Late September found Waco native Wade Bowen atop the Texas Regional Radio Report with the single “Bottle Into Gold,” and also found him at the wedding of Matt Miller, Bowen’s guitarist and one of his true heroes.
“I met Matt at Texas Tech, and we started a band. He gave me the courage to do all this,” Bowen says in a phone conversation from Texas. “The last three years of college, we toured full-time around the state and Lubbock is not close to anything so that made it difficult.”
Lubbock may be isolated geographically, but musically it’s close to the hearts of music fans. The city, which is in West Texas and is closer to New Mexico than it is to Dallas, was the hometown of Buddy Holly.
It is also the home of Texas Tech, which has been a breeding ground for many of the strongest acts in Texas music. Cory Morrow and Pat Green both went there, and became friends who have often worked together ever since. Bowen and Miller did likewise.
“Kids that go to Tech are fun and they have a common interest in music,” Bowen says. “College Station (the home of Texas A&M) is that same way, with that musical background. People sit around at those schools, play guitar, and have fun.”
Bowen and his band are having a lot of fun these days. Not only is “Bottle Into Gold” sitting atop the fiercely competitive Texas singles charts, but his double album CD/DVD “Live At Billy Bob’s Texas,” which features his road band in a powerhouse performance recorded at the legendary honky-tonk near the Fort Worth Stockyards, is also doing very well.
“I loved doing that album with the road band,” he says. “There’s a huge difference in the concept. For the most part in Nashville, they have to focus on radio and getting singles out there. But when I first started playing in college, we never had the option of radio. So we had the mentality to go out and play live.”
Back in their Texas Tech days, beginning in 2001, Bowen and Miller formed a band called West 84 and hit the road. They sometimes played 250 shows per year.
Several albums, both live and studio, followed, as Bowen built a following in Texas and around the country. Many of the albums were on the Sustain label. He also got lots of notice around Nashville’s Music Row, with his videos “God Bless This Town” and “Trouble” earning a great deal of play on Country Music Television.
Another vital part of Bowen’s story is his songwriting. He has been commuting from Texas to Nashville to write for 10 years, and the results have been remarkable. Wade writes for Sea Gayle Music, founded by Frank Rogers, Brad Paisley, and Chris DuBois in 1999. Sea Gayle is a red-hot publisher, and was named ASCAP Country Publisher of the Year for the first time on Sept. 14.
“I always co-write. There’s so many great writers in Nashville,” Bowen says. “I love to write with Radney Foster, Clint Ingersoll, Jim Beavers, and Sean McConnell.”
Foster, who hails from Del Rio, Texas, has long been a hero to other Texas musicians. As part of the duo Foster & Lloyd with Bill Lloyd, Radney scored Top 10 Billboard hits on RCA in the late 1980s with “Crazy Over You” and “Sure Thing.” Foster went solo on the now-defunct Arista Nashville in the early 1990s, with his signature song “Nobody Wins” reaching No. 2 in the spring of 1993.
“Writing with Radney is actually very easy, he’s very good at what he does,” Bowen says. “He and I communicate well. We do a lot of talking in our writing appointments, which I love, just thinking it through before I actually put it down on paper.”
Wade is married to a lovely lady named Shelby, and they have two sons, aged 2 and 5. “Shelby is not a musician, but she’s just inspired lots of songs from lots of people,” Bowen says.
In fact, Shelby’s sister is married to Cody Canada of another top Texas band, Cross Canadian Ragweed. So Cody and Wade are brothers-in-law, as well as being close pals and musical cohorts.
Among the songs from his remarkable catalog Bowen enjoys performing the most are “Trouble,” “Ghost In This Town,” and “Turn On The Lights.”
By Phil Sweetland | firstname.lastname@example.org