With over 4,000 shows under his belt, singer-songwriter Wade Bowen is a pillar in the Red Dirt music scene, a genre known for its authenticity and powerful storytelling. Wade was recently named Texas Male Vocalist of the Year by T3R Awards, along with several other recognitions. With his latest single, "Lovin' Not Leavin'," premiering today, he caught up with Wide Open Country to talk about the inspiration behind the song, his appreciation for the loyal region that has continuously fostered his career and his recent philanthropic efforts with the Bowen Family Foundation.
"Lovin' Not Leavin'" is described as "a typical Bowen song," where his signature style is distinct.
"I love these heartbreak, mid-tempo songs that kind of start off slow, and then just jam at the end," Wade tells Wide Open Country. "I love producing these kinds of songs, writing these songs - this song really represents who I am."
The track delves into Wade's early days, a time marked by a "cowboy way of life." It's meant to reflect the challenges faced by musicians who are constantly on the road and relationships with those close to them, often proving difficult to maintain.
"We're not probably the easiest to be in a relationship with, probably not the easiest to settle down and to be with," Bowen says. "And when you find a woman that makes you want to settle down, slow down and stop... that's a pretty remarkable woman, in my opinion."
The song, co-written by Hall of Fame songwriter, Casey Beathard, was heavily influenced by Wade's marriage with wife, Shelby, and her support of his free-spirited lifestyle. When Beathard brought the song idea to him, Wade knew it was one he could personally relate to.
"I was just like, 'That's exactly my wife,'" he says. "She's always very strong about it. Having that [with her] is really inspiring, and it's really, really, crazy to me that she puts up with what she does."
Known for his collaborations with both established and up and coming country artists, Wade emphasized the importance of "leav[ing] your ego at the door."
"I love to co-write, that's when you have good ideas, and you get the opportunity to write with somebody like Casey, I mean, you want to bring your best. You want to bring your A game," Wade Bowen explained.
"I've been writing songs for a long time, but I really pride myself on never being arrogant about it and never assuming that I know more than the other person in the room, no matter who it is," he said. "I obviously have a better idea [now] of what I want to write and what I want to put on records, but that doesn't change the fact that I still want to learn from great songwriters, and Casey is one of the best around."
The new song pushes the boundaries of his vocal range. When asked about this decision, he explained that pushing his limits is essential to his artistic growth.
"I think that's the only way to get better," Wade says, "to kind of throw yourself in shark-infested waters and swim your way out. I just always want to continue to do that and then never settle."
Wade's extensive fan base, especially in Texas, has grown over the years. He highlights the strength of the Red Dirt community, a place where artists from various sub-genres can come together and collaborate.
"Good music is good music no matter where it's made," he says. "The so-called Red Dirt Texas thing, whatever the heck people call it right now, it's just as diverse as it's ever been. I'm not sure that anybody really knows what the Texas Red Dirt scene is anymore other than the fact that it's a group of guys that all have friendships and camaraderie that's very unique to the scene. And I think that's probably the biggest strength of it all - just the support that we have with each other."
Wade's collaborative spirit extends beyond his music. He is actively involved in giving back to the community through the Bowen Family Foundation, something he started in his hometown of Waco, Texas that has exponentially grown since being founded in 2013.
"We just recently did an event where we raised close to a million dollars. And that's a huge deal for a little organization like us," he says. "It's hard to even believe I'm saying that - a million dollars that we raised in just two days, it's remarkable."
The foundation's motto centers on helping children and families in need and supports a wide range of charitable endeavors. They encourage organizations to submit proposals and requests for funding through their website. "We pride ourselves on being able to get to multiple charities, not just one or two," Wade says, "but we're just the ones raising the money, the real warriors and the real heroes are the ones that are in the trenches working, keeping people alive every day, and that's where the money is going. We're just receiving [it], but they're really doing the work."
Looking ahead, Wade remains enthusiastic about the future and being able to produce new music regularly.
"We're going to continue doing what we've been doing the last couple of years — lots and lots of new music," he says. "It's been really fun for me, and I hope it's been fun for [the fans]." He also hinted at more "Hold My Beer" projects in the pipeline with his longtime friend and fellow singer-songwriter, Randy Rogers, and his excitement about the diversity within the country music landscape.
"I think you're seeing [the range] with these Billboard charts and they're so popular right now with Zack Bryan and all these [mainstream] country artists. I think there's a lot of good in all of [the diversity]," Wade says, "and that's a strength [country music] has right now."
"Country music has never been afraid to talk about real situations and real things in life. And I think it's still the case today, it's as strong as ever. Country music is the premier genre for talking about real life."
Wade's journey in music is one marked by authenticity, collaboration, and a commitment to making a positive impact on the world. As he continues to create, collaborate, and give back, his music and philanthropic efforts are sure to continue to resonate with audiences way beyond just the Red Dirt scene.