Interview: Will Hoge discusses his album My American Dream, touring the UK and more

Singer/songwriter Will Hoge has just put out probably one of the most important albums for a long time (My American Dream) . Not holding back on his thoughts and emotions on some of the political issues in America at the moment, Will has delivered a painfully strong album that really highlights the realness of some of those struggles.

With a large following in the UK, Will returns to the UK in December to tour the new album. Check out dates here.

We caught up with Will to discuss his new album My American Dream, his tour and much more.

Hi Will – How are you?

I am doing alright, how about you?

Great thanks. Congratulations on the release of My American Dream. Tell us about making the album. It is a very brave but very necessary album as more people need to speak more on the topics you raise.

Well thanks. The making of it was really great – it is maybe my favourite album that I have ever done. The songs came not easily but quickly from a writing perspective and those were really…well it is hard to say I enjoyed the process because some of those songs are songs that I wish I didn’t have to write. I felt good as a writer again which I haven’t always felt. Sometimes I struggle but I felt good about that part this time. Having a band of guys that I feel really regular with as we had been on the road in Europe a bunch last year was great and we came home from touring and we were really in that sweet spot of having played together a whole bunch to really being highly connected so it was the perfect time to make a record. Everyone was kind of operating in this second nature of everyone is playing well, listening to one another, excited to be in the studio and so on, so all of those things were really great. The process was easy in that sense and was in a studio that we all felt really comfortable in.

The first track Gilded Walls grabs your attention from the get go – tell us about that track.

That one started really out of frustration with watching our current administration and leadership continue to prey on the working class and the poor and act like they care about those folks when in reality there is zero proof in that. That really hits me hard because it is a lot of the folks that I grew up with, a lot of my family. That song was written on guitar originally and then I switched and played it on piano as I did the demo for it and once we started recording it, it was kind of gonna go one of two ways. It was either going to be this sort of straight piano “thinking song” or it needed to be this loud rock song and once the four of us started playing it together, it became very much the latter of those two things which I loved. We did a video for it last week and I can’t wait for people to see it.

You just mentioned the way the poor are treated in your country at the moment and part of what interests me in the US is the medical bills, it is that bad? I mean even having a baby would cost thousands.

Oh yeah it is and it is a huge part of it. We have an incredible number of people that either stay in poverty or fall into poverty because of medical bills. I saw that first hand and that is part of why it is so important to me. I was in an accident fifteen years ago and I had good insurance, full coverage and all those things and after hospital stays, surgeries and rehab it was hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills. If I hadn’t of had the insurance settlement, I don’t know what we would have done. I don’t have an extra two hundred thousand plus extra sitting around to be able to pay for medical bills.

Who does?

Yeah, so it is an incredibly real problem for a lot of people and not just the poor but the middle class it is a pretty dangerous balance.

I guess we are lucky over here in the UK.

Yeah! I had a friend that was over from the UK last year and he got really sick and had to stay in hospital all week and they saved his life and it didn’t cost him hardly anything. It certainly opened his eyes for sure.

The song Stupid Kids has a bit of a punk rock edge which is perfectly fitting for the songs premise. The Parkland students, which it is said to be influenced by, I feel are a start of a generation that may change it all? Perhaps not now but if their influence can inspire generations to come, perhaps that change will be in place when someone, a student makes it to the white house and changes it all?

Yeah, well that is the thing that is most inspiring through all of this. My sons are 11 and 8 and my wife was a high school counsellor for three years and now she has been a elementary counsellor for the last four years. Our lives are inundated with young people and their joys and their struggles. I was a young person once too and I remember what that was like and then watching through all of the things that happened with these Parkland Kids, through all of the shootings at the school and the aftermath and watching them organise these marches and talking about changing things for the better for the future, it was so incredibly moving. Then thinking back on US History, the people that have always made the biggest changes for us culturally have always been young folk for the most part. It was so during the American Revolution, it was so during World War ll, it was during Vietnam , it was during the civil rights movement – it has always been young people, college kids and high school kids who are willing to put themselves out there. So that was really inspiring and I wanted the song to reflect that sort of youthful, punk mentality. Honestly I don’t know if that is what 19 and 20 year old kids are even listening to but for me it sounded youthful and middle fingered to the people that don’t agree.

