Will Hoge can best be described as an artist with an old musical soul. In a manner similar to fellow Southerner Marc Broussard, Hoge draws from a deep well of influences to create a sound that is both current and timeless at once. But while fans and critics alike note the amalgam of rock, blues, R&B and country sounds in Hoge's music, the Nashville-based singer/songwriter views his songs as the collected parts of a shared source.
"A lot of people see those music forms as something very different, and I don't necessarily," Hoge says, speaking by phone while traveling through Missouri en route to Kansas City. "I see a lot of similarities between Hank Williams, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and James Brown. I see a very common thread through all of those things and there is soul in each of those performers. I'm inspired by all of those things, so I would think that the output would reflect that. I've never been very good at saying, 'OK, I'm going to sit down and write a soul song.' I can do it, but that's not very soulful. Being a product of all those things you listen to - that's my favorite thing about being an artist."
On Friday, Nov. 23, Hoge and his band will perform at Workplay. Warm In The Wake will open the 9 p.m. show. Hoge is currently on tour in support of Draw The Curtains, his latest release on Rykodisc. Hoge says the album's material is a mix of newly-written songs and older songs that finally found their home.
"It's a really healthy mix of all of those things. Some of the songs had been written a while ago. Songs are funny that way - there are certain songs that you write and 10 minutes after you finish them, they're right and you record them," Hoge says. "There are some that were written the day we recorded them. 'Midnight Parade' was written probably six or seven years ago and it was just never right. We tried it for a record here and there, and it would always change and never end up right. But if you play it in the right room with the right people around, it takes shape and finally the song is done. With those songs, it's like watching a colt get up and go for the first time."
A native of Franklin, Tenn., Hoge lives in the thriving artist's community of east Nashville these days. As a touring musician, he views Music City as the ideal location for his profession. Furthermore, he feels the city has much to offer rock musicians and singer/songwriters in addition to its well-known country scene.
"I think it's finally getting more of its due," Hoge says. "I think pound-for-pound it's the best music community. We were in Austin, Texas last week - another great music community - and they say it's the 'Live Music Capital of the World' and that may very well be true. But Nashville is a place where you can make a living playing, writing or producing music and there are great players and studios at your disposal. You can make a phone call and within 15 minutes have a world-class musician on any instrument in the studio with you. I couldn't think of a better place to try and be an artist."
While on tour, Hoge's affection for his hometown escalates to an even greater extent.
"We were talking to some friends in Los Angeles. We were saying the thing about Nashville is that we're able to keep a touring schedule where we can go out for four days or a week. But if you live in Los Angeles - once you get out of California, Portland, Seattle and Phoenix - you've got a four-day drive before you can do another gig. We're real fortunate to be where we're located," he says.
Though Hoge's 2003 album Blackbird On A Lonely Wire was released on Atlantic Records, he has spent the majority of his career on independent labels. As an artist with indie roots, he is generally encouraged by the exposure possibilities available through the Internet, satellite radio and iTunes despite some congestion in the industry.
"It's a double-edge sword," Hoge offers. "You can't have it one way and not have it the other. The ability for us to make a record and have it accessible to folks is a godsend and it's allowed us to be able to make a living for a long time. But there's no filter anymore. There's no gatekeeper, so anyone literally can make a record and put it online. The quality control is not there, but that was also a problem in the music business. The people at the major labels didn't care about the quality anymore - it was just about selling records. I think it will kill off that beast. People are so inundated with music, it does make it difficult to latch on. But it also levels the playing field in that it's going to put it back to people that can go out and play music. Everybody can put a [website] 'myspace' up and make their record. But the bottom line is to go to Workplay Theatre and put on a show on a Saturday night, you have to be a great band. If people come and see a great band, they will continue to come back and do that over and over. It may take longer to build without the MTV hype, but it will last longer than 15 minutes."
But while he keeps an eye on music industry trends, Hoge remains focused on the items that first drew him to the art form - performing, writing and recording. Known for fiery live shows and a tireless touring schedule, he does not take his profession for granted.
"That's the time-honored cliche about this lifestyle - you sit around for 22 hours a day and you work for two. It does make that two hours pretty damned important because if that two hours goes badly, it makes your whole day a waste of time. I'm fortunate to have a group of guys that understand that. We take this whole thing pretty seriously. We get ourselves prepared and we work on things on the bus and try different things. If we keep ourselves inspired, it will keep other folks inspired, too."
Will Hoge will perform at Workplay on Friday, November 23. Warm In The Wake will open the 9 p.m. show. Tickets are $16 in advance and $19 day of show and can be purchased by calling 380-4082 or online at www.workplay.com.