Will Hoge

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that there are no second acts in American lives, but don’t tell that to Will Hoge.

Not only has he fashioned a new career on his own terms after asking to be released by Atlantic Records but, more importantly, he’s gotten a second shot at simply living.

A 15-passenger van struck Hoge on his scooter Aug. 20, 2008, as he returned home to his wife and child from a studio where he’d been working on his upcoming release, The Wreckage.

“The other guy said he didn’t see me until I came through his windshield,” Hoge said. He woke up in the intensive care unit of a local hospital three days later with 200 stitches in his head, crushed lungs, broken bones and “everything but my left knee on down pretty much messed up.”

One year and a day after the crash, he told Pollstar about his physical and psychological recovery. But mostly he wanted to talk about the future and his new album – parts of which were written before and after the accident.

“It put everything in perspective,” Hoge said. “We’ve made our living as a touring band for nearly a decade. People would say, ‘I bet you can’t wait to get back on the road and play again.’ And I realized the answer was that I couldn’t wait to get back to walking again. Playing was really put, for the first time in my life, on the back burner.

“It’s not anything that I necessarily doubted I would ever do again, but it really wasn’t the focus for the better part of a year. And it’s really the first time that’s ever been the case.”

Hoge prefers to be positive about the wreck’s aftermath. The time recuperating, including intensive physical therapy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, enabled him to focus on writing and guitar playing.

The luxury of time gave the rocker a chance to fine-tune the record he and his band were recording at the time of the crash.

Some songs no longer fit. New ones were written and recorded. With a new, supportive team at Rykodisc, The Agency Group’s Jordan Burger and manager Doug Buttleman of Artist In Mind, he believes his time has come.

Photo: ©David Pelham / David Pelham Photography

“Before his accident, people used to say, ‘Will Hoge’s been around a while; he’s already had his shot. Is it really going to get anywhere?’ My argument is that the greatest of legends were built over dozens of albums,” Burger told Pollstar.

“Will’s been doing this for a decade and made four amazing albums. But I think this fifth album is his best one yet and that he has another 30 years ahead of him.”

In an industry nervously looking for talent that will be able to fill arenas for the long haul, Burger is an absolute believer in Hoge becoming a future Springsteen or Petty, artists to whom Hoge is often compared.

“It’s hard for me to talk about Will without being a super-emotionally attached fan,” Burger joked, but he is absolutely committed to his client. He had already become a fan as an independent agent in Atlanta before convincing Hoge to come aboard.

Buttleman came on after Hoge did a showcase at West Hollywood’s Troubadour. “A friend of a friend recommended Doug, who had a small management company and a few artists I’d heard of. He came to my hotel in L.A. and we sat on the patio like two normal human beings,” Hoge said.

“The first thing he said was, ‘I really think you’re onto something great with what you’re doing musically,’ which I appreciated,” Hoge said. “Next thing he said was, ‘If we work together, you need to know it’s going to be a lot of hard work and I’m not even sure that Atlantic is the right place for you.’ He hit on all these points I agreed with within the first three minutes of conversation.”

Buttleman knew he’d found a diamond in the rough.

“The Troubadour show was one of those experiences where I like to sneak in the back door and sit unnoticed,” Buttleman told Pollstar. “It was very clear that this was a major talent performing. I didn’t necessarily feel like the band was right. I didn’t necessarily feel the material was there. But what Will, as an artist, was showing me was talent so undeniable that I signed on immediately.”

So Burger and Buttleman teamed with Hoge to get back on track. Atlantic and Hoge had amicably parted ways, and Hoge independently released a couple of records before starting work on what would become The Wreckage with Rykodisc.

And then came that van out of nowhere in a Nashville intersection. Eight months later, Hoge was able to return for his first full rock shows back at Nashville’s 12th & Porter, where he’d gotten his start.

“It’s the most fun I’ve had playing in years,” Hoge said. “And for that to be the first shows back after the accident, or the first shows back as a precursor to this new record, I think it breathed a lot of new life into the band again. It was a real joyous thing to be a part of. I think it set the bar at a different place for where we have to be at night in and night out, even when we’re on the road. We’re definitely feeling the excitement.”

Hoge and his team look toward not just promoting a record, but re-energizing and expanding his fan base with selected headlining dates, some appropriate co-bills and opening slots for established legends he hopes to rival in this second shot at stardom.