ost country fans know Columbia recording artist Wade Hayes from his number one hits, "Old Enough To Know Better," "I'm Still Dancin' With You," and his current hit, "What I Meant To Say," off his debut album "Old Enough To Know Better."
However, the deep-voiced 26-year-old's history runs much deeper than that.
Growing up in Bethel Acres, Okla. laid a strong foundation for Hayes' country roots.
Adding to the foundation was the fact that his father, Don Hayes, was a professional musician who performed in honky tonks in and around his home town.
Following in his father's footsteps, literally, Wade joined his father in the honky tonks as a guitarist and background vocalist at the ripe old age of 14. After graduating high school, Hayes attended three different Oklahoma colleges, but the attraction to music proved too strong.
According to Hayes, the turning point in his life came while watching Ricky Skaggs on the 1991 CMA Awards show telecast. "Out of the clear blue, he said, 'All of you young musicians that are struggling with your art, you need to go ahead and pursue it because that's what you're called to do.
I knew when he said that, I was meant to hear it," Hayes said.
So in 1992, he headed to Nashville, where his first real break came the following year when country star Johnny Lee hired him as his lead guitarist. Subsequently, word got out about his singing and playing abilities, and he found himself doing songwriter demos in the studio.
Hayes released his debut disc in 1994 and cut his sophomore album in November.The disc is slated to be released in March or April.
How were you "discovered"?
That's a pretty interesting story.
My songwriting partner (is) Chick Rains. I had been recommended to play guitar on a demo session for him. I'd never met him before, and so we met and became friends. I played the session for him, and we started writing songs together. Afterwards we wrote "I'm Still Dancing With You." That's the first song we wrote together. He took me to Don Cook (producer for Brooks & Dunn, the Mavericks, and Mark Collie), and within about 72 hours, I had a record deal and a publishing deal. It blew my mind.
Who are some of your influences?
My three main fellas. That's Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. They were my favorites. Although I've always been into Gary Stewart and Gene Watson.
You wrote some great songs on the first album. How many will you pen for the second album?
I would expect three or four, just like the first album. Rather than me write all the songs, I'd rather get the best songs I could. It's not imperative that I write all the songs.
Being a new act is so demanding. How do you find time to write?
To be honest with you, I haven't. This year has been so hard to write. I've only written three songs at the most this year so far. I've got four or five about half way finished. I just need to find the time to finish them. It's really difficult.
When it comes to make the album, how much freedom do you have?
I have plenty of freedom. It's a team effort though. I don't trust myself enough to make a decision on my own. It's a team effort between Chick Rains (his co-producer), Don Cook (his other co-producer) and myself. We're a team. If we all three feel strongly about something, we know we've got something.
With all the acts out today, is it difficult being the new guy?
It really hasn't been for me. The guys I've been picking with like Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, and Joe Diffie and Tracy Lawrence, they've been so good to me and just treated me like a friend.
They've been real patient with me and helped me in every way they could. They've been wonderful. I can't say enough good things about them because they've been so good to me.
I'm sure that a lot of acts will agree that the sophomore album can make or break an act. Are you nervous about the sophomore jinx?
It's about to worry me sick. I just really feel like I'm not going to put an album out there that I'm not proud of. All I can do is give it my best shot.
How would you describe your style?
It's like a modern traditional sound. If that makes any sense. The old style is the only thing I've ever cared about musically. I try to emulate that sound, but with a modern twist to it.
You've been called one of country's newest hunks. How do you feel about that?
I sure don't get that. It's very flattering, I'll say that. I certainly don't take it to heart though. I have to look at myself every morning in the mirror and personally I don't see it. It's wonderful that people feel that way about me.
You spend a lot of time on the road. How do you like being on the bus that much?
I would rather be on a bus than anywhere. Honest to goodness. Oklahoma was where I was born and raised, but Nashville is my home now. Well, actually the bus is my home. I can sleep on the bus better than I can at home. If the bus isn't moving and the generator is on, you can forget about me. I just love that hum, and it's always comfortable.