Let money solution for unexpected financial status of people may actually get repaid from.

Josh Hoge: From Shoe Salesman to Crowd Pleaser
by Brianne Turner

In the world of burgeoning independent musicians, Josh Hoge is sort of the Justin Timberlake of the lot… minus the skit show anthem dedicated to his gift wrapped genitals.

Straight out of Nashville, Tennessee, his falsetto can emit shrieks from the girls who solemnly swear that they came to the concert only “for the music”. His honey-coated Southern drawl is hardly detectable until he talks about his beloved hometown and, rather than apologizing for his pop-infused R&B, he’ll tell you how much he loves Brian McKnight. And whiskey. And women. Which can make things difficult when you’re on tour with Matt Wertz and Mat Kearney and your first stop on the tour is a Christian college. “I have done a couple shows where someone’s come up to me and actually, like a six-year-old, said, ‘We need to make sure that you’re not gonna say anything,’” laughs the 29-year-old singer-songwriter. “But it’s not like I’m fuckin’ Chris Rock. I’m not gonna go up there and just start goin’ nuts.”

II: What have you been up to since your summer tour with Elliott Yamin ended?
JH: Nothing… Actually I can’t say “nothing”. I’ve just been working here at the studio– [tour manager, Zach Crowell] has a studio upstairs– and we’ve just been doing a bunch of new stuff. I’ve been trying my hand at writing completely random songs for other people, so I’m trying to get into some of that. I’ve even been writing Christmas songs for Elliott. Elliott Yamin is doing a Christmas album. I’ve been trying to write those and just trying my hand at writing for other artists. I wrote a lot of my stuff with Ne-Yo and he does a lot of that, so I’m trying to get into that too. Other than that, I’ve just been hanging out, drinking a lot.

II: How has it been writing Christmas songs in the middle of summer in Nashville, TN?
JH: Well, it’s weird in general. I’ve never written Christmas songs. It’s my first time ever trying it. It was fun; we had a good time doing it. Who knows if they’ll make his record. But it’s definitely hot. I think it’s 100 degrees today.

II: So you’ve written with other artists in the past like Dave Barnes…
JH: Yeah, I’ve written with Barnes and Ne-Yo and the majority of the stuff I write, I write with a friend named Ryan Tedder, who is in a band called OneRepublic and that’s kinda starting to happen. He and I write the majority of the stuff that I do together.

II: Do you have a preference when it comes to writing alone, or as part of a collaboration?
JH: Well, I don’t play an instrument so the collaboration thing is easier for me. I’ve started writing more to tracks and stuff like that, where the music’s already supplied. But it’s kinda difficult if you don’t play. I’m a loser.

II: Your first record deal was with Epic and that didn’t work out. Did they release your first album?
JH: Single. They never put the record out. They put the single out last summer, and I just toured and all that. The record was supposed to come out in January and then we split ways right around that time.

II: Is that how you maintained all the rights to your songs, since the album was never released?
JH: Pretty much. I’ve just stayed on the road and I’ve done a little EP just here at the house that I’ve been selling on the road and over MySpace and stuff like that, but I’ve never officially released, like, a real album in stores and all that stuff.

II: Did you learn anything from your experience with Epic that you plan to apply to your relationships with any record labels that you work with in the future?
JH: Yeah. Not to believe anyone. I don’t really believe anyone until I’m sitting there with it… that type of thing. There are a whole lot of shady people in the music business.

II: How did “Work That Body” become attached to the “Biggest Loser” soundtrack?
JH: I guess through Epic. I think they did the soundtrack. That was one of the last songs that I recorded for the Epic record I did. If I make another record like that, it will be part of that record for sure because that’s always been kind of a crowd favorite. It was really cool. That was actually the one song on the record I made that I didn’t write. My friend David Ryan Harris and this guy Mark Ronson [wrote it] and Amy Winehouse did the music for it.

II: When things like that happen, does the record label tell you, or do you just kind find out when you see it?
JH: That one I just kinda saw. They didn’t tell me a lot of stuff at Epic. At the last minute they said, “Hey, we’re letting you go.”

II: The track “Take It or Leave It” features a performance by members of John Mellencamp’s band. How did that collaboration happen?
JH: The guy I was working with at Epic used to work for John and we went down to John Mellencamp’s studio in Indiana and we worked in that studio. His guys were around and sorta just started playing on the song. It was really cool. There’s not a lot to do in Bloomington, Indiana, but we went down for a couple weeks and hung out and cut the record. It’s actually the same studio where they cut The Fray’s record [How to Save a Life].

That song ["Take It or Leave It"] has a kind of down home, almost kind of a country, Southern feel, so his guys stepped in and played on it. It was pretty cool.

