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Nashville Rocker Hoge Snags Notice With 'Strong'

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(AP) NASHVILLE, Tenn. - If you want to hear free new music from rocker-turned-country hitmaker Will Hoge this weekend, all you have to do is turn on the television.

His new song "Strong" will be everywhere as part of Chevrolet's new Silverado ad campaign. The song is becoming so ubiquitous, he doesn't even have to know the schedule to figure out when the commercial has aired.

"My phone rings all the time every time there's a football or baseball game on," Hoge said.

Hoge's life has taken a strange and unexpected turn. One of the few musicians in town who actually grew up in Nashville, the 40-year-old Hoge was essentially ignored by the music community in his hometown for the majority of his career.

"I've always been a ship without a home," Hoge said. "Nine records now and it's always been a thing that I've heard: You're too country for rock and for a long time it was too rock for country. Then there was a point where we were too country for country. I've just given up trying to figure it out."

Lucky for Hoge, there's little difference between rock and country music these days, something he discovered when the Eli Young Band took his song "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" and turned it into a platinum No. 1 country hit.

That led to unexpected Grammy, Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music nominations for best country song, a publishing deal, songwriting sessions with country stars and notice from the folks at Chevrolet.

The company was looking for a new song to drive the Silverado campaign. It's a plumb gig. Bob Seeger's "Like a Rock" was the first song to hold the spot. It was part of the campaign from 1992-2004, but is still identifiable with the brand nearly a decade later. After that, Chevy used John Mellencamp's "Our Country" in a 2006 campaign.

Looking for a new song, the company put the word out in Nashville and Hoge submitted "Strong," which he'd written with Ashley Gourley and Zach Crowell. When Chevy decided to pick up the song, he added it as a bonus track to his new album, "Never Give In," released this week.

Molly Peck, Chevrolet's ad director, says the company was drawn to "Strong" because its lyrics could describe both the truck and the man driving it.

"It's so easy to think about who this man is," Peck said. "People think about their fathers, brothers, husbands, their sons. It speaks to the quality of man that is so admirable in our country. We wanted to celebrate that guy."

Also celebrating? Hoge, who got a new truck out of the deal and his widest visibility to date.

All because the country community started paying attention.

"It sort of loosens the doors," Hoge said. "The country doors can be shut and there's a lot of sort of carpetbagger country somebody that used to be a rock artist, or used to be a pop artist goes, 'Well, that country thing might work, let's go try that,' which I kind of like. You don't just get to come in here and rule the roost."

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