EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Lucas Hoge

There’s just something about Lucas Hoge that makes him instantly likable.  Maybe it’s his small-town roots (He’s from tiny Hubbell, Nebraska with a population of around 50).  Or maybe it’s his farm-bred work ethic.  Or maybe it’s how you can sense those things in both the man and his music.

He’s currently promoting his single, “Give A Damn,” and is putting the finishing touches on his self-titled album, which is due out near the end of March.  You may already have heard some of his music — not necessarily on the radio but on TV.  His “If I Only Could,” was featured on an episode of Smallville on the WB.  Plus, he has written and performed the theme songs for two shows:  The already mentioned “Give A Damn,” which is the theme song for Tom’s Wild Life on GAC and the title theme song for Last Chance Highway on Animal Planet.  If that’s not enough, he also wrote and performed a jingle for Lipton Tea.

The interview is the first time that I had spoken with Lucas.  Yes, he’s out to promote his music, but clearly there’s so much more to him than that.  It may have only been one conversation, but from it I could tell that he is truly compassionate and caring about people, pets, and, naturally, making music.  You’ll probably get the same sense about him after reading it.

“Give A Damn” is the theme song for Tom’s Wild Life, which airs on GAC.  How did you get hooked up with that show?

It all came about from a hunting show that I did in South Dakota called Goin’ Country.  I got to know the cameramen really well and the producers of the show and we just kept in touch.  About three or four months after that show was done they called me up and said, “Hey, we’ve got this new show goin’ on called Tom’s Wild Life that we’re producing and we’re looking for  theme song.  We don’t have anything yet.  Is that something you’d be interested in?”

They sent the pilot over to my wife/manager/you name it (laughs) and we sat there and watched the pilot.  Within 30 seconds I was like, “Please, stop!  I don’t want to hear anymore!  I don’t want it to influence me anymore than it has.”  I had a great idea and sat down and literally wrote the chorus, it kinda just fell outta me, right there within a few minutes.  Then I sat down with my wife, Laura, and my buddy, Corey Barker and we wrote the song.

I met Tom for the first time in Las Vegas during the ACA awards this year, just a few months back.

I understand you’ll be making an appearance on the show this coming season.

Since we were all out in Vegas for the ACAs and I was out there with Wrangler for the National Finals Rodeo, the producers called us up and said, “Hey, since you guys are in town why don’t we shoot an episode together with you guys?”  So it’s gonna be fun!

The host of that show, Tom McMillan, is good friends with Blake Shelton, yet here you are the one who’s doing the theme song and not Blake.

I think I was a lot less expensive!  (Laughs)  I think that’s what it boiled down to.  But I felt very honored that they came to me and asked me to do that.  I felt really blessed and really honored.  Hopefully we can all sit down together and write another one! (Laughs)

Obviously, Blake would be one heck of a contact to have.  Have you used your connection to Tom to meet him yet?

I’m kinda hopin’ that it comes to that point.  We haven’t been able to sit down and talk yet.  But Tom’s there and he’s always willing to help out if he can.  So I might pull that card out of my hat here in the next few weeks!  (Laughs)

You also wrote the theme song for another program, Last Chance Highway, which aired on Animal Planet.  Beyond the theme song, you also participated in the show, which focused on saving soon-to-be-euthanized dogs by pairing them with people and transporting them to their new homes.  Have you always had a passion for pets?

Me and my wife have been pretty active in the pet rescue industry here in Nashville.  We work with Nashville Cat Rescue a lot, where we foster little kittens that need homes.  We bottle feed them for two to three weeks and get them up to the spay and neuter age.  Then we adopt them out.

We’ve also rescued a bunch of dogs and had them at our house, too.  There was a big hoarding incident here in Nashville where there was like 60 dogs in a trailer home that we helped out with.  But we’ve been very active in the rescue community.  So it was a perfect fit when they were looking for that singer-songwriter guy to kinda be the new guy on the transport service and go down and be part of the show.  I felt very blessed that they asked me to be involved.  It was a great show and I hopefully it gets picked up again.

How many pets do you and your wife have right now?

We’ve got four dogs and two cats – of our own! (Laughs)

But that number can go up?

It always goes up!  We have a lot of foster kittens that come in.  So it can go up from five to ten cats at a time! (Laughs)

Along with writing the theme songs for Tom’s Wild Life and Last Chance Highway, you also wrote “Medal of Honor,” which Wrangler National Patriot adopted as their theme song.  How did that song come about?

It was 2009 that we got asked to go overseas and headline our own tour.  My wife was singing quite a bit at the time, too.  So we co-headlined a tour over in Iraq, Kuwait and Kosovo.  We were over there for almost three whole weeks – a week in each region.

We just got so inspired by all of the stories we were hearing from all of the soldiers.  When we came back we wrote the song “Medal of Honor” together.  Just last year it got picked up by Wrangler National Patriot to be the official theme song for their tour.

This will be their third year coming up in May.  I’m going back with them to Afghanistan in May.  I went them last year and I just fell in love again just going over there and just hanging out with everybody.

Obviously there is a sense of pride and patriotism going over and performing for our troops.  But is there also some fear involved?  After all, these are live combat zones.

I don’t feel fear going over there.  I’m not going to say there haven’t been a couple of incidents that scared the living daylights out of me while we were there.  (Laughs)  When we were over there the first time we got shot at a couple of times.  We were actually doing a show and we were in the tent there and the air raid whistle went off.

