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Will Hoge likes his music to have a message

Will Hoge headlines Joe’s Weed Nov. 2. | PHOTO BY PEYTON HOGE

Will Hoge headlines Joe’s on Weed on Nov. 2. | PHOTO BY PEYTON HOGE

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♦ 10 p.m. Nov. 2

♦ Joe’s Bar, 940 W. Weed

♦ Tickets, $12

♦ (312) 337-3486;

Updated: December 3, 2012 6:12AM

The timing of Nashville singer/songwriter Will Hoge’s very first concert at Joe’s Bar is an interesting one. Twelve days before his 40th birthday, four days before Election Day, three days before he goes back into the studio to start work on his next album… and just one day after the awards show that could easily change his life.

“If I come home with it, it’s definitely coming to Chicago,” laughs Hoge, a nominee for Song of the Year at the upcoming CMA Awards as a songwriter for Eli Young Band’s number one hit “Even If It Breaks Your Heart.” “We leave right after the after party to come to Chicago, and there is nothing I would love more than having some country music hardware on stage with us,” Hoge says.

Recently signing a brand new publishing deal, Hoge says the newfound attention by fellow artists and the general public has become downright comical. “I was at a truck stop in Texas a few weeks ago,” says Hoge, who currently finds himself smack in the middle of his Let Me Be Lonely tour. “I was standing at the urinal between these two huge truck drivers, and “EIIBYH” came on the radio. These dudes actually started singing the song and talking about how much they love it. Normally in that situation, I would have been proud to say ‘I wrote that song’, but to tell you the truth? I was scared for one of them to shake my hand or something.”

Armed with a rough and raspy voice that seems to hint at some of the trials and tribulations he has experienced during his 40 years on this planet, Hoge says he owes his current success to a healthy blend of “dumb luck and persistence.”

“I have spent years beating my head against the wall, so it’s pretty amazing when a window opens,” says Hoge, who considers the likes of Hank Williams and Bob Dylan as a couple of his singer/songwriter heroes. “My career has moved forward for a decade in a half now, but it’s always been in these small increments — one fan and one dark smoky club at a time. Then ‘EIIBYH’ hits, and all of a sudden I have other artists willing to hear and take a look at other tunes I have written.”

A rocker at heart, Hoge is one of those artists whose music doesn’t fit simply into one genre, especially true while listening to songs such as the powerful “Jesus Came to Tennessee” and “The Ballad of Trayvon Martin” on his latest EP, “Modern American Protest Music.”

“I’m as political as I think every American should be,” explains Hoge. “It bothers me when we get to a point in this country where people want to shut down and not want to discuss things. I don’t expect that every person that likes my music and records are going to agree with everything I say. Believe me, there is someone out there that is going to react negatively to every record I release, whether I am talking about politics or girls, drinking and cars. The fact is that if I don’t get those things out and make those records, I get stale. I don’t want that, and my fans that come to our shows don’t want that.”

Getting the chance to get in front of his Chicago fans is something Hoge says is especially sweet. “Chicago is one of the first places we ever played, and I remember my original guitarist telling me ‘if you get them to like you, they will stay for you forever, through every nook and cranny of your career’. It’s my favorite big city in the country. They treat us well.”

Tricia Despres is a local free-lance writer.

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