SINGER/SONGWRITERS SHARE MLS EXCITEMENT BEFORE TAKING THE STAGE THURSDAY NIGHT
NASHVILLE –Summer nights at Live On The Green embody the soul of Nashville and put the city’s best qualities on full display. With live music, great food and friendly faces gathering at Public Square Park for three weekends in August, Nashville Soccer Club’s involvement with the festival is a no-brainer. In the third straight year of partnership between Live On The Green and NSC, soccer’s integration within the city’s music scene is more evident than ever before.
Musicians in Thursday night’s lineup raved about the club’s move to Major League Soccer, with energetic expectations of the passion and loyalty that Nashville will offer its team in 2020. Well-known singer/songwriters and Nashville residents Mat Kearney and Will Hoge are on the front lines of that excitement; each of them long-time soccer fans, but for unique reasons.
For Kearney, his fandom spurs from his own days on the pitch. Before touring all over the world with artists such as John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, and Train, and releasing his own Billboard chart-topping hits, the Oregon native played collegiately at California State University, Chico on scholarship until his junior year.
“I moved out here 18 years ago,” Kearney said. “It was supposed to be a road trip, and I was playing college soccer at the time actually. It was not my favorite call to call my coach and be like, ‘Coach, I’m not coming back. I’m dropping out of school. I’m going to pursue music.’ I’ve been here ever since.”
During his nearly two decades in Nashville, Kearney has released six studio albums that include fan-favorite singles such as ‘Nothing to Lose,’ ‘Closer to Love,’ and ‘Hey Mama.’ As his career began to grow, so did his love for the city and its community. Like music, soccer is a part of who he is, and with MLS coming to Nashville, Kearney gets to re-root his love for the game in his hometown.
“We live not far from the future home of Nashville Soccer Club,” he said. “I think Nashville is the perfect place for a soccer team. It will really fit our culture. There may be some catching people up to speed on the intricacies of soccer, but there’s a lot of soccer fans here. I meet soccer players all the time in town. It will be really exciting.”
The former forward turned musician will make sure that his support of Nashville SC is a family affair and is looking forward to introducing his two-year old daughter Olive to the sport. He misses playing himself, laughingly hinting that he’d be ready to lace up if duty called.
“Right now, we do kick the soccer ball around. Mostly, she likes to pick it up and kick it, so we’re working on that. She definitely, I can already see Women’s World Cup team in her eyes. She’s fierce.” He then jokingly continued with a smile, “If I come out of retirement, I just want to put my name out there. I would be willing to try out for the team. Just putting that out there, whoever can make that happen.”
As both a musician and soccer player, Kearney offered a unique perspective on the similarities between the two. Just as music is a global phenomenon with endless combinations and possibilities, soccer allow for creativity and individuality.
“Soccer is an interesting sport in that there isn’t rule or playbook. It’s this living, breathing thing. You have principles that you’re working with, but your responding to the other team to the situation to the runs your players are making,” Kearney explained. “There’s no one way to do it. Soccer, you have all of these different styles from all these different countries. I love that. Soccer is one of the most open sports that can be played in a million different ways. Different countries can have different styles. Different regions can have different styles. It’s like music. There’s a lot of genres out there.”
In between sound checks, singer/songwriter Will Hoge expressed his excitement for Major League Soccer as well. Hoge is best known for his southern rock and alternative country sound that has made him well-known in the Nashville music scene. He’s toured with artists such as Shinedown, Needtobreathe, Jason Isbell and Edwin McCain and received a Country Music Association nomination, an Academy of Country Music nomination and Grammy nomination for “Country Song of the Year” for ‘Even If It Breaks Your Heart” which was recorded by the Eli Young Band and reached #1 on the country charts.
He’s a Nashville native, growing up just outside the city in Franklin, TN with a talented family that introduced him to music. Unlike Kearney, Hoge only played soccer when he was young, but always admired the game and followed it into his adulthood.
“I have been a fan of just the sport for a long time. I only played for a couple of years growing up. I missed off the right post when I was eight years old, and I quit. I never played soccer again,” he said with a smile. “But my best friend from childhood grew up and played soccer at Belmont and then went on to play with the [Nashville] Metros when that first started here in town. It’s just always something I’ve been around.”
Thanks to his successful music career, Hoge toured internationally which actually helped deepen his soccer fandom. As a Nashville native, Hoge recognizes the growth in diversity that the city has undergone in recent years and the global interest that MLS will see in Music City. Now with children of his own who are growing up in Nashville, Hoge shares his love of the game with his two sons who are equally as thrilled to have MLS join the growing community.
“Traveling lots in Europe, you start to see what the love of pro soccer really looks like,” he said. “To get to see that start to grow here is really special. It’s an easy sport for kids to relate to which makes it really easy to take them to watch. My kids have loved it from the start. As our community has become more and more international, the love of the game continues to just get bigger and bigger. If we can adopt hockey, we can [dang] sure adopt soccer.”
Join Nashville SC at Live On The Green Thursday, Aug. 29- Sunday, Sept. 1.