By Carey Hereford
The term “Americana” befits Will Hoge as the musical genre is as definably indefinable as the singer/songwriter’s familiar-yet-fresh sound. For more than 20 years, Hoge has garnered a loyal fan base via word-of-mouth and incessant touring. Since leaving Western Kentucky University to pursue a full-time career in music, Hoge has released a steady stream of albums and has a new record slated for release in 2020. On Wednesday, September 25, he will perform at WorkPlay Theatre with Stephen Kellogg. Recently, we spoke with Hoge by phone.
Birmingham Stages: Thank you for your time Will. Who was your biggest musical influence growing up and how does that compare to who influences you now?
Will Hoge: Oh, I don’t know, the biggest thing for me is just as a fan. I mean it wasn’t necessarily any particular artist. My dad had this really great record collection growing up, he had everything from the early ’60s through the mid ’70s. He kind of had all of the great stuff in my opinion. Whether that was singer-songwriters or country stuff or rock stuff, he had everything. I just grew up with this really great appreciation for what I like to consider great music. Genre of music didn’t necessarily matter. I like that artist would go out there and put themselves on the line for the music – that’s what always interested me as a kid. That still interest me to this day – I don’t think the general concept hasn’t changed much for me.
Birmingham Stages: How does your writing process work and where do you tend to find inspiration?
Hoge: The inspiration for me is just daily life and that’s a constant thing. I think when was younger it was just trying to write songs about love or whatever it was when you were feeling 18 years old. Now that changes a little bit – there are kids and marriage [and] all sorts of things that could factor into this. Life is the inspiration. From there, the process is almost chaotic. You know you have all these thoughts that swirl around and then you, hopefully, sit still long enough where you can get a cool melody or cool lyric idea and you scramble to get them down and out as quickly as possible.
Birmingham Stages: How old were you when you wrote your first song?
Hoge: Aw man, first attempt was probably in like fifth or sixth grade, but I didn’t even play music at that point. I didn’t start playing guitar until I was about 17. Think I was trying to do it a little before that. I was 16 or 17 when I got my first guitar and I was learning like ”Sweet Home Alabama.” That was the first thing a guy kinda wrote out chords for me in a history class. From there I started to write songs pretty quickly. They weren’t very good, but I was trying my best.
Birmingham Stages: Do you feel obligated to play songs in your sets or do you play the songs you want to play?
Hoge: One thing I like about having done this for so long, I think there is a trust between the crowd and audience that they have come to see a great show. I don’t think the audience comes to hear a song in particular. That’s the beauty of not really having a bunch of hits – I don’t have the obligation to play any particular song. My favorite thing is when people leave and say “Man, that was one of the best shows I have ever seen and he didn’t even play this song or that song.” That’s really the biggest compliment I think you can get.
Birmingham Stages: When you are making a record, how do you choose which songs are going to be singles?
Hoge: I differ most of the times to other people on that kind of stuff – I just don’t know anymore. One, there is not much places for singles, – Americana as a format, they just put your whole record out at once. Then people get to pick and choose what they want to listen to which I think is great. That is one of the places where I try to listen more than lead, then I just get to go play the songs.
Birmingham Stages: What song of yours do you see as unfinished and still needs more work?
Hoge: Oh, everything. We are going to start a new record new week, start on the 11th (of September). So I’ve got 11 of them right there were I can think of that I need to be finishing in the next four or five days. So, those are the ones that I am focused on currently.
Birmingham Stages: Your recent record, My American Dream, was released in 2018. What made you feel like you were ready to start a new record? When do you plan to release your next record?
Hoge: I had a pretty decent batch of songs that I felt like kinda could make two records actually and I went in feeling pretty bold about it. But then, when we went in for pre-production, I realized that I like all of these songs and they all need to be released. There was a batch of them that fit together and then a batch of them that went together in another way. So we are concentrating on these 11 right now. I think that the album will be released in the first quarter of next year.
Birmingham Stages: So what kind of music might be found in your playlist right now?
Hoge: Man, I’m all over the place, like all of that stuff that I mentioned earlier. I try to listen to friends of mine and people that are putting out new records and spend some time there. I’ve got twelve and nine year old little boys that bring a whole different element of what there listening to. Things that I have never heard of or would have never found. So it’s a pretty healthy dose of all sorts of music.
Birmingham Stages: What do you consider your greatest musical achievement or failure?
Hoge: My greatest achievement I’d have to say is that I’m still here doing this, 20 years-plus of not having to do anything else – I’ve felt really fortunate about that. But, as far as failures, it’s kinda cliche to say but failure don’t really matter – it’s kinda about what you do afterwards that defines you. I just feel very lucky to be able to keep getting back up.
Will Hoge and Stephen Kellogg will perform at WorkPlay Theatre on Wednesday, September 25. Advance tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $25 and can be purchased at www.workplay.com.