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Interview: Keep on Dreaming Even If It Breaks Your Heart: The Renaissance of Will Hoge

Will Hoge almost got the dream.

In 2015, the independent Nashville-based recording artist seemed poised to win the country music lottery. He and his band had been picked by a major radio conglomerate as a spotlight artist, to be introduced on a mass scale to radio listeners nationwide. Looking back now, Hoge says the slot was virtually a guarantee of a top 10 record in the country music sphere. “This is exactly what the program is for,” the radio group told him and his band: spotlighting new artists or independent acts and helping them find a home in the infamously commercialized world of country radio.

For Hoge, being picked as a next big thing was the realization of a long-held dream. He’d released his first record—as part of the band Spoonful—in 1997, before going solo with 2001’s Carousel. What followed was a series of well-liked and respected records that melded country, southern rock, and heartland rock into something that sounded like a twangier Springsteen. For 2003’s Blackbird on a Lonely Wire, Hoge got scooped up by Atlantic Records, but the album failed to take off and it was back to the independent musician game after that.

Still, Hoge kept trucking and was eventually rewarded for his persistence. In 2012, Eli Young Band recorded a version of “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” a song from Hoge’s 2009 record The Wreckage. The song was the opening track and second single from Eli Young Band’s Life at Best album, and it ultimately reached number one on the Billboard country chart. Suddenly armed with a number one song to his name, Hoge landed his 2013 track “Strong” in a widely syndicated ad campaign for Chevrolet Silverado. The song charted modestly on country radio, but it was enough to convince Hoge that if he really tried to play the game, he might just be able to make some magic happen.

Taking One Discography to a Desert Island

Last night, while listening to some music and having a beer, I tossed out a question on Twitter that I’ve always found fascinating:

Desert island game, but you have one band’s full discography only, who do you go with? I’m thinking I’d have to pick Jimmy Eat World.

What I’ve always liked about this question is that it forces you to make decisions beyond just thinking about a favorite band. If your favorite band doesn’t have a large catalog then you’re stuck for a while with only three albums. And if you are looking for diversity in music styles, or strength in numbers, then there’s another way you can go. The idea of a band’s entire body of work, and looking at it as a whole, has been a long running theme of mine. After asking the question, and getting promptly dunked on by none other than Mark Hoppus,1 the answers started coming in.

At first it was a bunch of what I expected from our little music scene. Lots of Brand New, Blink-182, Yellowcard, and Thrice. And then all of sudden the answers started to change. I’m not sure how or where it started,2 but the tweet ended up going a little viral and spreading way further than the small group of followers that know me and the kind of music I have written about on a daily basis for years. The replies started coming faster and it was way more Billie Joel, Rush, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, and Barbra Streisand. It was funny to watch the conversation completely change from the kind of music I’ve been listening to and writing about over the course of a few hours. And, because it’s the damn internet, that also meant I now had quite a few people that really didn’t like my pick (or some of the early replies).

Those that have read my writing for years know how much I like Jimmy Eat World. I’ve talked before about how I think they have one of the best catalogs in our little scene and they just keep putting out great music. My thought process is that I love the band, there’s a lot of music in that catalog, and there’s enough style changes so I’d have something for every mood while I’m sitting on island. Now, after getting a few snarky tweets about how could I not pick The Beatles or The Rolling Stones,3 I kinda wish I went with something even more out there: A Wilhelm Scream, Propagandhi, Strung Out? Might as well earn the snark.

All-in-all it was a pretty hilarious evening, and I’m curious to see how our community would answer this question. So, if you wanna hit the comments I’d love to see what the prevailing artist and catalog in our forums ends up being.


