(MPG) Will Hoge releases "Can I Be Country Too?" featuring The Kentucky Gentlemen, Michael Allen, Cheryl Deseree, Carmen Dianne and The Country Any Way Collective. Working with members of both The Black Opry and Shoes Off Nashville, Hoge delivers an inclusive song with a resounding message: everyone is welcome in this town.
"I've always been a bit of an outsider when I'm working on the fringes of the country music world as an artist and writer, and the reasons for that sometimes are incredibly frustrating," explains Hoge. "I always felt like a lot of my core beliefs and cares were things that if maybe they weren't allowed, they were definitely frowned upon. Over the last couple years I feel the genre, commercially at large, has really shown how small and homogenous it can be. I know how hard that is for me and I started thinking about how that must feel for so many other folks that I love and care about who are just trying to find their place."
"When I first started working in country music and started Black Opry, Will Hoge was one of the very first people to reach out and lend his support," says Black Opry founder Holly G. "We've built a friendship on learning and better understanding each other's perspectives, and to this day, Will is the only artist who's invited the Black Opry Revue to open for him for a show. He's been such a great friend and supporter."
Hoge continues, "I'd played this song for Holly and told her I wanted to surround myself with folks that are doing this work from the margins and feel frustrated and kind of left out. The artists that lined up to do it represent everything I've loved about Nashville and the music community here since I was a little kid. It was such a tremendous joy to feel the love in the room as we tracked the song. Having all those voices and all those humans being unabashedly who they are was just tremendous. I'm flattered so many folks showed up in support.
Holly G adds, "It was such a breath of fresh air to get the call from Will about this project during a rough few weeks here in Nashville. We quickly got to work to put together what has been one of my absolute favorite days in Nashville and one of the most special things I've ever gotten to be a part of. This being the first thing I got to work on with my project Country Any Way was such a great way to kick it off. Putting together 'Can I Be Country Too' was centered around community, inclusion and a love of music which is exactly what inspired me to create Country Any Way."
"Can I Be Country Too" is performed with an all-star band that includes Allen Jones and Jerry Pentecost on drums, Christopher Griffiths on bass, Josh Grange on pedal steel and piano, Audley Freed on electric guitar and Josh Mailiner on fiddle and mandolin. The choir is made up of members of The Black Opry, founded by Holly G, and Shoes Off Nashville, an organization celebrating Nashville's Asian Pacific Islander community. Inclusivity is at the forefront of this project, and "Can I Be Country Too" is a sign of what can happen when Nashville is at its best.
Hoge says, "I hope that for young listeners out there, the ones that dream about carving out some kind of living in this business, and they wonder if they fit in, I hope this song is a resounding 'Yes. You belong.'"