Will Hoge is a Southern man through and through, but he believes that he can show pride in his heritage without the use of the Confederate flag. The singer-songwriter recently penned a new song, "Still a Southern Man," as a way of showing his own journey from waving the flag to walking away from it.

Hoge grew up in Franklin, Tenn., just south of Nashville, and at his high school football games, the Confederate flag would wave freely.

"It's something I've been surrounded with for years," Hoge tells Rolling Stone Country.

On the one hand, Hoge understands why so many are averse to taking down the flag, because for so long, he, too, thought it was harmless.

"In my 17-year-old, innocent mind, it was exactly what I hear everybody saying now: It's this sign of independence for a rebel, a guy who is willing to take a stand for something and be his own man," Hoge explains. "In that symbol, you wanted it to go hand in hand, and it did for me for a long time."

But, after the devastating church shooting in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, there's been a push to take the flag down -- and Hoge is a definite supporter of that movement.

"There are a lot of Southern white kids who aren't racist who see the rebel flag as being proud to be Southern," Hoge says. "And there are a lot of things to be proud of. But there are a few things on the 'don't be proud' side. Put the flag over there."

"Still a Southern Man" was recorded in Nashville's historic RCA Studio A. Its lyrics are pointed, with Hoge explaining why he no longer views the flag with innocence and nostalgia: "There's an old flag waving overhead / And I used to think it meant one thing," he sings. "Now I know it's just a hammer driving nails in the coffin of a long-dead land."

The song could very well be an anthem for those calling for the flag's removal, but at the very least, it can serve as a thinking ground for those who'd like it to stay.

"I don't want your stars 'n' bars / Or your blood on my damn hands / I'm looking away now, Dixie / 'Cause I've seen all I can stand," Hoge continues. "But I'm still a Southern man."

To Hoge, the song is deeply personal. It tells the story of how he viewed -- and now views -- the Confederate flag, and he hopes that it affects others, too.

"It's not about taking the flag down in South Carolina or taking [the stars and bars] off the flag in Mississippi. It's me telling my story in how I found my way in this," he explains. "If I have any hope for the song, it's that there could be this 16-year-old Southern kid hearing it who has never been able to make sense of his place, and maybe it is something that can spur that."

Other artists, including Charlie Daniels and John Rich, have also added their own voices into the debate for and against displaying the Confederate flag. Rich eloquently stated, "... if something’s bringing pain, or if something is bringing something that somebody uses for hate like that, I mean, I just don’t see the point of continuing to go forward with it."

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