Canadian Country singer Thomas Wade, known as “Thomas Wade and Wayward” reigned the Country music airwaves through most of the mid to late 90’s. Everywhere you looked, there was a video, interview , or appearance of Thomas Wade. The group was well on their way to the top. Thomas grew up in Burford, Ontario, begin playing around the age of seven in his uncle’s family band, he then paid his dues playing in various bands for most of the 1980’s and early 90’s before forming the chart topping band. During his journey, he worked in and around Nashville with some notable songwriters and producers such as Bill Shore and producer Byron Gallimore. Thomas also attended 4 years with Cindy Tanas actor studio and was very seriously considering a career in acting, where he landed a few notable roles, one being a lead role on CMT’s mini drama, “The Office”. But music ran thick in his blood and proved to be a very successful decision in his career.
“Thomas Wade and Wayward” released their debut album in 1996 and immediately started getting attention. It was Thomas’s onstage charisma, looks and catchy song hooks that drew people in and a fairly new CMT Canada became a second home for the Country group. Thomas had become the “Golden Boy” for Canadian country music, scoring 7 CCMA awards during a five year span, nominated for three years in a row for Country Group of the Year from 1997 to 1999. Country radio, CMT and country music fans across Canada were all tuned in to the Thomas Wade frenzy! They were on fire with the debut album which produced several top ten singles such as “Sitting Pretty”, “Zero to Sixty” and “Lying here with you”.
In 2001 Thomas branched out on a solo career and continued to enjoy success with “ The Loser” and “Wild Wild Ride” to name a few. Sitting at the top of his game with seven awards, three albums which he wrote and produced, , 12 top 20 singles , hit videos and seven years of headlining tours under his belt, life couldn’t get any better for Thomas Wade.
But by 2002 , an unforeseen and thought “incurable” neurological disorder took hold of his ability to sing and eventually even speak. In the early stages of the disease, Thomas tried to overcome the progressing symptoms by seeking naturopaths and any “tricks” he could think of to disguise his speech. Evidently he had to give up singing. As time went on, ordering a coffee was with great difficulty. Such a tragedy could very easily make someone give up and live in the shadows of their success, BUT not Thomas Wade!
By 2006 he was diagnosed with “Oromandibular Dystonia” and that it was not curable. But through with his own perseverance, Hypnosis, neuroplasticity reading up on anything he could find, Thomas developed his own “Neuroplastic” exercises and things started to improve. His incredible journey back from the impossible had begun.
During those years Thomas did not disappear totally from the industry, he remained active as a songwriter and producer. One of his songs was recorded by Canadian icon Celine Dion, which is a pretty good confirmation of his talent as a songwriter.
Thomas has recently released the first album in 16 years! It has something a little different from his early days as a country artist. The album titled “ Blue Country Soul” combines blues, country, rock N roll and a few surprises such as the crooner inspired song “Funny What Makes You Cry” to the very church choir themed “Boise River”. Giving us a variety of fast up tempo hits and smooth melodic ballads, an easy listening pleasure to the ear.
This is a great new chapter of an artist whose career has spanned over twenty years, Thomas is a true inspiration of hope, courage and perseverance, he hopes his story will encourage others to never give up hope .
2016 marks an exciting year of new projects, new beginnings and opportunities to do what he loves to do best, Making music for the fans.
INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS WADE
CMW: Hi Thomas, Let’s start by telling us how you grew up and when did you discover your desire to be a musician?
