Wade Bowen is generally and accurately pegged as one of the nicest guys in the music business. He’s as genuine as they come and over the past year I’ve gotten to know him really well. I penned the feature article about him for LoneStarMusic magazine and have gotten to hang out with him more than I ever had in the past. When we realized his record was coming out amidst the flurry of releases this fall, and one week after the Randy Rogers Band, he and Randy both were adamant that they each do another edition of their 20 Questions interviews. I hope after reading this candid interview that you have a true appreciation of just why we all say Wade is so nice…and always real.
1. We first did this interview about four years ago. What’s new in the world of Wade Bowen, professionally and personally, since that time?
Well, first and foremost, I have two beautiful baby boys at home that I’m truly proud of. That really is enough to keep me busy. Along with working on this new album, I’ve kind of gone through some changes in the band as well and have some new guys. It’s a little different than four years ago, but I just think we’ve added some guys that are truly amazing and I’m really proud of the live show we have going right now. I’m still living in New Braunfels and I love it. Not a whole lot changes in my life really. I still play 200 or so shows a year and get home as fast as I can. That’s really it!
2. Lost Hotel really seemed to elevate your career to the next level, especially with critics. What are your expectations for the new record?
I try not to think about it. The reality is I’ve made the best record I can make at this point in my career. I know I worked hard on it, writing and recording it. Beyond that, it’s really out of my control. This is the perfect album for me at this point in my life. It says all of the things that I feel when it comes to life and the world and my family. I know that I tour hard already, so I just feel I need to worry about what I can control. I cannot control what critics think. And the added pressure of a successful record from last time only makes everyone tougher to please this time, which is a good thing. So I’m just going to keep working hard, make the live show as good as it can be, worry about my band and my family and enjoy this album for what it is. I am proud of it!
3. Name association:
-Adam Hood – Bad ass.
-Dierks Bentley – Truly genuine.
-Mike Eli -Smart as hell.
-Jack Ingram -Intense.
-Josh Grider-Unlike anyone in the scene…unique, distinctive and special.
-Miranda Lambert -Hard-working talented woman.
-Justin Frazzell -Beyond sincere and there’s only one Justin Frazzell!
-Drew Kennedy -That voice.
-Hayes Carll -Amazing, amazing, amazing!
4. Your band has gone a bit of an overhaul since the last interview. Could you detail the band now and what each person brings to the table both musically and personality wise?
Well, I guess I should start with Matt Miller. He’s been on guitar and vocals from the start…the only one left from the original group. He’s been with me for ten years now. No one knows how funny he really is. He makes us laugh harder than anyone in our crew. He’s great at his job and over the years he has always done whatever was asked of him.
Joining him on guitar is Gary Wooten. If there is a better guitar player out there, I’d love to see it. He is one of a kind and an absolute perfectionist. He’s as good as he is because he outworks everyone. He’s as laid back as a guy can get and is the kind of guy everyone wants in their band because he simply does his job and he does it amazing.
The newest member of our band is Caleb Jones on bass and he’s also probably the craziest! (laughs) He is an outstanding bass player with all kinds of influences. There isn’t anything this guy hasn’t played and he is perfect for this band for that reason. He’s a big kid, and I say that in the nicest way possible. He is always smiling and is always ready to jump on stage and have a good time.
Rounding out our band is Brooks Robinson on drums. I know that everyone in the band would agree that Brooks works the hardest on the road out of all of us. He is always on top of helping us out and is sort of another road manager. He’s very organized and has it all together at all times. He is a true pro. He is great at holding the beat down and he always wants to make the show better. That’s about all you can ask of anyone.
5. Related to that last question; in addition to your band, you’ve undergone some behind the scenes shake-ups too. Can you talk a bit about those? Who all is on your team now and what your goals with them are?
Yeah, as of January 1 of this year, I changed all business. I am now booked by William Morris Agency and Rogue Music Group out of Nashville manages me. I made this move to surround myself with people I felt have been down the road and know what is going on at all times. As an artist, I believe it is important to see how far you can really go and to not ever be satisfied. That is why I also signed a publishing deal with Sea Gayle Music. I just need to see what else might be out there available for my career and me. All of this had nothing to do with where I was and whom I was working with through last year. It was all great and they did an outstanding job. I just didn’t want any more excuses in my head as to why I wasn’t where I wanted to be. Now I just have to wait and see what happens.
