Entertainment » Jim Harris

Will Hoge on the brink



Listening to Will Hoge’s older music or his most recent work on “The Man Who Killed Love,” you have to wonder at just which moment the Nashville Southern soul rocker suddenly will become a household name.

He’s that good, as his growing legion of fans will attest. Constant touring has built Hoge a club following here, and he returns on Friday, May 19, to play Sticky Fingerz in the River Market District in a 9:30 p.m. show.

“They’ve been good to us down there that way,” Hoge said recently by phone from his home in Franklin, Tenn., where he was taking a breather during a four-month tour schedule.

“I’m excited about this record,” he said. “We haven’t put a full-length studio album out in a couple of years, and it felt good to do that. It was a very hands-on process. The response has been great.”

Hoge is a complex musician whose style defies short description. We give it the Southern soulful rock title because there is a twang here and there, some resemblance to early Springsteen with the poet-type lyrics, some Alex Chilton-style soul singing on a few songs, the appearance of classic Memphis-style rock horns on a few tracks, and definitely some traditional rock ’n’ roll.

Hoge’s father and uncle were musicians, exposing the youngster to first-generation rock ’n’ roll early on, and everywhere Hoge looked, he said, he was surrounded by music (his dad, Peyton Hoge, still gets a lot of his old gang together for reunion shows two or three times a year, Will said).

After Hoge released “Carousel,” Atlantic Records signed him and put out one album, “Blackbird on a Lonely Wire,” but he self-produced the latest record. It almost goes without saying this new release is more pronounced in its diversity of styles, whereas corporate recording was doing what the corporation wanted. It also goes without saying that independently, artists tend to grow more. “More sacrifice and not as much reward,” Hoge says of the Atlantic session.

“We’ve tried to capture the loose raw vibe that the band does every night,” he said.

Hoge’s band is pared down for Friday’s show, going without the brassy horns but with his two female backup singers and five main players. And fans will still get a nice sampling of Hoge originals and some choice covers with a setlist that can range from Bill Withers to James Brown to Janis Joplin to Johnny Cash.

Chris King at Sticky Fingerz says, “He’s always one of our bigger shows. He’s the kind of guy you wonder why he hasn’t made it big yet.”

Hoge has heard that before, but he also knows that the best way to get there is to get in a bus and bring his sound to the clubs playing great songs.

“There’s definitely happiness where we are, but that’s not total contentment,” he said. “Sure, we’d love for this thing to get bigger. If I knew the magic step to get it there I’d hang up the phone and do it. We just stay on the road, spread this thing around, play good music, and more people are coming back every time.”

Check out Hoge’s latest songs at www.purevolume.com/willhoge, plus he’s got a myspace.com site (who doesn’t?). The songs on “The Man Who Killed Love” were recorded in 10 different Nashville studios, with a couple days here, a few there, when Hoge could get the time in that busy touring schedule.

“There are moments I’m really proud of,” he says of the new release. “ ‘Woman Be Strong’ has really stood out to me. It’s something from the very first minute we played it, it seems to elicit a response, and that’s fun to play every night. But there are different things in each song.”

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