When Shinedown and Will Hoge arrive in Tulsa for a show at Osage Event Center on Monday, Dec. 6, it might seem like something of a mis-pairing. After all, Shinedown is coming off one of its strongest CDs yet (Sounds of Madness), headlining amphitheaters and arena rock shows, while Hoge continues to build, slowly but surely, as one of the strongest singer/songwriters of the past decade. You might be surprised to find that the two have more in common than it might initially appear, however.
When asking Hoge last week about the tour and how the audience responded, he admitted that initially there was a little concern as to how things would work out, but things have been wonderful to date.
"Actually, I've been friends with a couple of the guys from Shinedown for years and we've been trying to find a way to do something together for a while now," Hoge said. "We talked about doing a big arena rock thing, but it was never the right time. When this tour came along, though, it just seemed perfect."
Indeed, as Shinedown completes the touring cycle for Sounds of Madness, which has included a headlining run of amphitheaters and arenas, the group has pulled things back a bit to present the songs in an acoustic format, ala "VH1's Storytellers," and expose the songs from their basis outward. Since Hoge is a storyteller at heart, it makes this the perfect time for the two to come together.
"We've played some great room, a lot of seated theaters," Hoge said, "and it's been really encouraging because we've gotten a great response."
"Of course, the Shinedown crowd has more MMA (mixed martial arts) fans than your standard Will Hoge audience," he laughed, "but it's been a lot of fun. One night this big, 'roided out guy in a trucker's cap came up after the show and said 'I F-ing hate country, but I want both of your CDs because that was F-ing awesome!' He's emailed us since and come to see us two more times, so it's been really cool because it has exposed us to a whole new group of people."
When Hoge's latest EP, The Living Room Sessions, emerged just a few weeks before the Shinedown tour launched, it would have been easy to interpret the release as an effort to capitalize on the acoustic nature of this tour. In reality, Hoge shared that it all started when his record label wanted an acoustic version of his latest single "Favorite Waste of Time" to accompany the studio version as an alternate take.
"We recorded three songs that day," Hoge said of the EP that was recorded in his living room. "The next week we found out about the Shinedown tour, so we went back and recorded three more and released the EP as an accompaniment to this record."
The record he's referring to is last year's full-length release, The Wreckage, quite possibly Hoge strongest and most fully realized release to date. Although Hoge has consistently drawn comparisons to Springsteen, his songwriting style is consistently more personal, singing from a first person narrative instead of third person viewpoint. When discussing comparisons to the likes of Springsteen, Tom Petty and Elvis Costello, Hoge said, "I'm flattered by that, but when I look at those artist and their bodies of work, I don't consider myself in that category."
"I think, early on, you have to pick up some comparisons; like Springsteen was the new Dylan and Petty was the new Roger McGuinn, until an artist starts to sound like himself," he continued. "If I only had one or two records, it would probably be a bigger deal, but I feel like I've been doing this long enough now, that I just sound like myself."
With the new EP, however, Hoge has managed to shed a new light on his writing. By translating five tracks from The Wreckage and one from his first disc, Carousel, to an acoustic format, he has more than just stripped them back. More often than not, it has exposed the songs and reinterpreted them. Although "Long Gone" may not gain a lot in the new format, "Goodnight, Goodbye" becomes even more aching and intimate as it reflects on a relationship nearing its end. While the same can be said for "Too Late, Too Soon", the real standout of the disc is "Even If It Breaks Your Heart."
Ironically, the first single from the past CD becomes even more powerful as Hoge's lyrics take center stage ahead of the music and a young man's connection to the music comes to life as "Way back on the radio dial / A fire got lit inside a bright-eyed child / Every note just wrapped around his soul / From Steel guitar to Memphis, all the way to rock and roll..." What music fan can identify with that connection and the passion that comes from the music?
Anyone who is already a fan of Hoge's will be excited to know that he estimates that he's already got his next disc approximately 60-percent written and has plans to return to the studio in January and February to begin recording his next effort. Many who aren't familiar, however, will be able to take a crash course introduction when Hoge opens for Shinedown on Monday night, Dec. 6, at Osage Event Center.
When paired together in an acoustic, storytelling format, the evening should be enlightening for fans of either act as they get introduced to a new side both bands. Undoubtedly, Hoge will walk away with a whole new set of fans as he proves why he has quickly become one of my own favorite songwriters of the past decade.
Share this article: