- vocals / guitar
TRES SASSER - bass / vocals
KEITH BROGDON- drums
BRIAN LAYSON - guitar / vocals
JOHN LANCASTER - keyboards / vocals
Lightning in a bottle. That might sound like a pretty far-fetched dream, but it’s exactly what Will Hoge and his band set out to capture in recording the twelve songs that make up “BLACKBIRD ON A LONELY WIRE.” The result is a swaggering, soulful, sincere, and totally combustible mixture of real rock & roll.
“I don’t think there are a whole lot of rock & roll bands around anymore,” Hoge says. “Otis Redding, when he was playing with Booker T and the MGs—that was rock & roll. There are some great rock bands around right now, but I don’t think they have the roll. The rock is the head-banging, and the roll is the hip-shaking.”
Hip-shaking, heart-tugging, thought-provoking, smile-inducing, and, yes, even some head-banging are the thrills of “BLACKBIRD ON A LONELY WIRE,” Will Hoge’s Atlantic debut. There’s a blast of sincerity from the heartland, a whole lot of classic rock soul, and the inspiration of his musical heroes, as well as a voice of universal truth.
Everyone can identify with the stories that fuel “Hey Tonight” (reluctance to give up on a rocky relationship), the rambling swagger of “Someone Else’s Baby” (the pain of watching a former love move on), and the wide-open heartland rock of “Better Off Now” (getting over that person once they’re finally gone). See a pattern? Hoge has no problem with what he does being called love songs. “When you get right down to it, that’s pretty much what all songs are,” Hoge says. "That’s what fuels songwriting - love and loss and passion. Not necessarily ‘I love you, baby’ romantic love songs. But songs about anything that you’ve loved and lost and maybe want back.”
In other words, just because he’s singing about love, don’t mistake Will Hoge’s songs for being sappy. “This might sound dumb, because I am a singer-songwriter, but singer-songwriters are sometimes just too wimpy for my tastes. That’s the thing I love about Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen. They’re guys who are singer-songwriters and great storytellers, but have had phenomenal bands that enable them to do more than just sit there with an acoustic guitar,” Hoge says. “It’s really important for me, as an artist, to have a group of guys behind me who can get the job done.”
The job is done by bassist Tres Sasser, drummer Keith Brogdon, keyboardist John Lancaster, and Brian Layson on guitar. “I write the songs, but everybody has an important role,” Hoge stresses. “The reason the guys are in the band is because I was a big fan of theirs as musicians.” The band was put together in 1999, following Hoge’s decision to drop out of Western Kentucky University and return home to Nashville and make music full time. Really full time, as in playing 250 live shows a year. On stage is where Will Hoge and his band really ignite that magic rock & roll lightning. Word of mouth spreads fast, and they’ve got the fanatical fanbase to prove it. “Especially for the kind of artist I hope to be – I plan to stick around for a long time – you have to have that. You have to have that group of people who connect with you as an artist, as a fan, and a friend, and want to see you play after the glitz of everything is over with.”
Producer John Shanks (Michelle Branch, Chris Isaak, Sheryl Crow) was able to perfectly capture the band’s rollicking spirit and blistering guitars, as well as their more bittersweet moments, on “BLACKBIRD ON A LONELY WIRE. “ “He was just the right match – a great musician and a real rock & roll guy. We really clicked and hit it off. He had a lot of the same ideas and visions we had. He was great at bringing out what we do best as a band.”
That’s obvious from first single “Be the One,” an infectious soul-grabber about a misguided good-time girl with a heart of gold. “It’s a story about these girls I know around Nashville who are really sweet, almost to a fault,” Hoge says. “Kind of innocent girls who want so badly to be something to anyone that they’ll do almost anything for it. To the point of making a fool of themselves.”
Just try shaking the energetic hook out of your head. And if you can’t, blame it on the guitar lick at the top. “It has a modern, cool Keith Richards vibe to it. The story was there, the melody was there, the music was right,” Hoge says of the song. The guitar lick and foot-stomping rhythm belie melancholic lyrics like “Everybody wants to be a star in somebody’s dream / but you can’t get there darling, down upon your knees.” Other standouts include: “Not That Cool,” a rousing story of real-guy envy of the perfect-hair-perfect-teeth-smooth-talking-playboy, written about a rich-kid type who never had a worry in his life; “Secondhand Heart,” a freewheeling rambler of a story about loving someone more than they love you; and “All Night Long,” a tear-the-joint-up, larger-than-life, good-time riff. As Hoge says, “When people hear my music, I hope ‘honest’ is a word that comes up.” So how true are the songs and lyrics?
“They’re embarrassingly true!” Hoge laughs. “Your initial muse has to come from things you know and experience for yourself. But I love the art of being able to make something so personal that everyone understands it. I like the idea of feeling something, putting it down on paper, and then on to a CD, and when someone else listens it becomes their story.” And, like the best moments on “BLACKBIRD ON A LONELY WIRE,” it sparks something inside – an illuminating flash. A natural electricity. Something like lightning.