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Tortuga Music Festival stars tell their spring break stories

Will Hoge, Frankie Ballard, and Josh Turner take us down their beer-in-the-sand, beach-party memory lane.

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Coachella isn’t the only festival happening this weekend. Fort Lauderdale is the place to be for Tortuga Music Festival—Zac Brown Band and Kenny Chesney are headlining with Jake Owen, Little Big Town, and Sam Hunt, along with Will Hoge, Frankie Ballard, and Josh Turner billed throughout the two-day festival. 

In advance, EW checked in with Will Hoge—whose 10th studio album, Small Town Dreams, dropped this week—Frankie Ballard, and Josh Turner. Before throwing tens of thousands of fans the ultimate spring break weekend, what’s your favorite spring break memory?

WILL HOGEYou know, I’ve gotten to do both sides of it now. In high school where everyone would drive down from Franklin [Tennessee] to Panama City and stay down on the beach. We’d get out of school on a Friday and bolt, you’d be there by the middle of the night. We actually still laugh about a story—one of my best friends from childhood, he was a little younger than us and his mom agreed to let us take care of him on Spring Break because we were incredibly responsible. [laughs] We drove down in this borrowed car, it was a Eagle Talon and like the fastest car any of us had ever driven, and we made that drive in like five and a half hours—it was the dumbest drive I’ve ever made but we made it there really fast. I try not to talk about it in front of my kids but we we going likr 120mph. [laughs] Surely the statute of limitations on that has passed.

The polar opposite of that is now I have a wife and two little boys, so spring break now is the beach in a very different way. I’ve got fine memories of the previous, but I think I’ve done it enough—now I just drive past those kids in the panhandle as fast as we can. 

FRANKIE BALLARD: You want to know something kind of crazy about the Frankster? I’ve never been on spring break! I was playing baseball since I was five years old and through college [at Western Michigan University]. So now I really get excited to play the Spring Break-like events—and there’s nothing as grand as Tortuga. It’s an incredible show. It’s right, right on the beach. I could throw a guitar pick out into the ocean if I wanted and people who attend the show, they’re in a different frame of mind—toes in the sand, beers in the hand kind of situation. It just makes them act a little crazier. It’s fun to play for people who are literally on vacation. I’m just going to try to soak it up when I’m there. 

JOSH TURNER: When I was in high school, me and my buddies would go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This was right around the time I had started playing guitar and writing songs and the bulk of our spring break was sitting outside with the sound of the ocean in the background and me playing songs for my buddies—they kept wanting to hear more. I think they were just entertained by somebody who could write a song. [laughs] It was good practice for me. I can’t believe it’s been that many years since I started. 

This will be my first time playing Tortuga and I’m excited—I’m taking the whole family down there with me for the weekend—but also because of the money they’re raising. My oldest son, he’s eight and a half, is crazy about the ocean and sea creatures, and when I found out what the money was being raised for, I thought it was cool.