By Steve Watkins
Last Monday's premiere of The Voice introduced the world to Luke Wade, a voice already familiar with fans all over North Central Texas. At least six separate watch parties were underway in various area venues where Wade has been a regular performer. Although a native of Dublin, Wade made his bones in the Fort Worth music scene. He fell in with a close-knit group of performers that included local music heroes Josh Weathers, Nick Choate, Sam Anderson of Quaker City Nighthawks and Jordan Richardson of Son of Stan (just to name a few).
"It's like trying to drive in a snowstorm. There is just so much coming at you, you can't see any of it, really," Wade says, reflecting on his newfound fame at a Fort Worth coffee shop. He seems tired and a little overwhelmed from the recent flood of attention he's received. "There's just so much happening that I don't really get to actively involve myself in it, "he adds. "Interacting with people who want to interact with me, I think that's a positive thing, and I've been spending time on Twitter trying to thank people."
Back In 2010 I asked Wade about how he convinced himself that people would want hear he what he had to say, and he told me that he assumed they didn't -- but he was going to play for them anyway. People certainly do want to hear his music now.
"Obviously," Wade says, "as you work hard on something ... you get better at it. That's part of it, but I think that a lot of it is a philosophical and mindset change. When I first started out I was very self-important, and I thought it was all about me." But, he says, in the time since that conversation he came to realize was than just about him, or even but pandering to an audience. It's a shared experience. "The reason that social media has taken over the world is that people like to feel like they are part of something. People don't like feeling alone. Music is the first and the best at showing people that not only are they are not alone; they are not alone in the way they feel."
Wade was invited to audition for The Voice and encouraged to do so by his friends Dawn and Hawkes (who were on in season six). Initially, he went into it just for the experience, expecting to be eliminated early on. He has nothing but good things to say about the show.
"They care about the contestants." Wade explains. "They want you to succeed. It feels really natural, because you are just being pushed through this process and they're capturing it. It doesn't feel like everything is being done for TV. The process is for them to make you the best singer that you can be."
Rather than washing out, Wade found himself being fought over by all four coaches and Adam Levine having what People.com referred to as a Tom Cruise moment.
"It took a solid 30 seconds to really register that it had happened," Wade admits. "When I perform, the music is primary ... the coaches were just kind of part of the audience. I knew that at least one of them had turned around because I saw the lights, but I didn't look at them or perform to them. And so when it was done, I looked and I saw that they had turned around, and Adam started talking. Initially, it was like an out-of-body experience."
Wade says the decision on which coach to go with was a difficult one. He felt some obligation to Levine due to his enthusiasm, and despite Wade's warning, Wadee did look into coach Gwen Stefani's eyes. But he eventually decided on Pharrell Williams.
"In the end," Wade says, "in order for any of the coaches to win, I have to win. What Pharrell was saying was closest to the way that I feel like I'm going to be successful on the show. People watch TV; robots don't watch TV, so the more human and the more myself I'm allowed to be throughout this process, the more that I'm going to connect with the audience."
Wade is not one to sit back and wait for success to be dropped in his lap. Now back in Fort Worth, he is playing gigs with his band No Civilians and hosting his own songwriter competition at Queen City Music Hall on Sundays.
"The first revelation I had," Wade says, "was that there is no rocket ship that is going to come grab you and take you to the next place. And that you had to have a game plan, and you have to do your best to execute it. Not only is the rocket ship not going to take you to the top, it's not going to take you anywhere. You have to make a move."
Choate, who produced and played on Luke's last two albums, has watched his evolution as a performer over the last seven years.
"Luke works his butt off," Choate insists. "Ever since I've met him, he's had his eye on the future. He's able to see what's coming next, and do whatever it takes to become what he needs to become to make it happen. He's smart enough to surround himself with people that push him, but has a strong enough sense of self to stand his ground and fight for what he believes is right."