II: Have you ever thought about learning to play an instrument? Do you take voice lessons?
JH: No. I don’t do either. I thought about learning, then I realized how impatient I am. If I can’t play the guitar like John Mayer in, like, a week, I’m kinda over it.

II: Tell me about the Bedroom Sessions Vol. 1 EP and how that came to fruition.
JH: Well, the single came out last summer and did pretty well for me and opened up a little bit of a fan base; and I had been touring. I toured all last summer with Ryan Cabrera and we were seeing people starting to wonder who I was and starting to wonder when the record was coming out. So when we left Epic, I was still touring and I started doing this Elliott [Yamin] tour. I’d toured with Andy Davis and Nathan Angelo and I sat down with Zach [Crowell] one day and said, “Man, I gotta have something to sell,” so we just sorta did it illegally, really, because technically I’m a Sony artist still and I can’t really be selling stuff. We kinda did the whole, “If they come after me, that means I’ve sold a whole lot of them.” So we just did it and it is what it is. It was done in a bedroom in, like, a day. It’s six songs, it’s not mixed, it’s very raw. No artwork or anything, I mean, it’s just a CD in a case that we sell but people seem to like it. When I go back around to cities, you see people singing, so when they have something that they can learn and sing along to, it helps.

II: Was this your first experience with releasing an album yourself?
JH: Yeah, pretty much. We just do it at shows and you can get it on myspace.com/joshhoge, but that’s it for right now. It’s not on iTunes and all that. I can’t do all that kinda stuff because it’s against the law. I’m a rebel.

II: Your older brother is Will Hoge, who until recently was an independent artist for years. Were you able to draw on his experiences when you decided to release the Bedroom Sessions Vol. 1 EP on your own?
JH: Yeah. I mean, it was kinda everything. I worked for a record company before I did stuff as an artist, and saw a lot of the sides of the music business. And also, Will was signed four or five years ago through Atlantic and he got screwed, so I watched that whole process. I learned a lot of stuff watching him go through the bad parts of it, then I signed a deal with Epic. I think anybody who signs a deal automatically thinks “I’m gonna be the next big thing”, just because that’s kind of what they tell you and you can’t really help but believe it a little bit. And then, of course, the same thing happened to me.

For me it sucks, but it wasn’t quite as hard as it might be for some people because I’ve at least seen the other side of it. I’ve seen it firsthand and know people who’ve gone through it.

II: When Will found out you’d been signed, what was his reaction? Did he try to tell you what to expect, or just tell you to go for it?
JH: A little bit of both. It kinda crept up on my whole family. I wasn’t really the singer of the family, Will was always kinda the one doing it. I sang at talent shows and stuff like that, then started pursuing it a little bit more, but I think my family thought, “Oh, that’s cute. Josh wants to be a singer, whatever.” And then all of a sudden somebody offers me a record deal. But he and I had talks of, you know, “don’t believe this…”, so it definitely helps.

II: Did he have a big influence on your decision to become a singer?
JH: My family’s just a music family. Our grandfather was a jazz musician, and our father was a rock musician, and then Will, and it’s kinda what I wanted to do. I like Will’s stuff a lot. We’re completely different but I like his stuff a lot. I’ve watched him for years. He definitely had a big influence.

II: You mentioned your father who was involved in a band called The Lemonade Charade.
JH: Yeah, in the 60s. I compare it to, like… he was sorta like Will in the 60s, especially around Nashville and stuff like that. They were the biggest band around here and he still plays. He’s in his 60s and he still plays shows.

II: What advice has he given you in terms of performing or the industry?
JH: He hasn’t given me a lot of advice as far as the performing stuff goes, but it all sorta goes back to the whole industry. We’ve both kinda gotten burned with our first attempts with the industry. But I try not to be bitter. That’s one thing I’ve kinda learned is that it’s not the end of the world.

II: Do you feel that you have a certain set of expectations placed upon you because of your last name?
JH: Sometimes. But it’s not really expectations, it’s definitely in a more funny… I can tell sometimes when I show up and play shows that people expect me to sound more like Will, and I’m more the pop/R&B guy and he’s definitely a rock ‘n’ roller, so I enjoy that. I don’t know if it’s expectations of me, but I see people who I know are like, “Oh man, this is gonna rock!” and then I play, like, some acoustic song and they’re like, “What the hell happened?”

II: You’ve mentioned that a lot of your current influences come from the records that your father passed down to you and Will. What music did your parents play while you were growing up?
JH: Kinda everything, really. Mom listened to a lot of country when we were little. Dad listened to everything from R&B, to rock, to country. I know Will sort of went towards his rock collection, but I went a little bit towards… I mean, I’m obviously from the younger generation but I definitely liked some of the R&B stuff. From that, growing up I kinda picked up on the Boyz II Men and all that kinda stuff; Jodeci and all that. That’s what I was into: the 80s and 90s R&B.