The song Thoughts and Prayers also follows on from the same theme about shootings in general. This song in particular meant a lot to me because hearing about all these recent shooting since being a mum has affected me even further and I can’t imagine being afraid to send your child to school.

I know! And some people who were critical of that song when I put it out talk about how anti gun it was and one, I am not anti gun and I am not afraid of guns but I think that our inaction on guns is shameful for us as a country and especially as us as adults when we start talking about these kids being affected by it. So for me, it is more anti politician because with an organisation like with the NRA here, we have this company that buys politicians and gets them to vote to keep these antiquated gun nut ideas in place. It’s really bad so I do think that holding our politicians to a higher standard on that is something that needs to be talked about. That song has been getting a better response than I expected which is encouraging

You hit the nail on the head when you said that you are not anto gun as such. You are saying what most people are trying to say which is that they are not against guns as such, not as a whole but there just needs to be stricter laws.

Yeah, there should be major responsibilities with that and it is just too easy for people to get a gun in the US. There is barely a background check, there is no training, you don’t have to make sure they know what to do with it or why they want it, they don’t check if you know how to store it safely or if you don’t know how to and if somebody takes your gun, there is no responsibility on the gun owner, there’s no responsibility on the gun manufacturer, the NRA blocks congress from being able to study gun violence and the repercussions of it so it’s really just a sham, disappointing.

It is and I really hope for change I do.

The song Oh Mr Barnham is also an interesting track with The Greatest Showman being out at the moment and that film of course paints Barnham in a much better light than he actually was. I connected the dots of the possible subject to the song of course.

Yeah, my sons got way into PT Barnham before they had even seen The Greatest Showman. Somehow they had seen something about him. I did a tiny bit of research on him online and realised what a larger than life sort of figure he was but also noticed that he was just a salesman of all of these crazy ideas that were seen in sort of a good way but were actually quite bad. With the current crazy that is going on, it seemed like a decent analogy to ask him to come back and get rid of all of this mess he created.

The illegal line is also a very important song at the moment.

Yeah! Another major issue here is immigration. When you stop to really think about that, as a father, as a business owner, as a working person, what would I do if I didn’t have the ability to take care of my family? What if we lived in a place that I truly feared for my kids well -being and their life everyday when I woke up? What would I do to take care of them? Would I go and cross some made up line in the sand to try and get a job and do all those things? Yeah I would and I would say that anybody who wouldn’t is probably being a bit disingenuous to say that they wouldn’t. That was a big deal to try to tell that story from a perspective of a father who is trying to do right by his family. I don’t have any first hand knowledge of what that’s like but I feel like I have the ability to be empathetic to the struggle and I hope that that comes across.

It certainly does.

You will be coming back to the UK soon to tour this album. You have quite a good relationship with the UK, so what is it that keeps bringing you back?

I have loved it there from the start. I came over for the first time ten years ago, maybe eleven. It was right before my accident and then I didn’t come back for a long time. In the last four or five years I have tried to make it a regular thing. The audience have just been so incredibly receptive to the music. That has been really encouraging and makes me want to come back. It is such a diverse musical culture and they seem to really appreciate the records we’re making so yeah, I hope to continue to come back for a long time.

Well we do too.

Even If It Breaks Your Heart, although on a later album, that song is such a great song and one of those songs that I can imagine being sung back by thousands and thousands back to you in a crowd. I saw Eric Paslay sing it live at BST Hyde Park which is what made me think wow!

That song was really special I think for both of us. That was the first song that Eric had recorded by somebody as an artist so that was cool. For me, at the time, the people in charge of my career would say “This is the hit song that you have been waiting for, it’s gonna break you as an artist”. Of course that wasn’t true. It was a hit song but for somebody else. It has been incredible to watch that song grow and be a bigger thing and it is still a great song, I love playing it. The story is no less true for me today then the day we wrote it which is cool too.

I think it is a timeless classic, I really do.

I hope so.

Thank you so much for chatting to me today it has been really wonderful and I am really enjoying the album.

I appreciate the time, hopefully we will see you in December

Yes for sure.

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