Introducing....Will Hoge

Nashville native singer-songwriter Will Hoge released his tenth studio album Small Town Dreams on April 7 in the US - with the UK getting it's own release on June 15. The album holds eleven tracks, all co-written by Will (with him having written Little Bitty Dreams solo) and blends upbeat numbers such as 'Til I Do It Again with quiet, pensive tracks like Just Up The Road.

My favourite track on the album and the track that immediately stood out would have to be Little Bitty Dreams. The track has perhaps the softest production out of the album and this allows the real focus to be an Will's impressive heartfelt vocal and the really lovely message behind the lyrics. The production progresses along with the story of the song, starting softer, developing, and then ending softer, a particularly strong section in my opinion being the acoustic guitar line. Will delivers lines such as "I met you then I knew, my big dreams were done, and I'd settle down in the same small town and swear you were the one" and "I think it's just the two of us and our little bitty dreams"  with a ton of emotion and everything comes together to make an absolutely gorgeous song.

I also really like They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To. With a rockier overall production than Little Bitty Dreams, They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To starts with a simple piano accompaniment and then progresses to a drum and electric guitar led instrumentalisation that gives the track a sense of strength. With the lyrics seemingly relating to his father lines like "story after story, of all your faded glory, is all I ever hope to live up to" are really touching and I'm sure a lot of listeners will find the track very relatable.

The album's lead single Middle Of America is another track I found myself drawn to. One of the catchiest tracks on the album, it is undoubtedly a brilliant choice for the lead single and is a song that makes you want to turn it up loud and sing along.

Guitar Or A Gun is another strong track. Yet another testament to Will's strength as a song-writer (and the strength of the song-writers included on the album), Guitar Or A Gun tells a very clever story with an incredibly catchy chorus. "I had my eye on two things but I could only pick just one, a young man's first decision, is it a guitar or a gun" introduces the story with the power behind the production coming from the solid drum line as various other instruments weave in and out.

The album closes with 'Til I Do It Again. I found 'Til I Do It Again to be a brilliant final track, once it finishes you are immediately left wanting more and feeling as though you want to play the whole album through again. Rocking from the first instance, the track has a melody which you can not fail to want to tap your foot along to,

Track listing....
1) Growing Up Around Here  - Brett Beavers, Will Hoge, Tommy Lee James
2) They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To - Will Hoge, Sean McConnell
3) Better Than You - Gordie Sampson, Hillary Lindsey, Will Hoge
4) Little Bitty Dreams - Will Hoge
5) Guitar Or A Gun - Will Hoge, Dylan Atlman, Gary Allan
6) Middle Of America - Will Hoge, Tommy Lee James, Jessi Alexander
7) All I Want Is Us Tonight - Will Hoge, Dylan Altman, Eric Paslay
8) Just Up The Road - Dylan Altman, Tommy Lee James, Will Hoge
9) Desperate Times - Will Hoge, Adam Hood
10) The Last Thing I Needed - Will Hoge, Chris Stapleton
11) 'Til I Do It Again - Will Hoge, Dylan Altman, Gary Allan

I caught up with Will earlier this week to ask him some questions....