Dad did love Michael McDonald.

II: Wait, how old are you?
JH: I’m 29.

II: Given that some of your influences are derived from your father’s record collection, are there any prevalent artists from our generation that you want to be sure to pass down to your new nephew or the next generation?
JH: I don’t know if the father of that baby would enjoy these influences so much because he’s not that big into this kind of music, but… I don’t know. I’m a huge R&B fan; everything from Brian McKnight to Boyz II Men and all that stuff for sure, but… I only really think that there’s only one artist that will be around for our kids and that’s John Mayer. I think he’ll be the equivalent to, like, a James Taylor for us. I don’t think there are many artists who will be around when we have kids, but I think John Mayer will be. So I would say him. I would pass him on.

II: It seems as if the Chickenbucket Tour was the first part of your career to really solidify your fan base. Was this the first tour that featured you as a headliner?
JH: I don’t really say it was a headlining thing because it was really the three of us, but it was really me and Andy. Me and Andy put the whole thing together. We had another guy who was gonna come, but he couldn’t do it, so we had Nathan Angelo join us. We sorta just did a co-headlining thing and depending on where we were, we’d see who would headline. It was actually a good experience. It was the first time I’d ever done a tour independently without help from a label. We did that all on our own. It worked out, though. It was really good. It was very… surprising. We just [played] some small acoustic rooms and stuff like that. We talked about doing it again in the beginning of January.

II: So you basically just called Andy Davis and asked him to do a tour?
JH: I was trying to find somebody from around Nashville and he wanted to do it. Originally our friend– there’s another guy named Rob Blackledge, who’s from Nashville, who was going to do it, and he ended up not being able to. We couldn’t find anybody. We asked all kinds of people: Ernie Halter, Curtis Peoples, Tony Lucca, a lot of people like that that I had done stuff with; and then Nathan kinda was coming through and didn’t have anything going on so he jumped on with it. But we’re definitely gonna do it again.

II: Do you have a favorite venue or city to visit now that you have a few places under your belt?
JH: It’s actually funny. This last run we did with Elliott Yamin, I officially now have been kind of everywhere. The venue thing is hard, there are so many. I’ve had the pleasure of playing a lot of House of Blues shows, which you really can’t go wrong with those. There’s a place in Birmingham called the WorkPlay Theatre that’s amazing. We just played a placed called… I’m trying to think where I love more. There’s a really cool place in Seattle that was really cool. I really, really enjoyed Seattle a lot. That’s one of my new favorites. I love Colorado. It’s funny because I’m actually a big Yankees fan, but I love Boston.

II: You’ve said that you’ve lived in L.A. at two separate times in your life. What took you out there each time?
JH: The first time was a girl that I was dating that most of the negative songs I’ve written are about. I went out there with her because I was an idiot. The second time I went out there, I was making my record.

II: Does this ex-girlfriend know she’s the inspiration for these songs?
JH: Oh yeah.

II: How does she feel about that?
JH: I don’t think she feels good. When I was going around promoting “360″, which was the first single and is about her, I got a few texts here and there saying, like, “I heard you talking about me on the radio. Would you stop doing that?” I was like, “Well, you shouldn’t've… you shouldn’t've cheated.”

II: What was the first song you ever wrote?
JH: I think it was actually a song called “Crazy for You”. It was just, like, a total Brian McKnight rip-off. A cheesy love ballad; and that was pretty much the hook. [sings] I’m a little crazy for you. It was really cheesy.

II: How old were you when you wrote that?
JH: I think I was probably, like, 15 maybe?

II: What was the last job you had before officially deciding to become a musician?
JH: Selling shoes. Me and Elliott Yamin have sort of the same background: we both managed Footlockers. We’re the same age, we totally grew up on the same music, he loves all the same stuff, and we both were shoe salesmen. But I hope I never do it again.

II: You’ve called yourself the “Colin Farrell of pop music”. Care to elaborate on that?
JH: That just kinda all came about in the sense that I don’t really live like a– I mean, I am a pop singer, but I kinda live like a rock ‘n’ roller. I definitely drink too much, and cuss too much, and chase girls around too much. I think I was like, at Nickelodeon doing an interview one time and they were just kinda like, “This is never gonna work.”

II: When was the first time you sang in front of a crowd?
JH: In the 8th grade. I sang a Boyz II Men song for a pep rally in my junior high school and I was scared to death. It was total… it was shit. It was me and another guy and just a dude playing drums. It was a big band, lemme tell ya.

II: Do you have that on video?
JH: I don’t have that on video. I do have a 9th grade talent show somewhere on video. I sang “One Last Cry” by Brian McKnight, and I do have that.

