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Will Hoge Makes “Hearts” Soar in Chicago

photo by Randi Radcliff

Try as he may to convince himself that he’s still just another songwriter still writing "songs that nobody will hear," Academy of Country Music Awards nominee Will Hoge took the stage at Chicago’s Joe’s Bar as a bona fide superstar. Seemingly swallowing his microphone and keeling over his guitar in pure musical emotion, Will rocked a 90-minute set that seemed to solidify the 40-year-old’s hold on a country music career that just might still be ahead of him.

“We wake up because something needs to be said, whether someone is going to hear it or not,” he announced to the packed back room before the live debut of his new single, “Another Song Nobody Will Hear.” Armed with an undeniable rock edge that couldn’t also help but reveal his country roots, Hoge played through a 15-year-long catalog of music that often had him banging the honky-tonk out his candy-apple-red guitar.

After a rousing opening by new Big Machine Label Group signees The Cadillac Three (“Yes, we had to change our name," the group's Jaren Johnston remarked to the crowd about their change from The Cadillac Black), Will came out sporting plaid, tattoos and a three-piece backing band featuring the impressive talents of guitarist Jessie Isley. Will's added talents on harmonica and keyboard were also a musical highlight among countrified sermons such as “Jesus Came to Tennessee” and “Washed by the Water."

Perhaps the pinnacles of the night, based on the reaction of the crowd, were Hoge’s nods to past and future collaborations with some of country music’s brightest stars. “Yes, I’m up here advertising other people’s records,” he said with a chuckle, paying homage to Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe’s recent solo project and Lady Antebellum’s upcoming album, which features Will's singing and harmonica talents.

And, of course, the night couldn’t be complete without an ode of thanks from Will to the Eli Young Band, who brought Will's words to the hearts of the rest of the planet with the No. 1 single "Even If It Breaks Your Heart." “It has been an incredible gift for me and family, thanks to the fans and EYB,” Will said,  shortly before a good ol' country singalong ensued.

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