What first drew you to country music?
Well, I was born and raised in Nashville so I don't know if it was anything that was a huge moment to me other than just I loved music from the get go. My father had been a musician, he saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and, like a ton of American teenagers, bought instruments and started bands. I inherited this record collection when I was a little kid and it was everything from The Beatles and The Stones to James Brown and Otis Redding and The Temptations to Buck Owens and Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan. I saw Buck Owens as a very similar thing to early Beatles records, great songs in these sort of two and a half minute pop presentations with great musicianship and cool harmonies, that was one of the first things that I really latched on to. Then I think I just latched on to story songs and country music is such a tradition of great stories, whether those are heartbreak or joy or pain or whatever that is, I think that that's still my favourite thing about country music today is just it's ability to really convey an emotion in a story so I guess somewhere along the line that sucked me in pretty deep.
You've just released your newest album, did you find it all came together easily?
Yeah...I mean....I don't want to jinx it but yeah it did! I guess it's already out so I can't jinx it.... [laughs] It was a lot of fun getting to make this, the last four records I've produced myself which is challenging and fun on a whole different level but getting to work with Marshall (Altman) on this one and really just focus on being a singer and a song-writer and a guitarist and all of those things and not having to worry about production schedules and who's coming to the studio when and all the different extra-curricular stuff that comes with producing, it made it a whole lot easier which made it a little bit more of a joyous thing. Plus I've loved Marshall for years, we've been friends for a long time and never gotten to work together. So yeah, it was a really fun record making experience which is not always the case [laughs]
One thing that really strikes you on the album is how strongly the stories of the songs come across, where do you find your inspiration for writing?
Really just ever day life. I guess for the most part that's always been the case, I've always tried to be the writer that just pulls from experience. It's one of the few things that I think, as you get older, is one of the few benefits of getting older! [laughs] You have more experience to draw from. I'm now surrounded by a wife with a career and her own dreams and stories, that's a whole different world that I can draw from. Then with two little boys that go to school and are old enough now to develop their own friendships and their own emotions and relationships and heartbreaks and things like that. The well of things to draw from just continues to get deeper and deeper which, like I say, in a world where getting older sucks on a whole lot of levels at least you've got more stuff to write about so I guess it's good!
This release is your tenth studio album, do you find you ever run out of inspiration for songs?
No, knock on wood, no not really. Like I say, I think that as long you wake up every day and go and challenge yourself to do something a little different, it's pretty easy to find inspiration. I've had a whole bunch of screwed up things in my life that I can write about and thankfully the world has a whole bunch of people with screwed up things so there's always plenty to write.
What was the hardest track to write?
I don't know...writing wise I feel like came pretty easily. Recording wise we had a really hard time with "Guitar Or A Gun". That one we tried a bunch of different ways and it just never was right. I'd done a real early demo of the song that had this kind of raw quality that I really liked and we just couldn't ever get it. We tried a million different things and then finally, one of the last days in the studio, I had Marshall take one of the guitar players off acoustic guitar and we kind of went with just this straight electric guitar approach, I played acoustic guitar. It's just one of those things we kicked it around enough then finally it came. Once it started it came really easily but that one was a bit of a work piece for the record. It's one of my favourites, I think the track doesn't sound like we'd worked on it a whole lot which is really important!
The majority of the songs from this album are co-writes but you've written quite a few on your own in the past, do you prefer to co-write or to write solo?
It's two really different things for me, my big preference is I want to right great songs. If that's me and one other person, two other people or just myself, the mathematics of it don't necessarily bother me. I've got a bunch of songs that I wrote by myself as well, when we started working of this record and this body of work these were just the songs that seemed to present themselves the best together in a collection. I don't think a whole lot about it from there as to whether I've written two of them or eight of them solo, that doesn't really factor in a whole lot. The co-writing thing has become real natural for me. I've got a small group of people that I really draw from to write with and it's all people that I trust so it's a lot more like writing with band members than it is just going and sitting in somebody's living room that you don't know and trying to bare your soul with them.
Well it's certainly an interesting mix of songwriters!
Ah thanks! Yeah, I was really happy with it.
Which is your favourite track from the album?
I come back to "Little Bitty Dreams" every time. There was a moment when we were recording that, that's another one that we tried a couple of different ways, and it was always cool but it just never got exactly right. We finally cut off the click track and I quit playing guitar and we put one of the...Tom Bukovac who's one of my favourite guitar players in the world and he's a great session guy here in town, he was playing electric with another guy, Rob McNelley, we switched. We had Tom play acoustic, he's a fantastic acoustic guitar player. Once we did that the track really took a life of it''s own. It's Tom counting the song off and that stayed on the record. It's real organic, there's no overdubs, the only we did was after the track we came back and put pedal steel on it. But it's my scratch vocal, it's all of the regular things that we tracked just right there live on the floor top to bottom. I love the emotion of the song, I love the story of the song obviously but also just capturing that, in that way, felt very classic. It reminds me of the records that I grew up with, some early, some mid-period Rolling Stone's stuff that I love, it just had that kind of band playing together feel of the records I grew up with. 

Which song do you wish you'd written and why?
Oh my...there's a lot of them...that's one of my favourite things as a listener, as a fan, those kind of moments where you hear something and you go 'God, that's really great'. I'm trying to think of the last time that really happened as I was driving down the road, kind of discovering something...I've got nothing coming to my mind at this point, we may have to come back to that. What else you got? [laughs]
Which artist would you like to collaborate with and why?
Country wise, I have a ton of respect and admiration for what Miranda Lambert's doing. I think she's a great writer first of all, she's a great singer, she's a great performer, but I think she does a really cool thing of being steeped in traditional country music but also pushing the genre and pushing herself forward which I think is pretty cool. She's always on that list, I think that that would be pretty cool.
What's your favourite part about being a musician?
Not having to work for anybody else! [laughs] That's real honest anyway!
What's your least favourite part?
The being away from home. Having two little boys at home and a wife, those things beg you to be closer to home as often as you can be. The reality of it is there's just times where you have to go away to try to continue to keep the lights on and the bills paid so that's the hardest part for sure. 
If you could only own one album which would you pick?
Only one that's hard..."Blood On The Tracks" by Bob Dylan. It's kind of a sad record, that probably is not a great thing for me to admit but yeah that's it! [laughs]
Any thoughts about which song you wish you'd written?
Yeah, I've been thinking about it the whole time...what is the song I wish I'd written...God damn I'm trying to think of something, I heard something the other day..."Follow Your Arrow" by Kacey Musgraves, I think that's a great song.
It's great to see you're touring over here in the UK later this year, do you plan to make that a regular thing?
Yeah, we really do, it's something that's been kind of on the books to try and do it for a long time. I've come over solo a couple of times and just haven't been able to work things out to get the band back over. This is really the first step in what are going to be a long series of steps. We'll do this run now and we're going to try to get back over in the spring, in March, and hit some other places and then we'll do it again. So we'll do it at least two more times next year. The fans over there have been so supportive and I feel like what we do, what I do naturally as an artist, seems to have a home over there. We're just excited to come over and try to really grow some relationships with folks.  

Thanks to Will for his time! Small Town Dreams is an absolutely brilliant album and I would recommend everybody purchases this, it will make a great addition to any record collection. I'm sure he is just as strong live, Will is currently touring the US and will travel over to the UK in September - I'm really excited to be going to one of his UK shows so make sure you keep an eye out for the gig review later this year!