  1. I need to make this tweet a mug so I can drink tea out of it.

  2. I think somehow it got passed around a few sports writer circles.

  3. Definitely sports circle.

Andrew Belle – “When the End Comes” (Song Premiere)

Andrew Belle will release his new album, Dive Deep, on August 25th. Today I’m excited to bring you the premiere of the new song “When the End Comes.” When describing the song, Andrew said:

“When the End Comes” is about just that – it’s about how on one hand I can know that at the end of my time here I won’t care about much else besides the people that I love and who love me back; and yet I get so distracted and caught up in my own head with everything going on these days that I need reminding of that on a daily basis. At the end of my life there will only be a handful of things that mean anything to me and so I wrote this song about keeping those things close and putting everything else in the background.

Pre-orders for the album are now up and ticket packages for the upcoming tour are also available. I’ve been looking forward to this album for a while, and it doesn’t sound like it’s going to disappoint.

Jimmy Eat World and Judah and the Lion in Camden, NJ

Touring bills where the opening acts outshine the headlining band are a rare sight. However, I’d argue that the “8 Tour” in support of Incubus’ new record is one such tour. The openers, folk/indie-pop hybrid Judah and the Lion and the stalwart and ever-incredible Jimmy Eat World, put on a master class of performance that threatened to rip the crowd’s attention away from the headliner’s 20-song set and decades-spanning production. I photographed both band’s sets at the BB & T Pavilion in Camden, NJ last week and you can see some of my pictures below.

A Black Mile to the Surface (Encore Episode 151)

Encore 151

On this week’s episode of Encore I am once again joined by special guest Drew Beringer. This week we are doing a deep dive on the new album from Manchester Orchestra. The album, A Black Mile to the Surface, comes out on July 28th, so you can decide if you wanna hear all our thoughts on the album now or wait until you’ve heard it for the first time. We walk through each song on the album, so expect “spoilers.” And, we’re both pretty excited about this one.

The Top Albums of 2017 (So Far)

Best of 2017

The first six months of 2017 have probably brought more than enough albums to fill a year-end list. Alas, it’s only mid-year, which leaves us with the task of distilling everything we’ve heard so far into quick, concise top 10 lists. Rather than try to define the overarching themes of the year, we’d rather just let the albums we love speak for themselves. Below, you will find both our combined staff top 10, as well as individual lists from our contributors and moderators. Here’s hoping you find something new to love.

Note: You can share your own list in our music forum.

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The Best of 2017 … So Far (Encore Episode 150)

Encore 150

On this week’s episode of Encore I am joined once again by special guest Craig Manning. This week our main topic is all about the best albums released in 2017 … so far. As we hit the midway mark of the year, it’s time for our annual tradition of discussing what albums we’ve fallen in love with during the first six months, what didn’t make the list, what we were anticipating and how those stacked up, and all that jazz. (There’s also a rant about movie theaters at the beginning because some people can’t put their phones away.)

What albums have you loved this year so far? We’d love to hear from you and see if there’s something new for us to discover as well. As always, thanks for listening.

Bringing First Impressions to the Main Site

For as long as I can remember I’ve been doing some version of “first impression” blogs about music on the internet. It started back on AbsolutePunk.net in my blog as I’ve always loved being able to offer some thoughts on an album without the full pressure of an official “review.” My original idea was a more free flowing and less structured way to comment on music usually after having only heard an album one or two times. Today we’ve got things like our forums and social media to serve as a similar medium for putting together opinions on something without it needing to feel too official. I like that. It’s freeing.

One of the things I’ve been doing for supporters in our supporter forum is these first listen/first impression live blogs for certain albums. The basic idea is the same as always: I listen to an album and I do a little live blogging of my thoughts, impressions, and feelings as I listen to it. It started out as a fun little way to talk about music and once again helped me feel free from some of the pressures of “official” reviews on music. It’s been a lot of fun and it seems like everyone really enjoys reading them. Now, one of the downfalls of using the forum for this is that it’s not as easy to archive and save these pieces for posterity. And they’re behind the community package paywall and therefore unaccessible to patrons of the main website. Today, I’m fixing both of those problems.

