worst thing that ever happened and all of that. I mean one, those guys have been incredibly nice to me just as a person, we’ve done a lot of shows together and they’ve bent over backwards to make sure that they’ve taken care of – they’ve been incredibly kind spreading the word about my music and all of that and also they were a huge crowbar in the door of country music, to really expand what people in the genre are willing to listen to, what radio people are able to play.
So all of a sudden it does give the place to kind of go and do exactly what I want to do but you still have an audience that is willing to accept that. So it’s not something that I’ll sit around and bitch off the art that those different people make, I think that’s their needle, so if you don’t like it don’t listen to it.
Exactly it’s funny we had them play over here, we have a festival called Country 2 Country and they played over here this year – as you can imagine lots of people happy, lots of people not very happy and I’m just like if you don’t like them just don’t listen. Simple as that.
Yes and that’s the great thing. Those festivals are a perfect example, there’s generally – there’s two stages, if you don’t like what’s going on that one go to the other one. I just, as a fan I try to be more of the kind that sort of spreads the word about the things that I do really love, if there’s something that I’m passionate about believe me I’d rather talk about that than try to convince people to not like something.
Absolutely. I completely agree with you on that.
When I was researching you there was some particular words that were used to described you, that you were ‘rowdy, and you are passionate which I think are all good words to describe you…but the other one is ‘rollicking’ and I don’t know if rollicking is the same in America as it is in England!
Well what is it in England, tell me that?
It would be someone really telling you off, a severe reprimand ‘my Dad gave me a rollocking for not tidying my room’ So what’s rollicking in America?
Well actually like rollicking is more of a – I think it stems from the rock and roll, rock and roll theme, like rock is the head banging part and roll in rock and roll is kind of the hip shaking sexual part so I feel like it’s a mix of those two things so yeah, maybe it kind of has more to do with the feel of it. Rollicking I don’t thing is detrimental for sure.
That’s good at least it doesn’t mean that you’re this really angry man that’s going to shout at us!
So have you been over to the UK, have you played over here before?
Yeah we’ve been over – the band and I came over about five and a half years ago, and then I came over like I say right before my accident, when we were working that album. I’d come over and done a solo acoustic tour with the intention of bring the band back.
The band is coming this time yeah. I’m really excited about that because the show that we’re able to do as a band. I mean I can come over and do the story telling singer songwriter anytime and that goes over well and the audience they’re incredibly receptive to that but I think for us to put on the full rollicking that we need to put on the band needs to be involved.
Excellent so if you are going to leave us with one message to say to the fans on why they should come and see your show what message would you like to tell them?
I would just say come out and give us a chance, jump on the roller coaster ride with us, see where the show takes you.