Wade Hayes Shifts Gears

Wearing a cowboy hat for Wade Hayes is still no act — it’s a genuine part of who he is. He’s still writing and singing straight-ahead, traditional country music, and although he chuckles at such a compliment, he remains one of country music’s most eligible bachelors. But while some things remain the same in “Wade World,” the barely 30-year-old artist is pretty psyched about being a bit older in both his personal and professional life. His brand new When The Wrong One Loves You Right album is a perfect indication of such growth and maturity.

“They say that your gears change about every ten years,” says Wade. “I guess I’m kinda in third gear right now, but I’m diggin’ getting older. I really am, because I’m finally thinking about things a lot differently these days and enjoying myself a lot more. I’ve spent most of my life really worrying about stuff, and I’m getting to the point now that I’m tired of it. In every aspect of everything, I just know that it’s all going to work out one way or another. And I say this now because I haven’t really gone through any big tragedies in my life, but I really feel like everything happens for a reason and we’re meant to learn from events in our lives.”

Wade learned early on that success could storm into your life like a heavenly shower. Having launched a series of top ten singles, including two No. 1 hits, and a certified gold album right out of the starting gate in late 1994, the young Oklahoma native also learned that the heavenly shower could surprisingly turn into a disappointing drizzle.

“I think one of the problems I had was that my career did take off so fast,” he explains. “We had two No. 1s and three top tens right in a row. For some reason I thought that was the way things were going to be throughout my whole career. When things slacked off a little bit, I freaked out completely. Now, I understand that I probably wouldn’t be a real happy or appreciative person if my career had continued to have grown like it did that quickly. I know now that I really needed to take some time to learn a lot more things. I feel I know better now how to handle my business and become a better writer, picker and singer.

“I would have never thought this way a year ago. But I guess during this last year, something just snapped and I woke up one morning and realized how much time I was spending making myself sick simply worrying about things. Then I thought to myself, ’This is so ridiculous!’ I’d never really been able to comprehend that before. So I know it’s all because I’m getting older.”

Don’t fret — you can still count on Wade to wail out such hits as “On A Good Night,” “Don’t Stop” and his phenomenal “Old Enough To Know Better” when you catch him in concert. He will, be the first to admit that he’s finally old enough to know better, as well as old enough to care more about some things than in years past. Simply worshipping the possibility of the next No. 1 record or gold album isn’t a live or die situation for Wade anymore.

“That’s always been nerve-wracking, but I know now that I’ve spent way too much time worrying about things like that,” he admits. “That doesn’t get you anywhere except not feeling good about yourself. I’m just really over that kind of thing these days. I just want to enjoy myself, have fun and free up some of that gray matter to spend on other things that are more important.”

It’s quite obvious that Wade’s music is more important than ever. His new When The Wrong One Loves You Right disc, produced by Don Cook and Chick Rains, unfolds his best work yet. Cuts such as “The Day She Left Tulsa,” “Are We Having Fun Yet,” the scorching title cut, and the emotion-pondering, heart-spilling ballad, “This Is My Heart Talking Now” not only gush with the kind of music and singing that keeps country music’s true heritage alive, but unveils an obvious maturity leap for Wade himself.

“I just think that now I’m really getting out of that ’young country’ phase and making songs that relate to my age group now. I’m getting close to 30 now, and I feel that something is changing — tastes or whatever. Maybe that’s why making this album was harder for me. It was definitely the hardest one to make, but on the up side of that, it’s definitely the best one. I don’t think that three years ago I would’ve been able to record a song like ’The Day She Left Tulsa,'” admits Wade. “It’s just a really intense song with a real mature subject. Then there are other songs on the album like ’This Is My Heart Talking Now’ that I think are real mature-sounding songs, too.”

Reaching a new maturity level with his music has so far been as inspiring for Wade’s fans as it has for him personally. For Wade, it sparks yet another example of how discovering a new comfort level in his career makes life even happier.

“I think that the fans really appreciate that type of maturity level, too,” he explains. “We’ve been doing most of these songs from the new album live, and most of the people who are coming to the shows know all the words to them anyway. They seem to really like them a lot. So I think this new transition is going to be fine. And we’ve really come a long way with our stage show. Nowadays, it all just flows from song to song.”

As always, Wade’s steady flow continues to include his unyielding admiration and love for the classic country tradition. Whether it’s crooning out Glen Campbell’s stirring “The Wichita Lineman” or simply keeping his own music within the realms of tried and true country class, he’s ever loyal to the music that brought him to the dance.

“Man, I just love that music!” he exclaims with a burst of excitement. “Just this week, I’ve been listening to one of Merle Haggard’s box sets, and I’ve just really gotten into it. I can get away from it for a long time, and then I have to come back to it and go through these phases where I’m in this Waylon Jennings kind of mood. I’ll be that way for a couple of months, then I’ll get into a Haggard mood or a Willie Nelson mood; and that kind of music is all I’ll want to listen to. Even today, I’ve heard all those songs a million times, but I still just love them.

“And I don’t mind talking about it, because some people just don’t realize what some of those guys did and just how important they really are. You just can’t do what Merle Haggard has done. Just anybody couldn’t do that. You have to realize that this guy has written hundreds of songs, and not just songs, but great songs. He sings as well as anybody can, and plays fiddle and guitar. Besides that, he was a great lookin’ man back then — he had it all. People like him are uncommon. There are some young country fans out there who really do get that, and there are some who really think that type of music is too twangy. But that’s cool, too. I guess I do it more for self indulgence than anything else.”

In addition to self indulging in an exciting new tour this year, which will mark the first in almost a year and a half, Wade has learned to back off a bit from some of the high-speed gears he was shifting earlier.

“Oh yeah, I did finally quit all that ridiculous working out business,” he admits with a laugh. “I guess I just got lazy,” he laughs again. “I got to a point with it all that I felt like I had to do this now and had to do that then. It was such a constraint situation. But I’m sure once we get back on the road and I have a different schedule, I’ll try to find a happy medium in between the opposite ends.”