TW: I couldn’t miss being drawn to music. My Mom and Dad met in my Grandfather’s dance band. My Dad played guitar, my Mom has a beautiful voice, kind of sounds like a combination of Patti Page and Patsy Cline. My family was all about the music. My Uncle John was a champion fiddler, and I would try to make music with anything I could get my hands on. I think that’s why they gave me my first guitar when I was about four…to keep me from making music with pots and pans. My Dad put little colored pieces of paper on the guitar neck to show me where the chords were, and I soon figured it out for myself. I remember the moment it all came together around the kitchen table with my Mom and Dad. From then on I was accompanying my uncle on fiddle tunes …that what great training for my ears. Then I wrote my first song sitting on the back porch when I was about seven, and I got on stage when I was eight. I’ll never forget that night. It was a local jamboree…kind of our version of the grand ole opry. I sang Johnny Cash’s “I Got Stripes” After I got off stage I went to the back of the hall and the guy who ran the snack bar gave me a chocolate bar. That’s when I made the connection…that I could make money doing something I loved. I never looked back after that. I was pretty much a professional musician by age ten.
CMW: Who influenced you most throughout your career?
TW: The person who made me want to get on stage was Johnny Cash…when I was 8 years old I sang on my first show, ” I Got Stripes” and people started calling me ” Princeton and Burford’s Johnny Cash. After that there are so many influences depending on what period you’re talking about. I was immersed in music constantly. Elvis, Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves… Then I got into the Beatles… Kenny Rogers, Larry Gatlin, Gary Morris… Lee Greenwood, and in a big way, Keith Whitley. As you see, that is an question with a potentially endless answer!
CMW: You are also a trained actor as well and attended for four years with Cindy Tanas actor studio and landed a few notable roles. There came a time where you had to choose between acting and singing, how did you come to that decision as you are very passionate about both.
TW: That was actually a really easy decision. I originally tried acting because through all of my career previous to Thomas Wade and Wayward I was usually the guy standing to the side who sang, but never talked on the mic. I was always playing with people who were already experienced at it. I think I knew on some level that I would have to get around to filling this gap in my game, but I didn’t until my fellow band mates in “Wayward” decided I should be the front man for the band when we made the transition to a recording act. I had to figure out how to get comfortable talking to a crowd, and fast. I decided that acting coaching would help me with speaking, and with videos. I got bitten hard by the acting bug, but when we got immediate success upon the release of our first single “Sitting Pretty” it was clear to me that this was the wrong time to switch horses!
CMW: Your journey into music proved to be very successful, how did Thomas Wade and Wayward get their big break?
TW: Thomas Wade and Wayward never really got what you would call a “Big Break”. We were just a really good band, made up of really talented people, with extremely good harmonies. We had that “ghost voice” that comes when the blend is just so good that it sounds like more singers. We also had vision. We took care of all aspects of our career ourselves. By the time we were ready to release our first record we were already a very popular band, and unique with our stage presentation. Our first video (for Sitting Pretty) was shot at Lulu’s Roadhouse in Kitchener. If you watch that video you can see how many people came out to support us…it was a huge turnout. So, we just tried to do everything right, till we eventually got on the radio and CMT, and we were ready!
CMW: During the 90’s, you were one of the top featured country artists and labeled the “poster child” of the newly formed CMT Canada, scoring numerous top ten hits , picking up 7 awards along with being nominated 3 years in a row for Top Country Act at the CCMA’s for the years 1997 through to 1999 – what was it like during those early years for the band and how did you celebrate your success?
TW: To tell the truth, for me, it was a Roller-Coaster ride. It was exciting…at times overwhelming. I loved playing the big stages, and I loved making videos. It was rewarding, but I never really stopped to admire it. I would just finish one thing, think “Hmmm, That was good!” Then move on to the next thing. We had a number 1 video with “Lying Here With You” and I remember all of us sitting in front of the TV, not even knowing it was coming. We had “Hi-5s all around, then it was back to work…no number one party or anything! The other difficulty I faced was that by the time “Thomas Wade And Wayward” was released I was having problems with my voice. I would have to rest my voice for an entire day leading up to a show, leave it all out there on the stage at night, do the meet and greets, and the autograph lines, then I had to be quite again. Then I had surgery immediately after our CCMA performance in ’97. I loved it, and I wish I had taken the time to enjoy it more…but that’s what Roller-Coaster rides are all about!