Interview: Misterwives

Misterwives

The indie pop band Misterwives just released their sophomore full-length album Connect the Dots. It’s a technicolor shot of adrenaline to the music industry and quite simply one of the most fun listens of the year. Just before their explosive set at Firefly Music Festival, we got a chance to sit down with Misterwives’ Mandy Lee, Jesse Blum, Etienne Bowler, Marc Campbell and Will Hehir, to discuss a variety of topics. In our discussion, we touch upon how some politicians have a tendency to hide immoral action under party politics, why the music industry is a tough place to work, and just how many drummers is too many drummers in a band.

American Opera – “Sidewalks” (Song Premiere)

Today we have the premiere of American Opera’s new song “Sidewalks” for you. The track comes from the upcoming album, Small Victories, which is due out on Spartan Records on June 30th. Pre-orders are now up.

Vocalist John Bee, described the song:

“Sidewalks” is about two lost souls fumbling their way through life. Two complete strangers who walk the same streets, looking for the same thing, but they never find it because they are too scared, too lost, too hurt, too far gone. The help they need, the people they need, everything they need is right there in front of them. They just can’t see it because they are blinded by life. They live in their own worlds that are the result of every moment, every interaction, every fleeting thought they have ever had. They are blinded by their own shit. They can’t see each other.

I loved working with Meeko on “Sidewalks.” We’ve worked together in the past and it was a real privilege to work with her again. She’s one of those people who doesn’t seem to understand how truly talented she is and it’s a bit maddening. It’s as if it’s effortless for her. She flew in to Atlanta on no sleep and completely knocked it out of the park. She makes another appearance later on in the album which is probably my favorite part of the record.

Settling All Family Business (Encore Episode 149)

Encore 149

On this week’s episode of Encore I am once again joined by special guest Deanna Chapman. This week it’s all about a whole bunch of new music that’s been recently released. We talk about new music from Manchester Orchestra, Bleachers, Rise Against, and All Time Low. We also give some thoughts on Apple’s WWDC and their new products, and answer a question about creating playlists and when and how we listen to them. There’s also some comic book talk, and the usual discussion of there being too much new stuff to consume.

Hope you enjoy! Have a great weekend.

Introducing Chorus 2.0

One of the best parts about running my own website again is that I can work on improvements and changes and roll them out when they’re done instead of waiting for the never ending drudge of bureaucracy. Today I’m excited to bring you a collection of changes, improvements, additions, and new features that I am calling Chorus 2.0. Basically, I’ve spent the past year or so learning about what makes this website work, what doesn’t work, what needs to be improved, and how to better organize the information we push into it each day. And of course, how you, the reader, are using it. I’ve taken what I’ve learned and combined that with an optimization obsession to get this website to load as fast and reliably as possible on virtually any device you view it on. You may not see a lot of outward changes, but there were thousands of lines of code tweaked and changed along the way. I want to quickly go through some of the bigger changes, and introduce you to some of the more headlining features.

Makes Me Laugh (Encore Episode 148)

Encore 148

On this week’s episode of Encore I am once again joined by special guest Drew Beringer. This week we talk all about the new albums from New Found Glory and Paramore. First we catch up a little (Drew got married!), talk a little basketball, Funkos, the usual. Then we dive into the most recent releases from New Found Glory and Paramore and talk about their place in the music scene and their careers as a whole. Mixed within is a talk about Blink-182 and if they should shake it up with a new producer like NFG did (spoiler: probably), and a talk about leaks not mattering much these days, and how we feel about long wait times between album announcements.

Sonnder – “Siren Calling” (Video Premiere)

Last week, we presented our “In The Spotlight” feature and highlighted some of the best under the radar and up-and-coming artists. This week, one of those artists, Sonnder, reached out to us about premiering their new music video for “Siren Calling.” The song is the lead single off their debut album Entanglement, which came out last year and is one of my favorite recent finds. The video was directed by Dan Levitt, who captures the song’s youthful exuberance and the joyousness of Sonnder’s live performance.