Will Hoge is no stranger to the country charts.
The Eli Young Band had a number one country single with "Even If It Breaks Your Heart," which Hoge cowrote.
That doesn't mean Hoge isn't hoping to see his own single, "Strong," crack the top 40. When Hoge called Friday from a tour stop in Winston-Salem, N.C., the lead single from his independently released album, "Never Give In," was sitting at number 42.
Photo by Kristin Barlowe
Will Hoge performs Friday at the Dusty Armadillo in Rootstown.
"It does have a lot of importance," Hoge said. "As a record label owner doing it truly on my own, a lot of people say it can't be done. I'm trying to prove it can be. I don't have the ammunition, I don't have the money to compete with Luke Bryan or Miranda Lambert or Blake Shelton. We have to be much more specific and precise.
"But it's a big thing to be about to crack the top 40 with an independent single. It generates more interest, more people coming to the show, more people knowing your song."
Many first heard "Strong" when General Motors used it in a Chevy Silverado ad. Hoge said while many complain about the drop in record sales in the digital age, he's trying to embrace the opportunities possible through the exposure that can come from having a song in a commercial, like "Strong," or on a television series (Hoge wrote and sang the theme song for the CBS sitcom "Still Standing").
WHO: Will Hoge and Clare Dunn
WHEN: 10 p.m. Friday. Doors open at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Dusty Armadillo, 3147 state Route 44, Rootstown
"We live in a cool time," Hoge said. "They hear something they like, Shazaam it and go right to iTunes and buy the album. It's instant gratification. You can either complain or embrace it and be part of the future."
While he's still waiting for that first top 40 hit, Hoge is no newcomer. After a couple of self-released albums in the late '90s, Hoge was signed to Atlantic Records and later Rykodisc and was viewed more as a rock singer-songwriter.
Over the years, he's toured with a diverse list of artists from ZZTop, Shinedown and Squeeze to Dierks Bentley, Pistol Annies and NEEDTOBREATHE. He doesn't alter what he does to conform with the other acts on the bill.
"It doesn't really change," he said. "The same year we opened for Shinedown, we also opened for Dwight Yoakam and didn't change the show ... 95 percent of what we do doesn't change. That, at the end of the day, is a real testament to the band."
On those early albums, Hoge primarily wrote by himself. In recent years, he's been collaborating with other songwriters, a change that came about after he was seriously injured in a scooter accident in 2008.
"I couldn't tour, I couldn't really hold a guitar for very long," he said. "I had friends who were in publishing and had writers set me up with some cowriting just because I needed to do anything I could do musically, and I couldn't do any of the things I normally do. Some of my favorite songs from (the 2009 release) 'The Wreckage' were born out of that willingness to try to cowrite."
And he never thought of writing for other artists until the Eli Young Band inquired about recording "Even If It Breaks Your Heart," which Hoge released on "The Wreckage." The Eli Young Band recorded two of Hoge's songs for its new album, "10,000 Towns," and Lady Antebellum included "Better Off Now (That You're Gone)" on its 2013 album "Golden."
The money generated by those songwriting deals and by General Motors' strong is making it possible for Hoge to promote his own music.
"That's the honey hole, the only reason I'm able to do it," Hoge said. "It's not because I'm independently wealthy."