CMW : Among the many great songs you wrote and recorded, “Sitting Pretty” remains one of my favorites, what is your personal favorite you recorded or to perform live?
TW: I think just for the pure high of the audience response, my favorite TW &W tune to perform live was “Lying Here With You”. The start of ” Lying Here” is just a piano part, and I still get chills when I think of the audience cheering and clapping before I even started singing. I really felt the audience with me during that song. After TW&W, I had a whole other record. I think my favorite to perform on that one was “Wild,Wild,Wild Ride” I had so much fun with the audience on that one…it was the first country/rap song after all, unless you count “Luke The Drifter”.(LOL)
CMW: A few little known facts about you, you were , for a few years the voice of the Lotto 649 commercials and you also had a song you wrote recorded by Canadian Icon Celine Dion, that is quite an accomplishment! How did your song get selected by the talented songstress ?
Yes, I did a ton of radio and television jingles through the 80s and early 90s, and the Lotto 649 were the biggest, and really the “tail end” of my jingle career. The Celine cut was a game changer for sure. It was one of those fluky things that happen…sort of a “right song, in the right place at the right time” kind of thing. Beverley had recorded “Come To Me” in demo form to go on her up-coming record, I guess it must have been early 2004, and she brought it to L.A to play for her friend and former producer, David Foster. He heard it, and basically ordered her to take it off her record! It was pretty amazing, and good timing for me, for sure.
CMW: Along with your upbeat, catchy songs you have written, you also have a knack for heartfelt ballads. “Lying Here With You” was perhaps your most requested song that hit home for a lot of people, and they related to it. Was that song drawn from a personal experience of yourself or someone you knew.
TW : Well, they do say that you have to write what you know, and I guess on some level I must have always known that I would have to learn some hard lessons in order to be a writer. That song…the opening sequence, pretty much all the imagery comes from real experience. I think I have enough of that experience now. Denise and I have been together 15 years, but I still had enough sad in the tank to write “Funny What Makes You Cry” for the new record. Actually, the video for that plays like “Lying here 2”
CMW : By the early 2000’s during a performance, you started to notice something was wrong with your vocals while you were singing, this continued to progress over time and ultimately ended your recording career. Can you explain this rare disease you were diagnosed with and how it’s progression eventually took away your ability to sing and speak.
TW : When it first started, it moved very slowly, and almost imperceptibly. Over many years in just got harder to sing. My voice lost power, and range gradually, then in late 2001 a strange sound started, a sound like I was singing and drowning at the same time. It was awful, and terrifying. Impossible to really explain except to say that it was like not being able to walk all of a sudden. By late 2002 I finally gave up. The doctors couldn’t give me any reason for what was happening to me.I retreated to being a producer/writer, but then I found out that the worst was yet to come. By 2004 I couldn’t pronounce certain vowels, and by 2005 I sounded like I had a stroke. There’s so much more detail to it, I would have to write a book to give the story justice.
CMW : You were initially told you never regain your speech again. This would be devastating news to an artist sitting at the top of their career. How did you get through the initial prognosis and overcome incredible odds, to not only speak freely, but also record music again!
TW: Yes, by 2006 I was officially diagnosed with Oromandibular Dystonia. (That’s the short form of the name!) And it is very rare, and considered to be incurable. It was easy to believe that because every time I opened my mouth I got the proof. Around 2010 I heard about a new concept called “Neuro-plasticity”, and started researching the connection between stress, trauma, and illness. I was also introduced to Hypno-therapy. (I’m a Hypnotist myself now!). When I first started improving a little, I knew I was on the right path. I just kept working on it until I got my voice back. And, incidentally, I am writing a book about it, so people will eventually get the whole story…hey, at least you know it has a happy ending!
CMW: If you could pick an artist to collaborate with today, who would that be?