6. Recently, you visited a group of soldiers including my brother-in-law deploying to Iraq for the third time and played a private show for them. No press or fanfare, just genuine good will. Can you describe that experience and how it came about?
Yeah, it was for a group of soldiers from Waco. My dad met a guy named Doug Matthys’ wife. Doug’s a great guy and his wife told my dad about how his platoon was leaving for Iraq for the third time soon and would not be back home for over a year. My dad called me and we discussed putting something together for him before he left. To give you some background, my dad is a good man and it amazes me how I, at age 30 am still learning from him. Things like the right way to live my life and be a great example to the people around me. Anyway, back to the question (laughs). I played on a Tuesday and Doug left that Friday. I keep in touch with him. That night was the first time I ever met Doug and I firmly believe we will be friends for a long time. He helps fill me in on what really happens and what a soldier has to deal with. It is ironic to me since I’m about to release this album. Because of Doug, this album and the title has even more meaning, which I didn’t think was possible.
7. Since our last interview, you’ve become quite the family man. How has being a daddy influenced your songwriting and career overall?
People used to ask me that and I always answered that it didn’t change anything. Then I looked back on this album when I was digging through it and I realized it definitely has. It makes you look at the world differently even though I didn’t actually notice it at the time. I didn’t try to change the way I wrote. It just happened naturally. All of a sudden, life is more important. Studio time is more important. Lyrics are more important. Everything matters now!
8. Stories behind the following songs:
-God Bless This Town- Some people I used to call my friends back in high school gave me the cold shoulder one night when I went back home. It was actually at George’s Bar, which is where I always go when I head home to Waco. It just really pissed me off, so I went home immediately after leaving the bar and wrote that song. Mikey Cox helped me finish it with the third verse being about his dad and how unfairly he was treated when he retired.
-One Step Closer – Brandon Rhyder played me the beginning of this on the phone as we were talking about writing together. I told him to get his ass down to New Braunfels as soon as he could because I knew it was a hit before we even finished it.
-It’s All Over Town -I wrote this one with Randy when he was living in New Braunfels. I went out to the country where he was living and we came up with this idea and finished it among the scorpions and cold beer. I love how this song comes from the point of view of the man and the woman. I always thought this song could be an amazing duet for the right people.
-Resurrection -I wrote this at Bleu Edmondson’s apartment. He really is a good writer and I don’t know why we haven’t written anymore. He had this idea about staring down the barrel of a thousand loaded guns, which I thought was brilliant. One of us mentioned the word Resurrection and I knew that was it. And yes…you can make love in a bathroom stall (laughs).
-Walkin’ Along the Fenceline -I wrote this in a hotel room in Lubbock with Mikey and Evin, my old drummer. This was a great idea Mikey had and also that day I had just talked with my producer about how he just didn’t feel I had a hit for Lost Hotel. I jokingly sang the melody to the guys and it stuck. Maybe it will be a hit someday for someone. It sounds like one to me.
-Crazy Enough -I had just played a Tuesday night in Amarillo with Stoney, Bleu and Matt Martindale. We then drove home to Austin where I was living at the time and I just couldn’t believe how miserable of a drive it was. So I started writing this song about how I hope I’m crazy enough to do this life. What helped me finish it was watching guys in the scene at the time like Boland, Ragweed, Ingram, and Pat just act crazy and drink and party it up onstage. The crowds loved it and I knew I was a lightweight. Kind of funny, huh? (laughs)
-Ghost in This Town -This is a true story that Mikey watched a friend of his go through. They just became so sad and it hurts to watch those things. Sometimes when things are as bad as they can possibly be, it’s best to just pack up and move to another town.
-Turn On The Lights -My wife went through postpartum depression when my first son was born and it was the most challenging time of our lives. It is a crazy thing to go through because we didn’t know what it was. I just thought she didn’t like me anymore. She is a very strong woman to let me talk about this and to have to relive it as much as she does. I had this idea because the only way I knew to explain the way I felt was to compare it to a child being afraid of the dark. That’s where the line came from and we just wrote around that. I wrote this with Stephony Smith in Nashville who is just an amazingly talented woman. She’s written with Randy a bunch. She completely got the seriousness of the situation and that is tough to do as an outsider.
