Will Hoge is a mainstay of 21st century rock & roll, carrying the torch for a blue-collar sound rooted in ringing Telecaster guitars and anthemic songwriting. He makes music for roadhouses and rallies, for car stereos and dive-bar jukeboxes, for Saturday night hell-raising and Sunday morning comedowns. In an era of social media influencers looking to fast-track their way to fame, Hoge has proudly taken the long way around, dedicating himself not to the destination, but to the journey itself.
The trek continues with Wings On My Shoes, the twelfth studio album in a career whose milestones include Number One hits, Grammy nods, major-label record deals, and hard-won independence. Written amidst the doom and gloom of a pandemic that brought his touring schedule to a standstill, it’s a record that seeks out silver linings, emphasizing bright moments over looming darkness. For Hoge, Wings On My Shoes also marks a recommitment to the amplified Americana sound that’s earned him a global audience, as well nods from Rolling Stone, Forbes, and NPR.
“I always want to embrace change — to accept new things artistically— but at the end of the day, I can try to run from this idea that I love good, guitar-based rock & roll music, or I can wear that badge of honor,” he says. “I’m in the ‘wearing the badge of honor’ phase now.”
He wears it proudly with songs like “All I Can Take,” a fast ‘n’ furious blast of bar-band bombast that he recorded in a single take. “Dead Man’s Hand” slows the tempo but deepens the groove, with Hoge delivering a Springsteen-sized story of desperation and dirty business dealings. “John Prine’s Cadillac” celebrates life and love with power chords, cymbal crashes, and a nod to Hoge’s songwriting hero, while “It’s Just You” remakes the jubilant jangle of Buddy Holly’s best work into a heartland-rock love song.
Recorded during a week’s worth of live performances at Nashville’s Sound Emporium Studios, Wings On My Shoes spotlights the chemistry shared by Hoge and his group of hard-touring road warriors: guitarist Thom Donovan, drummer Allen Jones, and bassist Christopher Griffiths. Hoge pulls triple-duty as the album’s writer, frontman, and producer, while guest multi-instrumentalist Joshua Grange adds touches of pedal steel and organ throughout. Featuring few overdubs and zero studio trickery, Wings On My Shoes stands tall as a document of a hardscrabble band at work, wearing its rough edges with pride, sweating and stomping its way toward rock & roll redemption.
“There are common things we all love — the Beatles, the Stones, the Mount Rushmore of rock music — but everyone brings their own influences to the table,” Hoge says of Wings’ lineup, whose members previously joined him on Tiny Little Movies and My American Dream. “Allen comes from a punk-rock background. Christopher is a Detroit native with Motown influences. Thom loves Johhny Marr and does great things with guitar effects. As we’re arranging the songs, I’m encouraging these guys to push a little bit and help steer. I don’t want to make a record where I play everything, because that defeats the whole purpose of ensemble playing. I’m trying to incorporate everyone else’s gifts into what we’re doing.”
At its core, though, Wings On My Shoes remains a songwriter’s record. Hoge began writing these 10 songs months into the Covid pandemic, his world rattled by the isolation that came with the world’s shelter-in-place recommendation. “I was a mess,” he remembers. “I didn’t realize how much this touring lifestyle had afforded me a certain level of built-in vulnerability and connection with people. Normally, you get into a van with a group of musicians, and you naturally hang out during the weeks that follow, and there’s a communal aspect. There’s a feeling of being connected. I’d gotten used to that, and without it, I went through something of a nervous breakdown. I needed to recenter myself.”
Hoge revamped his schedule, making time for daily blocks of journaling, exercise, and songwriting. He meditated. He practiced yoga. He read and wrote. “It was regimented and unsexy,” he admits, “but it helped. There was a real focus on songwriting once again. Over the course of eight to nine months, that’s where the music came from, and I got really excited about this new batch of songs.”
Those daily songwriting sessions yielded more than full-throttle rockers. On the acoustic “Whose God Is This,” Hoge explores the middle ground between classic country textures and irreverent Bible School takeaways. “Queenie” finds him strumming a gentle salute to the strong, determined women in his life, while the stunning “The Last One To Go” — a career highlight, laced with gorgeous strings and interwoven acoustic guitars — tackles hard realities about marriage and mortality. Wings On My Shoes makes room for all of it, highlighting the diverse perspectives of a craftsman whose songs turn southern storytelling into universal sentiment.
Years before Americana music received its own category at the Grammy Awards, Will Hoge was on the frontlines, helping to pilot and popularize the genre’s blend of American roots music. With Wings On My Shoes, he distills that sound down to its strongest ingredients, steering himself from roadhouse rock & roll to southern soul, from guitar-driven grease ‘n’ grit to Tennessee twang, from amplified barn-burners to acoustic numbers. For Will Hoge, that’s how you take flight, and Wings On My Shoes finds him flying high.
As an emerging singer-songwriter in New York City and Nashville, Meaghan Farrell didn’t know her own power. It might be more accurate to say that she simply didn’t know how to harness it. Meaghan had always loved to sing, turning heads with her strong voice as a kid growing up in Harrisburg, PA. Meaghan knew early that she was meant to write songs, perform, and connect with people. Like so many new artists, Meaghan was proud of her early songs, but the material wasn’t completely “her”, she hadn’t yet found her voice.
Driving around the country as a touring singer-songwriter can be a lonely proposition, with lots of time to think behind the wheel, to get to know one’s self. It was on this journey of self-discovery that Meaghan realized that her artist voice was actually the voice inside her own head. Conversations with Myself came out of an extraordinary time in my life,” Meaghan says. “I was no longer willing to accept feeling certain kinds of familiar pain anymore. It all started with checking in with myself every single day, over a cup of coffee in the morning. It was through this sort of meditation that I began the journey of healing a very broken heart. I am still on that journey. I am still talking to myself, trying to more deeply understand who I am… and I am learning how truly grateful I am for all that I have and all I can give.”
Fresh off a triumphant return to The Rock Boat, Meaghan is slated to take a break from her constant tour schedule to team up with production duo Nate and Dan Monea at their Little C Studios in Canton, Ohio. The Moneas helped her express the full range of her emotions: from heartbreak to healing, from injustice to empowerment, from anxiety to confidence, Meaghan shares it all. Her philosophy is simple – the best version of yourself has always been there, it is often too noisy to hear that voice. The trick is to quiet the world, quiet yourself until you can truly hear it. The clarity. The calm. The love.
With her powerful new music, Meaghan Farrell aspires to be heard for many years to come. Her recent single, “My Kitchen – The Sad Version” was recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama by producer Patrick Tetreault and mixed by Craig Alvin (Kacey Musgraves, Hanson, Little Big Town).
One conversation at a time. One song at a time. One tour at a time, including her recent dates supporting Red Wanting Blue, Will Hoge, and Tony Lucca. Meaghan says, “Look into the deepest, darkest parts of yourself. Get uncomfortable. Accept it all with love, compassion and gratitude for where you’ve been. I believe from that place, your dreams start to become your reality.”
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