Lucas Hoge Reflects on Hitting No. 1, Playing for the U.S. Military Overseas

Jen Wood
Lucas Hoge

Nebraska native Lucas Hoge has been laying the groundwork for his career the past few years with an undeniable work ethic. Still, the news that his new album Dirty South would debut at the top of the Top Country Album Sales chart (No. 5 on the overall Country Albums chart) pleasantly surprised the singer. “I was speechless when I got the news,” he exclaimed to Billboard. “I remember sitting there, mostly in awe. I didn’t think it was possible. It’s an experience where you are surrounded by a great team, and it takes an army to make something like this happen. It’s been amazing to watch it all come together. A lot of hard work has paid off. It’s a cool ride to be on right now,” he admits.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the success of Dirty South was the marketing strategy behind the disc’s launch, which received a helping hand from the United States Military. “For the last nine years, I’ve been going overseas every year. We were able to open up pre-sales to all of the military that we had visited. Everybody was so excited. It just worked out fantastically.” Hoge says that he’s proud of their role in his story, and wants them to know they are appreciated. “As we were doing the pre-sales, I called everyone who had a laminate – which looked like a backstage pass. I told all of our service men and women that when they come back to the states, that would get them into any show that they wanted to – free of charge.”

His trips on behalf of the soldiers overseas started well over a decade ago. “I started out doing that in Iraq back in 2009. We were over there touring for about thirty days. We were playing all of the bases that we possibly could, and had a great time. We then came back to the states, and I was involved in the Celebrity Outdoor Challenge on the riverside (at the CMA Festival). The guy who was hosting it asked me about just getting back from Iraq, and he was organizing another series of tours each year over Memorial Day, and he wanted to know if I would be interested. They didn’t want me to bring a full band or anything like that, they just wanted me to come with a guitar on my back, and do some shows for the men and women who don’t really get to see a lot of concerts. I told them I was all in, and I’ve been going ever since,” he said of his involvement with the Armed Forces Entertainment Wrangler National Patriot Tour.

Hoge said that getting to spend time with those protecting America is something that he doesn’t take for granted. “It’s so humbling, and rewarding. You can’t really put it into words until you go over there and experience it. Being able to be face to face with these men and women, look them in the eye, and tell them thank you, to talk to them, and take them out of their element for a while is an incredible experience.”

The singer is currently focusing on the title track of the set, which he co-wrote with Jack Williams and Troy Johnson. In recalling the writing process behind the song, he said that “Troy hit this guitar lick, and I asked him if he had written the song yet, and it just kind of fell out. As soon as I sent it off to everyone at the label, they said ‘You’ve got to do this song.’ Then the whole project started revolving around that. It’s been reacting strong at the shows, and we’re excited about how it’s doing.”

With a No. 1 album, it looks to be full steam ahead for Hoge. “The fall is shaping up nicely,” he allowed. “We’re constantly on tour, and also even working up a winter tour. We’re also doing a Christmas tour, and hopefully it's going to be a multi-city tour.” What is his next goal in his career? “I’d love to see 'Dirty South' get to No. 1 (on Hot Country Songs) – but you can’t have everything, right? Still, we’re going to keep working as hard as we can. I’m just going to try to enjoy this ride, and keep pushing down the road and start working on the next project.”