-Why Makes Perfect Sense -I started writing this in the back of the bus during the acoustic tour I do with Randy. That particular night was my 19th show in 19 days. I was lonely for home and ready to write about it. Randy was about to get married so he understood where I was coming from on this one.
9. What is your favorite way to kill the doldrums on those long road trips?
I try to play a little golf when I can to get off the bus and get some fresh air. We play video games and watch a ton of movies as well. I love movies, so that’s a ton of fun for me. That’s really it other than eating, sleeping, and having just the occasional cocktail. (laughs)
10. If you could collaborate with three musicians alive or dead…who would they be, and why?
Good question. Elvis just because it’s Elvis. I would have just loved to hear him sing one of my songs. Bruce Springsteen because I think I would learn so much. I am such a huge fan of his and I love that he never settles. He is always finding ways to shake things up in his career and it is usually his lyrics that start that process. That’s pretty powerful stuff for a singer/songwriter. Patty Griffin because I think she is the best female singer/songwriter going right now. I love everything she does and it’s her way, no one else’s. She has this unique way of singing and writing a lyric that is all her own. Also because I could enjoy hearing her sing Mary had a little lamb. She’s just amazing from start to finish, all the way around.
11. You seem to grasp the important role that technology plays in the music business in this day and age, and have embraced it with a revamped and state of the art website. What inspired this move?
I have to give all the credit to my management team. I believe moving to them has helped tremendously in this category. Scott Kernahan and Pete Olson, my managers, are very innovative. I chose Scott because he doesn’t like to play by the rules and he is very smart, a scary and great combination. Over the next couple of years, I hope you see some crazy ideas and new thoughts come from me and my camp. I think it’s a necessary step with music business being as crazy as it is right now. It’s important to challenge the process a little bit right now because we can. Why not see what’s out there?
12. Favorite touring memory of the following towns:
-New Braunfels -Last call at Saengerhalle when Stoney and Cody and I played for about five hours on the last show ever there. We didn’t want it to end. It was a great bar with beautiful owners and I truly miss it.
-Little Rock -Ending the acoustic tour with Randy at The Rev Room there last year. We had such a great month and I love that town. It could not have ended any better. My tradition here is to eat sushi with the owner and drink a Leinenkugel for dessert.
-Nashville -This last time through I played an acoustic show Randy and it was a blast because we did our show the way it’s supposed to be done. We took our songs and stories tour on stage with us and had a great time in front of people who we had to win over. Then we got to watch Seth James rock full band. Good night!
-Dallas -I have some really good memories of just building a crowd at Adair’s. We were so young and had no clue and it was the perfect bar to make mistakes and have a blast and learn!
-Fort Worth -Having Lee Ann Womack sing harmony on Walkin Along The Fence line and Vince Gill play the solo onstage at Billy Bob’s.
-Beaumont -The night we took the Lee Ann Womack and friends tour through there was the best night of the run. We all had a blast and I got to sing I Hope You Dance with her and her band.
-San Angelo -Playing Cross Canadian Ragweed’s 10-year anniversary gig with them. The video was great and the night was just a blast. It’s always cool when you get to celebrate good times with your friends.
-Wichita Falls -Meeting and getting to know Johnny Cooper. I met him years ago and I thought he just had it together…the complete package. I’m glad to see him doing well. He deserves it!
-Chicago -Watching Trent Tomlinson take his shirt off onstage and play the entire show that way! Terrible!
13. You’ve gotten to perform on some really big and cool bills over the years. What was the one festival or headline act that you met or played with that you had to pinch yourself to believe it was really happening?
I was really glad to finally play Larry Joe Taylor Festival this year. I was so excited and usually when you build something up that much, it tends to let you down. That was not the case. I remember having so much fun with that crowd that I didn’t want it to be over. From the energy the fans gave our band on the mainstage to the intimacy of the campfires. Seeing people sing around a campfire for thirty or so die-hard music fans at 3AM is hard to top. I loved it and cannot wait to do it again this year.
14. Compare and contrast the aspects of playing full band versus acoustic. What do you dig more about one over the other? Or vice versa.
