Lone Star State luminary Wade Bowen has been making music and burning up the highway for more than 20 years now. From “In My Soul” to “So Long 6th Street,” the Texas troubadour has carved out a formidable fan base one song and one show—somewhere around 4,000—at a time, in the same vein as contemporaries Randy Rogers and Cody Canada.
On November 19, Wade will drop a new six-song EP, Where Phones Don’t Work. Wade gave fans the first taste of the project with the release of “When Love Comes Around” on October 11. The EP also features, among others, a tune Wade co-penned with Steve Earle, “Trouble Is,” which, in my opinion, rivals some of his best work.
Outsider caught up to Wade on a cool fall morning while he was heading to his tour stop in San Angelo, Texas, to ask him 5 Questions.
1. Man, you’ve been going strong now for 20 years. Big picture-wise, what’s in your future?
Wade Bowen: Oh gosh, hopefully a lot. I mean, 20 years is a long time. I have been doing it that long, a little bit longer, but I also feel like right now there’s been this big reset button for some reason in my career. And I don’t know why I mentally and physically feel that way, but I feel like I’m just now getting started again, musically, in writing, and everything. I feel like I’m 25 again, but with more knowledge. And I’m just excited to see what’s about to happen. I feel really good about the songs that I’m writing, and I feel good about the next 10 years or so, at least the next five years. That’s all I can really see as far as what’s in my head. I focus on probably the next five years, and then just adjust accordingly.
But I’m just really excited. Like I said, I feel revamped. I don’t know if it’s because of 2020 or just some business decisions I’ve made recently here in my career. I feel really good, better than I ever have about what’s going to happen moving forward. And not really force anything. Just take it as it comes, and whether it’s more successful or less successful, not even worry about that, just enjoy the process of making music and going out and still working hard and playing shows, and still trying to develop new fans and pleasing the old ones and all those things. I love my job as much as I ever have any. So that’s a very good thing to say this far in my career.
2. What did you learn about yourself during the pandemic?
Wade Bowen: I spent so much of my time finding creative ways to survive during COVID. We did the live-streaming stuff, which I knew nothing about prior to that. And we figured it out, and our fans were so supportive of us during that time. Then, for the last half of 2020, we did a lot of backyard private stuff with fans that missed music as much as we did. And so I just can’t say enough about how much support we had from our fans.
And I loved it, but the virtual stuff got pretty old after a while, because there’s just no interaction and no love between you and the fans, and that’s why we do what we do. So to be back on stage and having that interaction again and seeing the smiles and hearing people sing again, it feels so good. And not that I ever took playing music for granted before, but I’m certainly loving what I do now. It feels good.
3. The new EP, ‘Where Phones Don’t Work,’ sounds like a very reflective, thoughtful project. Is that an accurate assessment?
Wade Bowen: Well, I really try hard to be that. And I try hard to write music of substance. I try hard to write music that is internal and reflective and makes people feel good, but also, you know, emotional. I want people to feel the emotions when you listen to my songs, and that’s really, really important to me. And that’s also the kind of person I am. That’s the way that I listen to music. I have a hard time listening to music solely for the party. I love listening to lyrics. And I love listening to songs for the songs themselves.
And so I guess that’s what comes out. I don’t know if I really plan that or that’s just the way it naturally happens for me, but some of the stuff was written during the pandemic and some of it, most of it, was written afterwards. And probably the feeling that we all had, when you don’t want to necessarily write about sad stuff. You want to write about reflection and ways to lift people up and lift yourself up when you’re writing. And not just write about all the sad things that were running around in our heads during that time.
And so with this EP and the new stuff, I’m trying really hard to, yes, to be reflective and also just have a record that sonically makes people feel a little better after they’re done listening.
4. What was the impetus for the new single, ‘When Love Comes Around,’ which you penned with Eric Paslay & Heather Morgan?
Wade Bowen: Well, we actually went out to this ranch outside of Waco, Texas, my family’s ranch, and got away from all of the mess. We got away from everything and got a chance to clock out for a few days and just cook breakfast and steaks and sit by the fire and ride Gators and horses and just relax. And during that time, we also found time to write a lot. That was the focus, but it was really mentally such a relief for all three of us, to just clock out from the mess. And I think some great songs came out of it.
We have two songs [“The Last Town in Texas”] on this EP that we wrote together, but there’s also more that will come out on future projects because we had such a successful writing trip. And I think it was just due to that, that we all needed to get away and just enjoy it and really just focus on what we love doing and what we love about life. And I can’t say enough great things about Eric and Heather both. They’re just fantastic people, amazing, amazing, amazing songwriters. So that was the first time the three of us ever got together. And I really think it’s the start of a great, great writing team that I’m proud of.
5. Your fans are gonna be floored when they hear new song, ‘Trouble Is,’ which I think is some of your best work. Tell me about writing that with Steve Earle.
Wade Bowen: I actually wrote that with Steve Earle on Zoom. My first time ever meeting Steve Earle was on a Zoom call, which was nerve-racking enough. I’m like freaking out anyway about just having to be my best, you know, all the pressure that comes with being in the room with a legend. Somebody that you look up to so much. But then you’ve got to have this awkward Zoom call together. I really was worried about it, so I just prepared as much as I could and brought what I felt like were good ideas. And they turned into this song and we twisted them around all kinds of ways. And he’s fantastic.
I mean, number one, he made it so comfortable. You can tell he’s used to doing the Zoom stuff, which made it easier. But it turned into a really friendly co-write, and it wasn’t just let’s get this song done and get out. I mean, we talked a lot about life. He told me some great, amazing stories. It was a really cool experience for a kid that truly looks up to him and have always loved his music, to just literally virtually be in the room with a guy like that. You try to be a sponge and learn as much as you can, and check your ego at the door and just embrace the moment. And that’s exactly what I tried to do.
And he’s been so cool since. I’ve been sending him roughs of the song, and videos of it, as we’re in this studio, and he’s been so supportive of it all. It’s just been fun. I mean, when you get to work with your heroes and they’re cool to you, there’s maybe nothing better in the music industry than that.