Home Live Review Live Review: Will Hoge w/ Meaghan Farrell @ Jammin’ Java — 3/7/24

Live Review: Will Hoge w/ Meaghan Farrell @ Jammin’ Java — 3/7/24

Live Review: Will Hoge w/ Meaghan Farrell @ Jammin’ Java — 3/7/24
Will Hoge performs at Jammin' Java on March 7, 2024. (Photo by James Todd Miller)

Will Hoge isn’t shy about expressing his opinions. At the beginning of his recent set at Jammin Java, he told the crowd, “When in doubt, err on the side of shutting the fuck up.”

He apologized for the salty language but promised there’d be more.

Hoge has carved out a niche as a writer of hits for other artists — the Eli Young Band had a No. 1 country hit with his “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” which was the penultimate song of the evening — but much of his discography expresses strong opinions on politics, religion, and family, and he doesn’t hide his progressive, working-class views.

Those views manifested themselves in Will’s song in his show at Jammin’ Java on March 7. “Still A Southern Man” was a blistering criticism of the Confederate flag and how he’s grown to understand what it really means. The way Hoge’s songs wrestle with the legacy of his southern heritage marks him as a peer of songwriters like Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, Brian Henneman of the Bottle Rockets (whose “Wave That Flag” similarly takes on the Stars and Bars), and Jason Isbell. While they’re all southerners, they’re clearly influenced by the heartland rock of folks like Springsteen and Steve Earle. The Boss’s ethos was clearest in “Midway Motel” and “Middle of America.”

Family is a recurring theme of and influence on his work. “The End of the World” brings together his political interests with his role as a father, looking at what his kids, who are teenagers, have to face when they should just be doing kid things. His 12-year-old son, now 13, said that he feared “it will all come to an end, and this is how I’d want to be,” with his family, around the dinner table. It’s obvious how much he lives his family; he spoke about how he’s managed his career to allow himself to be home for the big things, but there was palpable sadness when he spoke about missing the “little things.”

This wouldn’t be the last time Will mentioned his son. Late in the set, introducing “Stupid Kids,” he told us how his son recently presented to the Tennessee State Legislature, arguing that high school students should get a day off to engage in political protest. Surprisingly, given how, as Hoge said, the Tennessee state legislature “aren’t the smartest people,” they agreed with his son and his peers and passed their suggestion into law.

Watch Will Hoge perform “Stupid Kids” live for Today in Nashville on YouTube:

Not all of Will’s songs are political, though. One evening, his wife said “she hopes she dies first. I said I hope she does, too.” It didn’t quite come out the way he meant it, and it got him in hot water. He wrote “Last One To Go” about how he didn’t want his wife to have to go through all the things you have to deal with when you’re suddenly alone after decades of being with someone. It made her cry, and it also got him out of sleeping on the couch, so he considers it “one of his biggest hits.” Real talk: As nice as it is to connect with an audience for your art, there’s nothing like making something that brings out deep emotion in the people you care about. If my partner laughs at my jokes, it doesn’t matter if other people think they’re corny.

Much of Will’s material is serious, but he also has a great sense of humor. Early in his set, he told the audience, “There’s no band here tonight. They’re not late. They’re just not showing up.” Later, he warned against the bars in Nashville that bear the names of country stars. (I recall an incident at Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honkytonk in which someone wildly swung a colostomy bag. What a shitty thing to do!)

Will made that last point as he was introducing a new song, which I think is called “Some People.” It has a simple premise: “I like some people, and I don’t like some people.” The song will appear on his new record, Tenderhearted Boys, which comes out on April 14.

The set also included a humorous, pointed take on religion in “Jesus Came To Tennessee.” Will kicked things off with “Birmingham,” followed by “Secondhand Heart,” which had the audience singing along. Even playing solo, much of Hoge’s material has a rousing, anthemic quality that inspires people to join in. Other songs included “Favorite Waste of Time,” “Your Fool,” “Anchors,” “The Last Thing I Needed,” and “Draw That Curtain.” He finished with “I’d Be Lying.”

Before Will took the song, Meaghan Farrell started the evening with an opening set. The audience was rather loud while she was on stage, and I only got bits and pieces of what she played and said. She began with “Long Shot,” followed by one of the first songs she wrote on guitar, then “Somebody Else.” She introduced one of her tunes as “another song about sleeping with the wrong people,” and she closed with “High Hopes,” which was produced by Hoge. I enjoyed her set, but I would’ve enjoyed it more if I’d been able to hear her better.

Here are some photos of Meaghan Farrell opening Will Hoge at Jammin’ Java on March 7, 2024. All pictures copyright and courtesy of James Todd Miller.



Here are some photos of Will Hoge headlining Jammin’ Java on March 7, 2024. All pictures copyright and courtesy of James Todd Miller.



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