Full band is what it is. It’s loud and crazy and fun and relaxed. It has its own way of kind of taking control of you. I’m lucky to play with a great band that gets along so it’s such a group effort every night to play well. You really are only as good as your weakest link so you have to work to never have that and it’s fun but tough. When I play acoustic, it’s just me that I have to worry about. Depending on what kind of crowd you have always dictates what you are going to do onstage, but with acoustic stuff I always feel I have a little more control. I am naturally a pretty intense guy. I play music for that reasonâ€¦to try and inspire people. I don’t play music to party so I think for that reason more than anything is why I love the acoustic shows.
15. What is a typical day like for you on the road? What is a typical day like for you off the road?
On the road, I wake up, sound check, eat dinner, grab some drinks and hit the stage. That’s pretty much it. I sometimes go play golf or try to get off the bus and change the routine a bit. I have recently gotten to where I try to use that time to catch up with old friends or get some work done as well.
Of the road, my schedule strictly revolves around my family. I feel I am away from them so much that I just do whatever they ask and whatever they want to do. So that is really up in the air. I wake up at 6 and get Bruce ready for school and then take care of the little one. If Cody is in town, we always seem to meet up for lunch or dinner just to see each other and get the families together. Seems boring I know but it’s my life and I love it. What a fan sees is a road schedule full of shows. What you don’t see is all the trips to Nashville for business that keeps me away as well. That’s why I just relax when I’m home
16. What is the coolest thing about being a professional musician? And the least cool thing?
The coolest thing for me is the way people treat you. The way you can inspire some people is simply amazing. I love when people want to meet me and want to take the time to tell me a story or to just say hi. It never gets old and it really keeps me going out there. I’ve worked so hard for so many years, which is why those stories are so special. I’ve waited my whole career to get to a point that I could make a difference in someone’s life and see a difference when I get on stage and it is finally to that point.
The least cool thing for me is the crazy hours and unstable workload. You really have to be working all day and all night. Everyone wants a piece of you during the day for interviews or to just get your own personal work and life in order. Then you have to go play and show all night and by the time you finally get to bed, it’s almost time to wake up again and start all over. Between balancing that schedule and then try and come home to a normal schedule with your kids is the toughest thing. But, I’m not complaining…you asked! (laughs).
17. If a documentary TV crew followed y’all around on tour for a month, what is the most interesting thing your fans would find out?
How funny my band is together. It really doesn’t come across that way onstage most of the time but they are funny. I just sit around most of the time laughing at them and what they’ve got going on. They would also find out that we don’t handle our drinks as well as we portray! Hangovers hurt more than they used to (laughs).
18. Rapid fire:
– Favorite pirate: Mike Leach or Captain Jack Sparrow?
Jack Sparrow because my son is obsessed with Pirates. Love them Red Raiders though!
-Tony Romo or Jessica Simpson? Maybe Tony would let me sit by Jessica at a game. I promise I’d yell loud for him! (laughs)
-IPod or Zune? IPod.
-Haggard or Jones? Jones
-Favorite golf course? Ridgewood in Waco, TX.
19. Last time we found out your favorite George Strait song was, “Honky Tonk Crazy”, so this time I’m adjusting the musical litmus test and asking what’s your favorite Alan Jackson song?
I love his remake of Hank Jr’s “Blues Man”. As far as his songs, I love “Wanted” and “Monday Morning Church” I also like “Home”. Too hard to narrow it down. Good call on the Alan Jackson.
20. There is bad music coming out of Texas and bad music coming from the Nashville mainstream. How do you personally, weed out the bad stuff?
It’s funny to me that you ask this because I was just discussing this very thing the other day. It seems to me that so many people are more interested in just being able to say they have an album out then to actually spend the time and do it right. An album is forever for crying out loud! As far as weeding it out, I think I just do the best I can to give everyone a chance first. It sucks because I probably miss out on some really great artists that never quite reach me. But I think overall, it is more important than ever to utilize word of mouth and scream at people to listen to something that you’ve heard that moves you. Make them listen to it because there is great music out there coming out of Nashville and coming out of Texas. Just make sure it is good and that it is the best it can be because people just aren’t giving as much time to listen to full albums as they used to. It’s a fast paced world we live in and an even faster paced music world.