This is a little off-subject tidbit trivia, but when I went through high school, I was a little bit gangster-ish, like I thought I was a gangster. I had the lines in my eyebrows and wore outfits and I was like Vanilla Ice; and in this video for “One Last Cry”, I was actually wearing an outfit and I kinda started undressing myself onstage. And girls thought it was cool. It was really cheesy.

II: But it worked.
JH: That’s what it was all about.

II: How many tattoos do you have?
JH: I have 10 or 12. Just on my arms. I’m just an arms guy.

II: Are you going for the sleeves?
JH: I am, yeah. As you can see, I do family names and friends’ names, and I’ve gotten into tattooing peoples’ names on me. So I’m getting ready to do my nephew’s name and some other stuff, but I’m definitely gonna sleeve my left arm and half-sleeve my right arm.

II: How’s the nephew thing working out?
JH: It’s good. He’s fat. Yeah, he’s huge. I’m not very good at thinking kids look like who they look like, but he’s kinda starting to look like Will a little bit, so that’s kinda funny. It still freaks me out every day that there’s a child that calls Will “Dad”, but it’s good. I think it’s good. He’s back on the road now. I’m assuming it’s a little bit hard for him. I have a dog and that’s hard enough.

II: What kind of dog do you have?
JH: I have a pug. I’m a pug owner. Her name is Nelly Pugtado. I used to work for DreamWorks Records, where Nelly Furtado was an artist, so I named my pug after her.

II: What’s the status of your next album?
JH: I hope I get to do one that comes out early next year. The new stuff I’ve been doing is really crazy. It’s nothing like “360″ or any other kind of the more pop [that I've done]. It’s definitely kinda more down and dirty and gritty and sort of arrogant. It’s hard to explain, but it’s sort of just a mix of– I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s definitely, like, rock and hip-hop and a little bit of, like, Gnarls Barkley. It’s just random stuff but we still have some things that are, you know, the ballads and stuff like that. It’s kind of a little bit darker, but I’m really happy with it.

II: Does that make you nervous at all, going a completely different way with your music?
JH: Yeah, because that’s what I’m used to. That’s what I’ve always done, the whole acoustic and Babyface-y kind of stuff. But this was just something we started, and I’m working with some guys here who actually did “360″, but they also did a song called “Home” for Marc Broussard, they did the new Robert Randolph stuff, they did all the India.Arie records, so they’re really known for that deep South, soulful stuff; so I’ve been working with them and it’s great. I’m really excited for someone to hear it and sorta see if they like it or not. People are gonna be like, “This is really cool,” or like, “What the hell is this?”

II: Is this what’s going on in the background?
JH: That’s some of it. I’m doing some stuff here, just on my own. This is a song that I’ve been playing on tour called “Shadow” and I’ve decided to finally record because everyone’s like, “When are you gonna put that song… When are you gonna record that song?” So it’ll be fun. Hopefully within the next few weeks I’ll be able to put some new stuff up on the ol’ wonderful world of MySpace that you can check out.

II: Do you have any preference as to playing live versus recording?
JH: I hate the studio. Yeah, I hate it. It’s just boring. Plus, I don’t play so I just end up sitting there. In a perfect world, I would have a producer and a band that did the whole record and called me and said, “Hey, we just need you to come in and sing the record.” That would be fine. But just sitting around is so boring to me. I love touring. I actually never thought I would, but I like it a lot.

II: So it’s just you guys recording upstairs?
JH: It’s me and Zach. He kinda does all of the stuff. We just have some of the guys who play with me come over off and on and lay stuff down and try to keep it going.

II: Your guitarist Steve Miller just split off to do his own thing, right?
JH: Yeah. He’s from Dallas. He joined me, but he played with Ryan Cabrera last summer. Then when Ryan wasn’t doing anything, Steve came and played with me for actually, the last year or so. But he just really wants to do studio work at home and just stay around Dallas, so he’s doing that now. I’ve got one guy who might be my new guy. If not, I guess I’ll go looking through the classified ads for my new guitar player.

II: Is that how you do it? Is that how it works?
JH: I guess. I don’t know. I’ve been lucky enough to just know a couple people, which is so damn stupid because I live in Nashville where there’s tons of musicians, but I can’t think of any guitar players.

II: What else do you have coming up during the next few months that people can look forward to?
JH: In October, for two months, I go back out with Elliott Yamin again and that’ll probably take me through the end of the year. In January, we’re talking about either doing another Chickenbucket Tour or possibly going to do a small club tour with Ernie [Halter] and maybe somebody else.

For a list of Josh Hoge’s upcoming tour dates, visit his MySpace at myspace.com/joshhoge.