Will Hoge is a singer-songwriter who has always offered unique perspectives on the sometimes dark side of life and relationships. But after a near-death experience a few years back, his survivor stories are taking on new meaning.
In August 2008, Hoge was involved in a motor-scooter accident in Nashville that nearly claimed his life. Suffering multiple broken bones and in a coma, his friends, family and fans feared the worst. But after a grueling healing process that stretched out over an entire year, Hoge thankfully made a complete recovery. Toward the end of it, he found the strength to return to the studio and finish the album he was working on at the time, aptly titled The Wreckage.
This year, with an understandably more reflective outlook, the roots-rocker released The Living Room Sessions, an acoustic EP of songs from The Wreckage recorded comfortably in his own home. He also hit the road with Shinedown for an acoustic tour. The new tracks will sound familiar to fans, but there’s a fresh wisdom to them that makes them brand new. He recently spoke with CMT.com by phone about his ordeal, the blessing in disguise that has come out of it and writing a song his wife can enjoy.
CMT: I was wondering if I could ask you about your accident. Would you mind explaining what exactly happened?
We were in the middle of recording The Wreckage — actually what we thought was about 70 percent done with it — and leaving the studio over by Belmont [University] and going home … a 15-passenger van coming the other direction didn’t see me and turned full speed in front of me and hit me head on.
Do you remember it?
I don’t remember it. I remember a couple of turns right before it, and I remember bits and pieces of lying on the street. I lost so much blood. To save me, they had to put me in a coma. I remember the paramedics getting there, but it had blinded me in both eyes. I couldn’t see anything. Everything was so weird at that point. … Then I was out for three days till I really woke up.
After you started coming to, was there anything that helped you get through it?
Really, in that time I couldn’t even think about music. … I’ve gotta learn to walk again, I’ve gotta learn to eat, be able to move my arms. I’ve got so many others things to be concerned about. In some ways it just clears your head for everything else. Right around Thanksgiving, I remember being able to hold a guitar again and kind of sit in my living room and play. Maybe I’m over emphasizing, but … it’s not like the movies. It was just this really satisfactory moment of like “OK, eventually, I don’t know when but eventually, I’m going to be able to do this again.”
That’s got to be a really inspiring moment.
It was, and I think in a lot of ways it really helped me rediscover the process of songwriting. You know, as a performer you gotta make a living as a road musician. You spend so much time just going out and beating up the road that I hadn’t had the time over the last 8 years to just sit and really concentrate on writing. This was the first time I’ve been able to do that, and there’s a better record for it. I’m a better artist for it and I know now to do that in the future, and I hopefully don’t have to get run over by a truck to do it.
Your latest project is an acoustic EP called The Living Room Sessions. Are living room jams a normal thing for your group of friends?
Yeah, I guess in some ways. I mean, we don’t often sit around and record them. … But I think as musicians and growing up in Nashville there is a quite a bit of that. You come over and sit around and play and the songs are born out of that. Arrangement ideas, things for shows are born out of that, so yeah I guess it is kind of a bigger part of it than maybe we give ourselves credit for.
Recently I went to see the Eli Young Band, and they played a new song that’s actually one of yours, “Even if It Breaks Your Heart.”
How did you hear about them finding that song?
I got a call from some people at their label that just said that they had heard it, that they were gonna record it. You know, that’s the first time that’s ever happened. … It was really one of those things that was a total surprise. I didn’t know those guys, I knew their music but we’d never played together. … They finally sent a version over, and it was really cool to hear. I’m flattered that they would even consider cutting it. Obviously I think it’s a great song. It’s something I’m real proud of. … I see it even in our shows. People have a real reaction to that song. I think that country music fans would really react to it, and I think with that band that’s what they do real well. I hope they have a big smelly, stinky country hit song with it.
“Favorite Waste of Time” is a really vivid breakup song. But now that you’re married and you’ve got a young family, does your wife ever wonder where songs like that come from?
Oh, all the time! (Laughs) And I try to explain to her that I had a long life before I was happily married, so fortunately I can still draw on lots of those experiences. I hope that she doesn’t ever take them too horribly personally. And I promised her at some point I’ll write a happy song that’s about a relationship, but I just haven’t been able to do it yet.