By Kurt Wolff
It’s becoming less and less of a secret that Will Hoge is one of the most compelling artists working on the fringes of country music these days.
Hoge is still probably best known as a cowriter behind “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” a No. 1 hit for the Eli Young Band. At the same time, though, over the past decade and a half Hoge has been building a solid reputation on his own, thanks to numerous albums and a solid live show that brings together elements of country, R&B and raw, Americana-infused rock n’ roll.
Hoge’s most recent album, 2013’s Never Give In, brought him again within breathing distance of the country mainstream, thanks to “Strong,” single that bubbled just outside the top 40 and was also used in a Chevrolet truck commercial.
This week, Hoge revealed the brand-new song “Middle of America.” A rock-based anthem, it’s built around a hefty sing-along chorus (“just another night in the middle of America”) and highlights the people and places that populate our country’s flyover states.
Hoge wrote “Middle of America” with Jessi Alexander (a cowriter on such hits as “I Drive Your Truck” and “Mine Would Be You”) and Tommy Lee James. It’s the first taste of a new album on which he’s currently working.
“We were just trying to write a great song and as it went on I started getting more and more attached to it,” Hoge told Rolling Stone about the writing session that produced the song. “There’s always that moment of, ‘Do I want to keep this song for myself because I think it’s really great, or do I want to send it to Blake Shelton and make a whole bunch of money off of it? Maybe he’ll want it.’ It’s a strange place to be, but I’m pragmatic enough to know that sometimes that’s the right play.”
After playing the song for his producer, though, he realized the song was worth keeping for himself. “The only other time that this has happened to me, when I played something for a producer and then everybody lined up behind it, was with ‘Even If It Breaks Your Heart,'” Hoge said.
“I think I’ve paid the price of that for years,” Hoge told Radio.com last year regarding the mix of country, rock and other styles in his music, “because there’s never been a home for me from a marketing perspective. Fortunately for me, now the country tent has gotten so much bigger. It’s become really accepting of what I do, which is great.”
Hoge is in the studio working on his new album with Marshall Altman, a veteran Nashville producer and studio owner whose recent credits include Amy Grant’s 2013 collection How Mercy Looks from Here and portions of the recent debut albums by Eric Paslay and Frankie Ballard.