TW: Well, I’m really sad that all the great producers I would have wanted to work with have passed away. Billy Sherrill was top of the list. I would also have loved to have some of the greats like Scotty Moore play on a record of mine. I’ve always been in love with Emmylou Harris. Denise knows the score there (lol). I feel like it would be really cool if I got to sing “Come To Me” with Celine Dion. There…if you’re gonna dream, dream big. I am also blessed to work with some of Canada’s best… I have been writing and performing with Jamie Warren, and Sean Hogan. Best of all, my younger brother Terry is in my band now! We have amazing talent right here at home. As for the Blue Country Soul Album itself, I was able to work with these talented individuals, John Dymond, Steve O’Connor, Gary Craig, Ali Raney ( of the Lovelocks) who all helped make this album possible.
CMW: Your new album, “Blue Country Soul” has a mix of very different music that you are known for in your early career. What was behind the decision to create an album of a completely different genre of music than what you are so well known for?
TW: Well, I think the most important part of who we become musically is who we love. I started playing music live when I was only 8. By 10 yrs old I was a musician. I had been loving and learning songs from the mid 60’s all of my life by then. If you listen to country at that time, the “Nashville Sound” was huge. All the way into the 70s. It was pretty much jazz at times. Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline both cross the line. Ray Price? Pretty much jazz in the 70s. Then, add in the Elvis I was marinated in, and you get pretty much what I’m made of. I have a ton more influences, but really at heart, the older songs have always been closest to me. It wasn’t so much a decision to record something that sounded old. It was my heart finding it’s reason to try again. If I had even thought about the charts, or radio programming again, I never would have found my way back to what I love. Just being a singer again.
CMW: In the song from your new release Blue Country Soul , the song “Funny What Makes You Cry” has a “Buble” kind of feel to it. A very romantic, big band style of song. I wouldn’t of imagined a mainstream country artist cutting a crooner inspired song,(Although artists today are experimenting different sounds in their music, which has found their way into the country music genre) but you have done an amazing job on it! Is this a style of music you have always wanted to record?
TW: Definitely. As I said, if you listen to “For The Good Times” by Ray Price, it’s all right there. Then there is the fact that my Mom sang songs like that. She was, and still is a great singer, and those are the kinds of songs she sang…Kay Starr, Patsy Cline, Theresa Brewer… I guess you could say I was “born this way” (is a Lady Gaga quote out of place in a country music interview? Lol)
CMW: The music industry has changed dramatically since your success in the late 1990’s, Has it been hard to transition from the way things operated then to today’s hectic and faced paced social media frenzy ?
TW: In a word…WOW. Things have changed so much. Actually, what has really changed is the delivery system. It has always been hard to get music on the radio, at least on a national or international level. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Music has always been somewhat “Youth-centric”, though country music hasn’t been until the last bunch of years. I am working on the basic principle that is still true, and always will be. When it comes down to it, a good song, and a performance will find it’s way. I believe I will find my audience, or they will find me if I just keep doing good stuff, and delivering the goods on stage. That hasn’t changed. Even the whole video thing. I never would have had the success I did without CMT. I had to find a way to afford to make videos, and so I learned how to do that. My new video for “Funny What Makes You Cry” will debut in celebration of the official release of “Blue Country Soul” on August 15th.
CMW: Where can we find you these days on social media Thomas and where can people find your new CD?
TW: My website is a great place to start. www.thomaswade.com . I am doing a Vlog called “the Blue Country Soul Café” which you can find on Facebook, and Twitter, as well as Thomas Wade’s Video Channel, and all my albums are available on iTunes. Wow, that’s a lot! Also, my new album has been released to non-commercial radio across Canada. I also have some very cool projects I am working on with some talented Canadians. A project called “Thomas Wade’s Jukebox 1959” will be coming to a town near you in 2017, and I will be touring this December with Sean Hogan and Jamie Warren with the “Canadian Country Christmas” tour. So, I am easy to find these days.
CMW: It has been a pleasure chatting with you Thomas ! Thank you for taking the time to tell your story!
Interview by: Trina Sampson