By Kurt Wolff
If you know the music of Wade Bowen, there’s a good chance you’re from Texas. That’s Bowen’s home base, and where he still plays on a very regular basis.
But as Bowen says, while he certainly loves his home state, he’s not just about Texas—his songs can, and do, reach across state lines.
“I’ve always considered myself not a Texas artist, but an artist from Texas,” Bowen tells Radio.com. “And I think there’s a difference there. If you go back and listen to my records, I’ve tried to speak to more than a regional thing.”
What’s also impressive is that Bowen’s songs reach all corners of the country through his live shows and word-of-mouth—not through radio airplay. Radio remains a popular medium for discovering new music, but it’s not the only means of doing so. Bowen is living proof that country artists can work, and succeed, outside the radio—and find an audience ready and eager to pay attention. For starters, just ask Bowen’s extensive Twitter and Facebook fans.
After a brief stint on a major label (Sony) with his previous studio album The Given, Bowen is once again releasing his musical independently. Bowen’s fine with that, and he’s obviously suited for it. His new album, Wade Bowen, is not only a solid collection of some of 2014’s finest country songs, the independent release even cracked the Billboard Top 10.
During a recent phone conversation, Bowen speaks with us about his new self-titled album, the ups and downs of working outside the mainstream, the power of social media in building an audience and the “pride” fans feel in discovering and sharing his music.
Radio.com: Your new album is your first since parting ways with Sony, and your first self-titled release. Was there a specific idea or set of feelings driving this album?
Wade Bowen: My goal was to make a higher energy, more positive, little bit more uptempo record than anything I’ve done before. One that resembled our live show and gave people [more of] a glimpse inside of me than I’ve ever given before.
I had just come out of that major label release I had with The Given, so I think it was a little bit of venting, but also I just had this incredible urge to make a record that mattered. I don’t know what hit me, I just remember waking up one day and going, “I gotta get in the studio, I’m just ready.” What I wanted to do was be selfish. Make a record for me, and make sure I loved it. I figured if I loved it hopefully someone else would.
Would you say it’s your most personal album to date?
Every record I’ve done is very personal. I feel like all my records are like open diaries. I think with this one, I found a way to create more energy with it and, like I said, have a little more positive theme than anything I’ve done before.
I think my last few [studio] records have been very intense and driven—wanting to make sure people took me seriously as a songwriter and an artist. With this record, I just threw all that out the window. I feel like I’ve already established myself [in that regard], so I just wanted to make sure I made a great record.
Before going in the studio, I preached the same thing to the musicians. I said, “This is the record to have fun and get weird and do whatever.” I just let all the pressure go and wanted to make a cool record. And I feel like I did.
Was it a freeing experience, to take the weight off the record-making process?
It was very free. I’m very happy with my experience at Sony, they were very good to me, and I had a lot of people really concerned about my career and wanting me to succeed. [But] I think you get so caught up in so many different opinions of how to make that happen—so it was nice to make a record without any of that. Just let loose and do it.
I spent a lot of time over there [at Sony] writing songs, and only got to release one record. So I had a lot of songs stacked up that I really wanted to get out there.
Is there a song in particular that represents where you wanted to go with this album?
The lead track “When I Woke Up Today” represented where I wanted to go, because it’s a positive uptempo song. And anyone who’s listened to my music in the past knows that’s a rare thing [laughs].
And actually, “Sun Shines on Dreamer.” A friend of mine Jedd Hughes wrote that a long time ago, and I’ve had that tucked away as a sleeper. I felt that was a cool little track that [would be] really fun to play live. That’s why I started the record with those two songs, because I feel they set the tone for the entire project.