Country music artist Stephan Hogan hails from the state of California and has been taking the music industry by storm. His hit song titled “Let’s Get Loud” has the honor of being featured on CMT’s “Redneck Island” within six months of its debut. Stephan has opened for major country singer acts and his music can be heard on the airwaves courtesy of several radio stations. Stephan is known for his covers; his rendition of John Denver’s classic “Country Road” garnered more than 70,000 YouTube views within 24-hours of being posted.

Having played an instrument since the age of five, Stephan earned a finalist “top five” spot in a 2016 “Guitar Center Presents On Stage with Vince Gill Competition.” Stephan started out his career by covering songs by the Beatles, but soon moved into the country genre.

Inspired by attending a Tim McGraw concert, Stephan played gigs in Nashville and has now seen his songs listed on the Grammy ballot for two years in a row... this year, he was on the ballot in the category for “Best Country Song.”

When not on stage, Stephan (who earned a degree in audio engineering) owns and operates a business; his company is called Tone King Guitar Lessons. He recently discussed Country Music, inspirations, and more courtesy of an exclusive interview.

Guitars and songs and concerts

Meagan Meehan (MM): You started playing guitar at age five, so what turned you on to music?

Stephan Hogan (SH): My dad played guitar and sang for a hobby. We would go camping and he would bring his guitar and we would sit around the campfire singing old songs.

I think every young boy looks up to his dad and I wanted to play guitar and sing like him. So, on my 5th Christmas my parents got me a guitar.

MM: You started out covering the Beatles, so how did that turn into county music?

SH: Growing up I listened to five tapes my dad had; The Beatles, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Elvis and John Denver.

The Eagles, being country rock definitely had the biggest impact on me. John Denver was country as well. No matter the genre I think every musician/guitarist cuts their teeth on Beatles songs. It’s kind of a rite of passage. And when you only know four chords you can play a lot of Beatles songs!

MM: How have you gone about booking major gigs and concerts with big stars?

SH: Honestly, I have just worked really hard at trying to be the best singer/songwriter/guitarist I can be. I think when you practice and work on perfecting your music, doors open. You have to put yourself out there but something magical happens when you stay persistent!

MM: What are some of the most fun behind-the-scenes stories you have?

SH: My favorite stories are probably just being crammed in my drummer/best-friend’s 4-runner driving around California playing terrible gigs. The guys in my band back home are my best friends. When you are that close with a group of guys you can really have some fun. We would show up for a gig and there would be like three people. Playing bowling alleys and county fairs…Good memories, haha.

MM: You’re known for your covers, but you also write original songs, so what inspires you?

SH: I don’t focus on as many covers these days. I am really 100% focused on writing songs. I get inspired by life. I think growing up in a small town you get this desire to want to break free, or travel…. and I find that travel theme/leaving town theme showing up in a lot of my songs. I wrote a song recently that came from a dream I had. In my dream I was writing a song called “Gypsy Girl” and when I woke up I wrote it down. I am currently in the process of recording “Gypsy Girl”.

Melodies and lyrics and social media

MM: Is it easier to write melodies or lyrics, do they come to you separately or close together?

SH: They are about the same. Sometimes melody can come easier. Just depends on the song. I do feel like certain words fit better with certain melodies. Once you have a killer melody it’s like fitting in the puzzle pieces of lyrics.

MM: How has social media helped you propel your career forward?

SH: Through social media I have been able to connect with so many people! It’s really awesome getting tagged in someone’s post that lives on the other side of the country and is getting inspired by my music. My amount of listeners on Spotify keeps climbing and I think a lot of that is due in part to my social media. I really love connecting with people and at the end of the day if I write something and it impacts someone else; that is what it's all about.

MM: What’s coming up for you in 2019 and how would you like to see your career in country music entertainment evolve in forthcoming years?

SH: I am moving from California to Nashville with my wife, Haley! I’ve been pitching songs to publishers and making connections out here for the last five-six years. This last week I was in Nashville sharing the stage with Vince Gill… and some really cool stuff is happening! I feel like once I move to Tennessee I have to start at the bottom and work my way up. But maybe my bottom is a little higher than other people’s because I have already been working so hard back home in California. Since I already have fans, songs, connections I am really hoping to get a publishing deal where I can write songs for a living!