What Will Hoge calls the "literate and educated, emotional, apathetic, Southern white male" isn't as hard to find in country music or among the rock 'n' rollers labeled as Americana acts as non-fans might assume. Jason Isbell's the obvious example, and in Nashville alone, we've got Ron Pope and, as backed up by new album Tiny Little Movies, Hoge himself.
Just like his two previously-named peers, Hoge's music is marked by progressive values and the overhaul of priorities that comes with parenthood. The world faced by Hoge's sons Liam, 13, and George, 9, goes under the microscope in a couple of noteworthy new songs: "The Likes of You" and "The Overthrow."
"The Likes of You" delves into the emotional vulnerability that in past decades would be like lava to male country singers or blue-collar rockers--especially lead singers like Hoge.
"As a dude, there's this antiquated idea of the tough guy that doesn't ever have emotions and doesn't cry and all of those things," Hoge says. "You're not supposed to be (sensitive) anyway, but you're damn sure not supposed to talk about it in a song... I've got to believe there's got to be more people out there that (accept emotional vulnerability) than don't, and I think that the more that we are open about those sorts of things, it enables people to be more at ease in their own homes and talk about them."
While Hoge has to consciously avoid being a stoic cliche, his sons attend K-12 schools at a time when healthier attitudes get instilled at a young age.
"It's not something I'm not very good at," Hoge says. "My kids are learning. At elementary school, they're taking really serious trying to develop social and emotional learning habits in these kids. They're doing stuff even at 10 and 7 at the time where they were in school together where they're dealing with emotions a whole lot better than I was at 37. It's a cool thing to see and encouraging too for me. It really does push me because I don't want to be the sort of Draconian older dude that they're really working on how to sort through their emotions and talk about things that are difficult and I'm sitting there at the dinner table, pissed off and not saying anything to anybody."
Another album cut, "The Overthrow," talks about a seismic change in society that's made opposing racism and other forms of hate a no-brainer for Generation Z.
"I feel like with my kids and their friends and the kids of that age group, they're not putting up with a lot of this," Hoge says. "They really believe in equality, and I don't think they're going back to our parent's generation or our generation."
These and other songs on Tiny Little Movies challenge notions that there's a monolithic country audience that will shun liberal-minded singer-songwriters at the drop of the dime. Country radio might tell a different story, but there's plenty of room under country and Americana's big tents for the independent streaks of Hoge, Margo Price and others.
"The country audience is bigger than it got credit for," Hoge says. "I think for years, and you still see it a lot--People treat the audience in that genre like they're stupid people. Like you have to make songs that are stupid, you have to over-explain everything and you don't want to offend anybody. I think that what folks are starting to see and what country fans have always been about is somebody that's honest and telling the truth. There's going to be some folks that don't like it, but there's also going to be a lot more people that go 'Hell yeah. I may not agree with that 100 percent, but I feel like I know who you are as an artist and person. I'm going to come see you play and buy your records.' It's a good thing to be part of."
Tiny Little Movies Tracklisting (Thirty Tigers)
"Maybe This Is Ok"
"Is This All That You Wanted Me For"
"Even The River Runs Out Of This Town"
"That's How You Lose Her"
"Con Man Blues"
"The Likes Of You"
"All The Pretty Horses"