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Interview: Will Hoge talks new album, UK fans and songwriting

We spoke to the Americana star ahead of the release of his latest record.

Will Hoge
Credit: EDLO/Thirty Tigers

Since releasing his major label debut in 2003, Will Hoge has become one of the most prolific and popular Americana acts around.

As well as a relentless touring schedule which has won him legions of loyal fans, he’s also released a further 10 studio albums alongside three live recordings. Next week he’l release his latest album, My American Dream, which was recorded following his tour in the UK earlier this year.

I caught up with Will recently to talk about the new record, his upcoming UK tour with Lucero and his songwriting process.

Your new album My American Dream comes out this week – can you tell us more about it?

Well, it’s just a group of songs that are sort of politically and topically themed. I’d just written a handful of those things and the band and I had just come back from the UK and Europe, and we just played 18 shows in 19 days or something like that. We were really just kind of in that zone that you get in when you’re playing that regularly, night in or night out.

So we just went in and one of the songs was already recorded because it’s an acoustic thing, and one of the songs we’d been playing a little bit on tour, so there were a couple of things that were really easy to knock out. The rest we just got in a room and I played the guys the songs on an acoustic guitar, put arrangements together and we recorded it. It’s one of my favourite records that we’ve done.

Were there any songs that were particularly easy or difficult to write for the record?

Well, songs like these are always a little… I don’t wanna say difficult, but they’re just tricky, y’know? I think there’s a fine line between making songs that are reflecting your thoughts and emotions on things while also not turning them into preachy songs. So that’s more of a process than anything else, trying to make them honest and personal enough to not come across as preachy. But hopefully that’s what I’ve accomplished.

You’ve mentioned that it’s quite a politically charged album – was it a conscious decision to go in that direction?

Well, they’re all sort of conscious decisions. It’s not the first time I’ve done this – one of the first things I did was called The American EP in 2004, and that was my first sort of foray into this world of songwriting like that. I was a little more nervous about that, just because I’d never done it before, but then I did it again – Modern American Protest Music came out in 2012, I think.

So with this one the songs just sort of started appearing, and as they were getting finalised I realised that we needed to record them. And I’m just at a place where as an artist and more as just a human – as a father and a husband and an American – to watch where our country is going right now and be silent is just not acceptable. I don’t want my kids to look back as they get older and say, “you know, I wonder what Dad thought back then”. I just wanna make sure that I’m leaving the breadcrumbs for them to find their way to the right side of all this.

 

As you’ve mentioned this album was recorded after your last UK tour. Does being on the road impact your writing process at all?

No, y’know, writing on the road is difficult, or finishing writing on the road is difficult. There’s a lot of inspiration. The great thing about being on the road is obviously the playing is great, but at that point you’re really away from everything else so you’re really focused. Everything is musical – even what you talk about when you’re riding down the road. You’re talking about it, you’re inundated with it. So I find it inspirational in that way, but you’re also just so busy there’s not much time to finish anything. Fortunately we were able to come home and finish it though.

You’re coming back over here with Lucero in December. What can people coming to see you on that tour expect?

Well that’s gonna be solo. I’m excited about that because I’m kind of a solo Tennessee guy, so that’ll be fun to just sort of bring all of that to the UK for a few shows. It’ll be a great way I hope for me to get in front of some new fans and play solo, and then hopefully just spread the word with this new record so that the band and I can come back, hopefully in February and do our own thing and introduce everybody to the band too.

This will be your second visit to the UK this year – what is it that keeps you coming back?

I came for the first time 10 years ago and I loved it, but then there was about a six-year, seven-year period when I just didn’t go back. That was right when the accident happened [Will was severely injured in a motorbike accident in 2008] and I just sort of stopped. But I love it. I think there’s a real appreciation for American music. The audiences are really great, and I think that’s kind of across genres for bands from the States. So I don’t know, I just loved it from the minute we got there and really the more that we are over the more and more I fall in love with it. And now we have a direct flight from Nashville that makes it so much easier.

Do you find UK audiences react differently compared to those in the States or elsewhere?

Yeah, especially with the last tour and the last record it was a really listening sort of environment. The UK crowds were great and seemed to really understand that. It’ll be interesting to see with this record, with it being more of a rock and roll record and a little louder, whether anybody’ll cut loose a little and come to the shows and be ready to be a part of that too.

Is that change in sound something that’s important to you as a musician?

One of the things I never wanted to be as an artist was just this guy that just makes this record over and over and over and over and over and over. So I don’t wanna be just a guy with an acoustic guitar. I also don’t wanna be just a frontman of a band. So I like being able to do those different things, and it’s just influenced by who’s around and what the band is doing at the time and the songs. Really you’re just trying to serve the songs, and I felt like this batch of songs needed to have gasoline and matches put on them a little bit so that’s what we did.

You recently filmed the video for Gilded Walls – can you tell us more about that track and the video?

Well the song is fairly direct in that it’s talking about a president of a particular country and his inability to care about other people – I’ll let you put together who that president is. But the video is, without revealing too much, kind of a newscast gone awry. It’s gonna be really fun. We haven’t really done a video like this and I think it’ll be a challenge for us. It’s not something I do real naturally so it’ll be fun to see how it goes. We did it in downtown Nashville so it sort of features the city and I love the city obviously, so it’ll be fun to have that be a big part of the background and focus for the video too.

What got you into music initially, and what made you decide to pursue it as a career?

I loved music from the time I was a kid. My father had been a musician from before I was born so there was always a love of music round the house. But I didn’t start really playing music until my last year of high school, so 17 probably when I got my first guitar. And I just felt really in love with it pretty quickly. You didn’t have to have a college degree to do it, so when I failed out of college it seemed like a logical step to become a musician [laughs].

What’s the one song you wish you’d written?

Oh, man! Let It Be. That one always comes back again.

What’s next for you over the next few months? Is touring the main focus at the moment?

Yeah, we’re pretty much on the road through almost Thanksgiving, home just a little bit here and there and then back over to see you guys. The rest of the year is just pretty busy with that. And then writing a bunch still and trying to carve out new songs and I’m sure there’ll be another record down the line and keep this whole thing moving forward, I hope.

Will Hoge’s new album, My American Dream, is out on 5th October. Fans can pre-order the album now via https://ffm.to/american-dream.

See Will on tour in the UK supporting Lucero this December:

5th December – Glasgow, Stereo
6th December – Manchester, The Deaf Institute
7th December – London, The Garage
8th December – Brighton, The Haunt
9th December – Bristol, Thekla

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