CMT.com continues a week of celebrating Texas music. Today, we check in with singer-songwriter Wade Bowen.
Wade Bowen has a New Year's resolution -- to get his music beyond the Texas borders. Asked about the urgency of breaking nationally, Bowen says, "It's a bigger priority than it comes across. I can only afford so much. I'm doing everything on my own. That's a great thing in most cases, but as far as getting my music out to people in the rest of the country, it's really a challenge for me. But it's a huge priority of mine, and it's going to be a huge priority in '09 that I've already focused on. I'm trying to get out more and around to different places and to get in front of some different crowds."
In the meantime, Bowen remains one of the most popular singer-songwriters on the Red Dirt club circuit of Texas and Oklahoma. He and his family reside in New Braunfels, Texas, yet his band plays around 200 gigs a year. No wonder the latest album is called If We Ever Make It Home.
CMT: How would you describe your live show to someone who's never seen it?
Bowen: I would say it's pretty intense. I think it's more intense for this scene -- the Texas scene. It's very loud and proud. I use the studio to focus lyrically on things, and I think I use the live show to beef it up and have fun with things. It's a completely different atmosphere when you get to the live show for us.
Why was it important for you to make this record in Nashville?
That's where I did my last record. I kind of got familiar with the people I wanted to play on my album. My producer lives there and he's worked there forever. It's always been a convenient deal, especially coming into this record. I learned so much from Lost Hotel, so it was a lot easier to come in with this album knowing who I really wanted to play on the album. It was less experimenting and more focusing on getting an album done. It was a very cool experience.
What did you learn from the Lost Hotel experience?
I learned how amazing the players are in that town. More than anything I learned that. I don't think they're given enough credit for how hard they work and how much of a challenge it is to come in and produce something unique and different every single day. I think it's up to me as a songwriter to bring them something unique and different to play on. I feel like with my stuff, you can take the handcuffs off. Obviously we're not playing for the radio stuff, we're not playing for any of that. I think there's a lot of freedom with me as an artist. The biggest thing I learned was how good the players are, and I met a lot of incredible players in that town through the year-and-a-half tracking Lost Hotel.
In your lyrics, I can sense frustration and a determination to get through. How much of that is drawn from your family's experience with post-partum depression following the birth of your first child?
It played a huge role. "Turn on the Lights" was the first step. "From Bad to Good," I wrote that about trying to get through that part to trying to fall back in love. After all we went through, it was really tough. Neither one of us gave up on each other, even though we very easily could have. "Why Makes Perfect Sense" is a song I wrote about the opposite side of it -- about me being on the road and what's it like for me to be out there, lonely. Having to deal with them strictly through the phone is really, really tough. And I had no choice because I had to make a living. It was a very challenging time, all the way around, and a lot of those emotions are captured in that record. I think it's why the record is a lot more intense than Lost Hotel was, and I think it's more mature, because it deals with very serious topics.
At what point did you realize that songwriting was a good way to clear your head?
I've always written stuff, but I didn't learn how to play guitar until I was 17. I noticed when I started playing guitar, the reason I wanted to play guitar was because I had all this stuff written down. Writing has always been a lot of fun for me. I've always really enjoyed it and loved the creative process of writing. I just wrote an article for Lone Star Music magazine about the Randy Rogers Band, and I really haven't done that in a long time. That was a lot of fun to sit down and write. Just to think about things in a creative way. I have one of those weird minds I guess.
Do you already see some of your personality coming through in your kids?
Oh, yeah. Life is a crazy thing, and you realize how amazing life really is when you have children. Mainly you see so much hope and faith in their eyes, and everything they do is with so much passion. It's really inspiring for me to see that innocence and that hope. Especially in such a challenging time in our world right now, it's really refreshing to come home and see that in their eyes. I don't know who learns more from who. I really firmly believe I learn more about myself from them than they do from me.