Will Hoge may be the hardest-working musician you've never heard of. A Nashville guitarist who traded his teaching dreams for songwriting, Hoge tried his hand in minor bands before getting noticed as a solo artist at the turn of the century. Despite not having his own hit song (and, oddly, watching as another band earned a No. 1 spot covering one of his tunes), Hoge has toured steadily for more than a decade, including regular stops in St. Louis. Hoge performs Friday, August 10, as part of the Open Highway Music Festival at Off Broadway.
We caught up with Hoge as he was driving through North Carolina, promoting last year's album, Number Seven, and previewing tracks from his upcoming eighth album, due at the end of this month or beginning of September.
Allison Babka: The festival in St. Louis and your booking company are called Open Highway, which is appropriate since you're known for touring almost constantly -- different from more mainstream musicians. What's the allure of the road?
Will Hoge: Well, the thing I like about that is I get to play for folks. I mean that's it. If I'm going to be away from my family, I just want to get out and play for people. There's something about a live show with the interaction among the onstage stuff and the audience and that sort of give and take -- there aren't a lot of mediums you get to experience that in. We love to get to do that every night.
What's it like playing the Grand Ole Opry? You grew up in Nashville, so that must have been amazing for you.
It was. I just got invited for the first time a little less than a year ago, and we've probably been back seven or eight times. It's cool. It's really as special of a musical experience as I'll ever have. I'm always flattered when I get to do it.
And you've gotten to play the Opry with Vince Gill. How is it working with others in such a great place?
It's great! Vince was the first one. He introduced us the first night and brought us back for an encore. We played an extra song, and he sat in with us. You know, it's like being coronated by the king. In a lot of ways, Vince is the next in line for that Grand Ole Opry throne, and he's deserving of all of that. To get him to anoint us that first night, he made it that much more special.
What else is special about Nashville?
Well, it's home, first and foremost. My family's been there for three generations, so that's special. But it's truly the best music town on the planet. There are so many varied forms of music and so many great players in every genre. It's still a great place to raise a family, it's affordable to live, there are great schools. I can't say enough good things about it.
What's your favorite place to play in Nashville? The Opry, Ryman Auditorium or Exit/In?
Ryman for sure. It's the best sounding room on the planet as far as I'm concerned. And there are ghosts there. So much great music has come through those halls that you can't not be moved when you're playing there. Hands down, that's my favorite venue for sure.
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