When you first go over there, they say if you see a soldier running or if you see a soldier hit the ground, hit the ground with them.  So we’re sitting there in front of all of these soldiers playing our songs and air raid is going off and nobody’s moving a muscle.  I’m like, “What’s going on?”  So I stop in the middle of a song and they’re like, “It’s fine.  We get mortared all the time.”  And I said, “Well we don’t!” (Laughs)

This coming June, you’ll be having a homecoming of sorts when you open up the Country Stampede in Manhattan, Kansas.  Will you share with us the story of how you first got involved with that?

I had been going to the Country Stampede ever since its conception, pretty much.  We lived in that area and there’s not a lot of good concerts to go to around there.  And I also worked for Affiliated Food, which is one of the big sponsors of the show, so I got free tickets every year.

I think it was the fifth year, I was either a junior or senior in high school.  I remember my buddy pulling up with his camper at my mom and dad’s farm there and we’re all piling in.  I turned to my mom and dad as we were leavin’ for the show and said, “I’m gonna be playn’ on that big stage!  You wait for my phone call!”  I was just joking.  I had no intention of it happening.  It was just a total joke.

We get there and it’s Saturday morning of the Country Stampede in Tuttle Creek State Park, so we’re all camping out.  We just happened to have the radio on to the station that’s promoting there.  And I hear this lady come on and she goes, “We’re having a ‘Hey, Y’all’ karaoke contest at the beer tent at 10 o’clock.  If you win you get to sing in the big contest on the big stage at 6 o’clock tonight.”

So we all were grabbing our jeans and running because it was like 9:45, so we’re already late.  But we get there and find it’s actually like Russian roulette karaoke – they have to draw the song for you.  You don’t even know what song you’re gonna sing.  So we already had three strikes against us right there! (Laughs)

They pulled a song I was very familiar with.  I think it was “Much Too Young” by Garth Brooks or something like that. And I get up there and I sing and I win over my brother and a bunch of his friends and all the other people who actually knew about the contest! (Laughs)

I ended up playing there that night on the big stage right after Travis Tritt and ended up winning the whole thing.  I got the big trophy and VIP tickets for the next year.  I entered the contest the next two years after that and won each year.  But there’s a clause in the contract of the contest that says you can only win three years in a row.  So they told me I couldn’t come back! (Laughs)

But now you’re coming back as the first act on the bill.

Exactly!  We’re back and we’re bringing a whole band down.  It’s ten years later and we’re gonna have one heck of a blast down there!  It’s gonna be fantastic!

Let’s follow a Country Stampede progression here:  You’ve gone from a karaoke contest to the festival’s opening act.  Do you even dream about taking it to the final step of being the one who closes the festival?

Oh, man!  Someday I would love to close that festival!  It’s usually like Alan Jackson or somebody like that or Toby Keith.  When I get there I’m gonna have the best time of my life.  It’s gonna be one of the highlights of my career, that’s for sure.  From where it all began to where it all ends – that night anyway! (Laughs)

What is it about your sound and style that you think will draw fans to you?

I really love to write songs that everybody can relate to.  Like “Give A Damn” is a song that’s for everybody growin’ up either in the country or the city – it don’t matter.  That song is just about being who you are and owning who you are and not letting anybody tell you on way or the other because that’s your life.  You live it how you want to live it.

I like to draw the emotion out of people.  Whether it’s just a feel good song that makes you raise your glass or tap your feet or whatever; to a song that’ll kinda rip your heart out and make you think about stuff.

That’s what I love to do.  I don’t want to just write songs that are just fluff, you know, filler.  Hopefully this record has something in it for everyone.  I think our sound is very down to earth; very relatable.  A lot of the songs you can whistle along to or hum to.  Some of the songs today you can’t even understand some of the words! (Laughs)  We like it when people are singing along with us!

What is it about you as a country singer that makes you unique?

I would say it’s our live show.  I love to talk with the audience and interact with the audience.  I like to bring them on stage, literally, if that makes any sense.  We try to put it so we’re sitting right there in the living room with them.

I love my fans.  I love the people who love to listen to country music.  I will stay until the last person is there at any show and shake their hand and talk with them.  If they want somebody to talk to I’ll be there.  We’ve stayed three, four, five hours sometimes after a show just to sit down and talk with people.  That’s my thing.  I want to be that artist that you can have a cup of coffee with in the morning.

One group of people really likes you:  motorcycle riders.  How is it that you’re so big with bikers?

The stereotype with bikers is that they all want to hear that head-banging, hard rock music that everybody thinks you have to listen to when you’re at a bike rally.  But when we start playing country music, these bikers will sit there all day long.

I’d say 90% of those bikers are ex-military or current military.  When they find out that we’re out there trying to support our troops and going overseas to play for them, they want to sit down and listen to what we have to say.

We’ve made some great fans and friends over the years playing at Sturgis and down at Daytona.  We’re actually going back to Daytona in a couple of weeks to play again.  We’re one of the very few country bands that keeps getting asked back every year.  This will be our 7th year, so we must be doing something right!  (Laughs)

Finally, I’d like to give you the opportunity to address your fans (and potential new ones) directly.  The floor is yours to say whatever you would like:

I just really appreciate everyone’s support this far.  I hope they continue to support me along the way and just follow the music and love the music.  I hope they do.

I definitely want their truthful input about the music that we’re putting out there.  If not for the fans, we don’t have anything to do! (Laughs)  If they’re not buying the music and having fun with it, then we’re out of a job.  If not for our fans, then we don’t have anything to strive after; to make these guys continue to love us.

We really appreciate all the fan support.  The more times people call and request the song the better.  The more times they watch the video and spread it around to their friends, even more so better.  Just keep buying the music and we’ll keep putting it out there!

For more info:  www.lucashoge.com and Lucas Hoge Facebook Page