Born and raised in Tennessee, songwriter Will Hoge made his name honing a blend of soulful Americana and heartland rock & roll. After spending his childhood in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, he left Tennessee to study history at Western Kentucky University. Music drew him back home, however, and he relocated to Nashville to assemble a band that included former Georgia Satellites guitarist Dan Baird. Hoge then cut his teeth on the Southern bar circuit and issued a live release, 1999's All Night Long, before inking a deal with Atlantic Records. With the label's support, he entered Memphis' famed Ardent Studios to record his official debut, Carousel, with engineer John Hampton (the Replacements, Gin Blossoms). The album was released in 2000, and Blackbird on a Lonely Wire followed in 2003 (albeit without Baird, who'd left due to the band's demanding tour schedule). Record sales were slim, though, and Hoge found himself receiving minimal attention from his label. Requesting release from his contract, Hoge was made a free agent.