Last November, Will Hoge sat down to put his anger into a new song. Earlier in the day, a gunman killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Hoge aimed his ire at the politicians who repeat their favorite stock response with almost laughable predictability: "Thoughts and prayers."
So that's exactly what the Americana singer-songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee named the song. Now Hoge has a new video for "Thoughts and Prayers," and he's bringing all the facts.
The video features jaw-dropping statistics about the rate of gun violence in the United States, including the fact that there is a mass shooting nine out of every 10 days on average.
The video first takes aim at the National Rifle Association, which Hoge has before called a bully organization, arguing that the NRA works to influence politicians to ban government-funded gun violence research. Then, as the chorus takes shape, screenshots of various politicians responding to gun violence with hollow tweets calling for "thoughts & prayers" appear on the screen.
Hoge also anticipates the popular rebuttal of many gun advocates that the issue is not guns, but "mental health."
"If mental health made the difference, data would show that Americans have more mental health problems than do people in other countries with fewer mass shootings," the screen reads. "Mental health care spending rates in the U.S., the number of mental health professionals per capita, and the rate of severe mental health disorders are all in line with those other wealthy countries."
The video ends with a tweet from President Trump and then a particularly stunning statistic. "Americans make up about 4.4% of the global population but we own 42% of the world's guns."
A gun owner himself, Hoge zeroed in on the phrase "thoughts and prayers" because it signals political inaction. Politicians echo the phrase relentlessly, but then do nothing to address the gun violence epidemic in America.
In an interview with Rolling Stone Country, Hoge said he didn't hesitate to write such a political song. But that it's also sad country music artists should feel concerned about being political. "To have a genre of music where people don't even feel comfortable being able to have that conversation, whether they're pro-gun or anti-gun, it's a sad place to operate from as an artist," Hoge says. "Hopefully that starts to change."
Hoge released his new album Anchors in 2017.