Sunday, 15 February, 2009 12:47 PM
Jimmy Wayne: Believe Him Now
by Kristin Barlowe
Music Co. recording artist Jimmy Wayne
2008 CMA Close Up News Service
Fame is elusive. Once
found, it can be fleeting. And when lost, it's hard to get back
to where you were before you had won the world's attention. For
Jimmy Wayne, that's only part of the story. Before signing with
DreamWorks Records in 2001, survival was a more pressing concern
than daydreaming about success. His childhood in North Carolina
was a nightmare of poverty, violence and abandonment. Yet he rose
from these dismal beginnings with music as his lifeline, and on
the basis of his promise as a singer and writer, Scott Borchetta,
who was then Senior Director, Radio Promotions and Marketing at
DreamWorks, offered the young artist a record deal.
Wayne reciprocated with
a self-titled album, from which four singles were released, one
of which, "Stay Gone," peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard
Hot Country Songs chart. The media noticed, as USA Today heralded
Wayne as one of the "Next Big Things" in music and People
included him on its list of "Sexiest Singers" of 2003.
Yet when DreamWorks folded, these developments seemed doomed to
become a few more footnotes in a litany of lost opportunities and
Luckily, things played
out far better than that. Borchetta, having moved on to found Big
Machine Records, welcomed Wayne onto its roster and then, with greater
success, to join Jewel on the new The Valory Music Co. record label.
Once again, the artist paid back Borchetta's trust and faith, this
time by delivering an album whose title track, "Do You Believe
Me Now," rocketed to a two-week stay at the top of the Billboard
There are at least two
big reasons why Wayne has reclaimed his place in the spotlight.
The first, his talent as a writer and singer, is evident throughout
Do You Believe Me Now, produced by Mark Bright, Joe West and Dave
Wayne co-wrote five tracks,
their subject matters varying yet each one - the painfully personal
"Kerosene Kid," the romantically yearning Patty Loveless
duet "No Good for Me," his rhythmically infectious and
affirmative performance with John Oates of Hall and Oates on "Where
You're Going" and the rest - share a quality of emotional directness
that complements the accessibility of the music.
Equally important is
how the lessons Wayne learned as a child translated into a combination
of determination, realism - and, he candidly admits, an element
of fear - that have brought him one more time from the valley and
back to the summit of Country Music.
"There was a time
I thought, 'What if? I'm not giving up, but what if they have? What
am I going to do?'" Wayne mused. "It's hard, man, when
you're not having any action, to get people on the same page with
you, because it's a business. I understand that. I've experienced
the phone not ringing and having to call people seven or eight times
before they call you back. Some never call back. There was a lot
of disappointment. But I got it finished. So in a nutshell, this
album stands for believing in yourself and not giving up."
Too often in recent years,
when a label has gone out of business many of its artists have disappeared
along with it. What made it possible for Wayne to avoid that fate?
"It's simple," Borchetta said. "He's a great artist.
He's always been one of the best Country soul singers we've had,
since he got to Nashville. But more than that, he kept digging.
He would get up and go to work every day, whether it was going and
listening to a song, writing a song, doing his charity. He was unflinching
in his determination. And if he was going down, he was going down
"I guess the first
thing is that you simply don't give up," Wayne concurred. "I
didn't see the end coming when I was at DreamWorks because I was
new, I was green and I didn't understand the business. We had momentum.
Things were going well. We were selling records. And then one day,
I remember, they said, 'The label has been sold.' I was thinking
it was just kind of a lateral move; we'd keep moving forward. But
that didn't happen."
Wayne had been in similar
positions before, when one after another escape from the desperation
of his early years slammed shut. As a result, he was more equipped
to deal with this development than many others in the business might
have been. But he benefitted as well from what he had accomplished
through the success of that first album - not necessarily in terms
of sustaining his visibility in the media but through the connections
he had made with people who knew his story and had faith in his
ability to keep going.
"I was getting mail
from fans," he remembered. "They told me their stories.
I remembered that 8-year-old boy who came up to me and told me,
'My dad's gone too.' Just that was enough for me to know that I'm
supposed to be doing this."
And so, just as he had
done when having to fend for himself at age 10, Wayne did what he
had to do. He filled his schedule as much as possible with charity
shows. And from those performances, he accepted opportunities that
came his way, even if they involved the kinds of gigs that only
beginning artists might be expected to accept.
"There was always
somebody in the audience who would ask if I sang at weddings,"
he said, laughing. "And they'd hire me. Brian McCann, the catcher
for the Atlanta Braves, called me to sing at his wedding, and I
did. Debbie Parsley [Events Entertainment Manager at the Country
Music Hall of Fame and Museum] had me come and do writers' nights.
Gina Keltner [Talent Coordinator at the Grand Ole Opry] helped me
out so much too. I'll never forget those people."
There's a moral here
for young artists who find themselves professionally adrift. "Don't
lie around," Wayne said. "Don't wait for the business
to come to you. The longer you're gone, the harder it is to come
Having friends who can
offer a hand makes a difference too. Borchetta was one such friend.
And as luck would have it, Wayne came across the song "Do You
Believe Me Now," written by West, Pahanish and Tim Johnson
just a month before receiving Borchetta's invitation to switch from
Big Machine to The Valory Music Co. With both a single and a record
label he believed in, his timing could not have been better.
It was a good match all
around. At long last, Wayne has indeed "come home." But
in a strange way, as he looks ahead, this good fortune poses another
new challenge: With his past having fueled much of his writing and
contributed to the intensity of his performance as a singer, how
will he keep the inspiration burning through a more sanguine and
"I write best when
there's some drama going on," he agreed. "So I don't want
to ever get too comfortable. When you get too comfortable, you lose
perspective. I'm a songwriter for a reason. I want to continue helping
people through my music, but I'm also working for that day when
I can leave the drama behind."
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