Previewing Will Hoge’s Small Town Dreams

Marshall Altman, Will Hoge, Nan Kelley (GAC), Jordan Powell (AMP Management) Photo Credit: Glen Rose

Country singer/songwriter Will Hoge hosted a preview party on February 11th for his upcoming album, Small Town Dreams. The hour-long event showcased Hoge and the band performing acoustic renditions of a few cuts off the album (“Middle of America,” “Growing Up Around Here” and “The Last Time I Do It (‘Til I Do It Again)”), with some more of the actual album cuts spliced in during an interview. GAC TV personality Nan Kelley sat down with Will and picked his brain about the recording and writing process of the album.

Will Hoge teamed up with producer Marshall Altman for Small Town Dreams. Hoge had produced his previous four albums by himself, and was excited about working with Altman for this album. Hoge said he wanted to “stay true to who I am as an artist, but really wanted to try to branch out and use some pop elements and radio friendly elements.” Altman’s two latest projects before Hoge’s album were Eric Paslay and Frankie Ballard’s respective albums last year. Will said that Altman was capable of adding that extra element of music that Hoge himself wasn’t comfortable of getting to as a producer. The respect that both Will Hoge and Marshall Altman share for one another is evident in the way they speak about the album.

Personally, I think this is a great matchup. Marshall Altman chimes in on the interview in the last 15 minutes, and the way he speaks about record producing shows that he understands what makes music great. “My job is helping Will Hoge define who he is as an artist.” To them, it’s not about writing the next big hit for fifteen minutes of fame, but rather discovering where the artist wants to go from the previous album and reaching that point.

“Strong” and the Chevy campaign opened quite a few doors for Will Hoge, and received a bit of radio play for the singer. Trying to build off that recognition and continue to establish himself more in the spotlight, it makes sense for Hoge to make this decision for his follow-up album:

“I’m at a point in my career where I can’t waste those opportunities and wouldn’t want to waste those opportunities. I hope we that have delivered a record that will make those long times fans…it’ll thrill them to still be fans of the band. And hopefully the new people that are just discovering the band will be equally as excited about it.”

On the surface, it may sound a little worrisome that Will Hoge wants to add more pop elements to this album, but based on the songs previewed here, I think Will Hoge fans can breathe a little easy. Hoge is a singer who wants to continue to grow and find success and gain notoriety. You can’t blame the guy for wanting to try to add more mass appeal. On the flip side of that, Will Hoge is a man who’s built his brand from the ground up through hard work and dedication to his craft. There’s no way he’ll abandon that brand and those fans who have supported him from day one by selling out to trends and fads that are likely to change. Will Hoge wants to make an album that’ll fit in with his catalog and still be relevant years from now as well as today. From what was heard at this preview, it sounds like Will Hoge is nicely toeing that line between mass appeal and his own, unique sound on this new album.

The four studio cuts they played throughout the interview are rather good, in my opinion. “They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To” is an ongoing conversation between a father and son about the way things work in life. “Better Than You” (co-written with Gordie Sampson and Hillary Lindsey) is about a man who realizes how great his wife is for him after a big fight. “Just Up The Road” is a love song about a couple searching for happiness and features Vince Gill playing guitar. And finally, “Little Bity Dreams” is an acoustic ballad about falling in love and starting the family. With each song, Hoge shares a story about how each track was created. I love hearing about this kind background information for songs: what inspired the story, why this particular song made the cut, and what it’s like working with Vince Gill.

If you’re a fan of Will Hoge’s and looking forward to the album you may find this preview and background information entertaining and interesting. Small Town Dreams will be released on April 7 later this year. You can pre-order the album off Will Hoge’s website.

Preview event starts at 19:35 in the video

7 thoughts on “Previewing Will Hoge’s Small Town Dreams

  1. Zack February 13, 2015 / 5:21 pm

    Really looking to forward to this album. The songs from the preview sound really great. Derek, you and Josh are right, country needs to slow down with the releases, I can’t keep up either. This album will be my first exposure to Hoge(aside from his songs “Strong” and “Middle Of America”), so I’m very excited. And the fact that he has Gary Allan on a few co-writes is awesome as well.

    Speaking of album cowrites….Reba has a Sam Hunt cowrite on her new album. Should we be scared? (I kid but not really….)

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    • Derek Hudgin February 13, 2015 / 9:44 pm

      Zack, you’re missing out on Hoge. His catalog is fantastic and consistenly good. I’d certainly recommend checking it out. At the very least listen to BLACKBIRD ON A LONELY WIRE, THE WRECKAGE, and THE MAN WHO KILLED LOVE. Those three, in my opinion, are his best albums from start to finish

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      • Zack February 13, 2015 / 11:03 pm

        Thanks for the recommendations Derek! I always love discovering new artists (well, new for me) so I will be sure to check them out!

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  2. Noah Eaton February 14, 2015 / 7:01 pm

    I’m not worried about his desire to make his music more accessible to a broader audience.

    I will confess that I, like most, was introduced to Hoge via “Strong”…………….and thus, when I first heard “Middle of America”…………..if you were to tell me without realizing who the artist was that it was Will Hoge singing it, I would have exclaimed: “Really? REALLY?” Because I never would have guessed it.

    But I highly like “Middle of America”. It’s very radio-friendly, but in a way that is reminiscent of “Scarecrow”-era John Mellencamp (one of my favorite singer/songwriters growing up, and still is because of his accessible honest brand of populism and blue-collar consciousness, regardless of how others dismiss him as a poor man’s Bruce Springsteen). And while it’s true so much of modern corporate country is basically a regurgitated blend of 80’s heartland rock Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers/John Mellencamp with cluttered commerical rock now in the vein of Nickelback and 3 Doors Down…………….Will Hoge has much better taste in which 80’s rock sounds he chooses to co-opt.

    I think, in fact I’m sure, Marshall Altman is the right kind of producer to interpret a fine line between broader commercial accessibility and artistic integrity. I know some sirens will immediately blare off when they see he has produced Frankie Ballard’s recent album (which is not terrible, but also not particularly good)…………..but then again he has also produced Eric Paslay’s self-titled debut: which aside from the lead two singles is outstanding.

    As long as Altman doesn’t try to pull a Frank Liddell and overproduce (not to mention overcompress) the records to death to where most anything is marred by Audio Wars in a way that has greatly hurt recent efforts by the Eli Young Band and David Nail……………I can confidently get behind this business decision. Hoge is just doing what he needs to do, and I don’t see any signs indicative of shamelessly selling out yet. (I already know some would consider the vehicle ad indicative of “selling out”, but look: with not just album and record sales depleting in returns but also touring revenue, it makes complete sense that assessing your options and affiliating with the more ethical corporate sponsors is a necessary step to establishing yourself at a broader scale).

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