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03 Nov 2017

Stealth Hit-Maker: Will Hoge, Coming to Pappy's, Has Had a Fine Career as a Singer—but His Biggest Success Came as a Songwriter

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Will Hoge. Will Hoge. Peyton Hoge

In 2012, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” by the Eli Young Band called dominated country-music radio, reaching No. 1 on the country charts.

That song was written by singer-songwriter Will Hoge, who has released 10 studio albums of his own. He will be appearing at Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday, Nov. 10.

During a recent phone interview, Hoge said that after 10 albums, he still feels that recording is a struggle.

“The recording process as far as the studio goes gets a little easier,” Hoge said. “Trying to not be redundant and do the same things over and over? That becomes a little harder. But I’m lucky that I have a wife and kids who keep me full of fresh ideas, so that really helps.

“I’m trying to become more concise as I grow as an artist, and I’m trying to really get to the point of the songs—emotionally, lyrically and musically—as concisely as possible. I think that continues to get better and better as I grow. I’ve learned how to surround myself with the right people, especially in the record-making process.”

When Hoge talked about “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” becoming a smash hit, I could sense the pride in his voice.

“It’s a real treat. That’s the only commercially successful song that I’ve been a part of as a songwriter and an artist on a big level,” he said. “It’s a really interesting song for me that was written during a really interesting time in my life, so I vividly remember all of those things. It was a roller coaster ride just from a song that was written just like any of the other songs I’ve written.

“Every little milestone that happened with that song was cool. Getting a phone call 2 1/2 years before it even came out on a record, telling me that a band was going to record it—that’s the first time it ever happened to me, and it was cool. When it was recorded … that was cool. The fact it was even in contention to be a single was cool. The fact it was a hit single was cool. It actually made it to the Top 50, then the Top 20, and then the Top 10. It got nominated for all these awards. It was something I never planned for or expected. I’m still giddy when I hear it and it comes on, on the radio. It’s grin-inducing every time.”

When I asked if he was upset that he may not get credit for the song in people’s minds since another artist made it a hit, he laughed.

“As long as I still get the checks, I don’t really care!” he said.

Hoge has toured with a wide variety of bands as a singer-songwriter from Nashville. The list includes Midnight Oil, ZZ Top, Lisa Loeb and Jason Isbell. However, he said he was particularly nervous about his tour with the band Shinedown.

“Where I thought we’d be the most out of place was with Shinedown,” he said. “A couple of the guys in the band (Shinedown), I’ve been friends with them for years. They’ve always been really supportive, and they were going out on this acoustic tour and had asked us if we’d go out and do it with them. I had a lot of people who said, ‘It’s a terrible idea. The crowd is going to eat you alive out there; they’re going to hate you, and it’s going to be awful.’ It was the exact opposite. Most of the tours have been good, but that was the one that was the scariest going into, and it ended up being a great a tour. The first night was in Tampa, and we ended the set completely acoustic with no microphones on the front of the stage to a standing ovation.”

Having grown up in Tennessee, Hoge said he’s proud of the state’s musical diversity.

“In east Tennessee, you get the mountain music and the bluegrass, and then in Nashville, you get country music and singer-songwriter type of stuff,” he said. “In Memphis, you have rock ’n’ roll and soul music. So when you’re within the state lines of Tennessee, you cover everything that’s great about American music in a four-hour drive.”

Hoge has seemingly played every type of venue that you can think of, from theaters to the Austin City Limits Festival. However, his current tour includes a lot of lounges and roadhouses—and he’s OK with that.

“It’s always nice to be playing for new people who you’re entertaining for the first time, but the more intimate venue where people are really there to hear the songs and listen—that’s where I really feel like myself,” he said. “With this band, that’s where we really shine. To do a real show and present it the way we do it, those shows are kind of fun.”

Will Hoge will perform with Dan Layus at 8:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

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