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Hedley makes lasting connections beyond its music

Jacob Hoggard of Hedley is more than a spokesman and performer for We Day: He’s gone around the world to offer hands-on help, such as building schools in India.

Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard has never been one to mince words, but when he gets started on our social responsibility as Canadians, the unpublishable language really starts to fly.

"The … bottom line is that we're … white people in … Canada. We drive cars and we flick lights on and we have hot showers whenever we want," he says, with four-letter words sprinkled in for emphasis. "It's almost the tragedy in the context of humanity because there's only 2 per cent of us on the globe that do it."

He doesn't just talk the talk either. Hoggard and his band mates, who will be playing their 10th We Day show in Toronto on Oct. 2, have been active ambassadors for Free the Children since 2009, visiting Kenya and India to build schools and participating in numerous outreach projects.

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The band planned to be in Ecuador from Sept. 20 to 28 overseeing the construction of a school for which they're personally raising funds. While there, Hedley was to shoot a series of short documentaries.

"I think that's what our greatest strength is as a band as far as our involvement in Free the Children," Hoggard says. "To put on display our experience gives the opportunity for others to see what we go through and what's going on down there."

Whatever footage they bring back, they have a guaranteed audience. Hedley is the rare musical act that has managed to retain a consistently young fan base, attracting the next generation of music lovers even as their older fans grow up.

There's no deliberate effort to appeal to young people, says Hoggard, 30, who cites his "carefree" approach to life as a driving force behind the band's youthful sound.

"My grandpa has this really scary way of summing up my life," he explains with a laugh. "This one time I was out in the woods for way longer than I told [my family] I would be. I got home covered in dirt and smoke and he looked at me and said, 'You're going to get old before you grow up.' And I laughed because I thought … that's so true."

An active social media presence and the genuine enjoyment band members derive from engaging with fans adds to their popularity, although Hoggard is quick to note he gets as much from these interactions as his audience does.

"There's a constant fountain of youth for us as we're able to continue our relationship with our fans and nurture it and watch it grow. The way they live their life is inspiring for us, too."

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Particularly motivational for Hoggard is the energy he feels from We Day's enthusiastic crowds. Though he's played on major stages around the country, he says the band's experience at the annual Free the Children event stands out from other shows.

"The difference is there's this lasting effect with a We Day … because they leave that building with a real sense of purpose."

Fans introduced to Hedley during We Day tend to stay loyal to the band in a different capacity as well, even as their musical tastes evolve. Hoggard feels it's their mutual passion for social change that solidifies this bond.

"The fans we connect with at We Day come up to us and go, 'Hey, because of you guys I made it to Kenya,' and that has some of the most substantial qualities as far as feedback goes."

This synergy between Hedley's social consciousness and their young fanbase is not lost on Free the Children co-founder Marc Kielburger, who says the band members are among their most popular acts.

"When we announce some of the people who are performing each We Day, Hedley always gets the biggest cheer and when Jake and team come out, the kids are literally beside themselves," Kielburger says.

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"So what is it with them? They take time to be present with all their fans, they're approachable, but they haven't changed. They care the same amount and I think this is why they're going to Ecuador to keep that momentum moving forward as humanitarians."

Despite their active engagement in humanitarian work, however, Hoggard has no intention of getting more political in his songwriting.

"I think the term 'political' is pretty dangerous and sort of can very easily slip into a forum of senseless bickering," he says.

Instead, he prefers to focus on what connects us as fellow humans.

"We're just one giant being on one … rock and we should be far more focused on that sense of unity than refracting our views and constantly trying to find a sense of identity in a difference of opinion."

Sounds like a potential chart-topper.

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