Fort Worth singer Luke Wade took America by storm when he wowed the coaches on NBC’s The Voice with his rendition of Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” He hopes to do so again tonight (Oct. 13), when he faces off against fellow Team Pharrell member Griffin in the Battle Rounds, singing Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
Wade sat down with us to talk about his decision to audition for the competition, why he chose Pharrell as his coach and what he thinks about the new fans who’ve come out to see him since his audition.
CultureMap: Some musicians look down on trying to find success through reality music competitions. How did you know this was the right decision for you?
Luke Wade: That’s not really the way I think about it. What makes you successful is doing your best toward every opportunity that’s presented to you. If it’s something that’s positive, you should use it.
“I don’t believe in the idea that you’re too good for something,” Wade says.
I don’t believe in the idea that you’re too good for something. Within the indie culture, because it’s so hard to survive, you kind of have this hardened, independent musician mentality that “I’m going to do it myself. If it’s too easy, then it’s the wrong way.”
The truth is that there’s no easy way. Even being on the show, if you look at the track record and the way it works, you get on there and you get your few minutes of fame and then you leave. And if you’re really smart and you’re really resourceful and you work really hard, you can turn it into something that’s sustained.
Right now, I’m on a wave. It’s really fun and it’s really awesome, but if I want it to be something that follows me for the rest of my career in a positive way, I have a whole lot of really hard work set out for me.
CM: What did your bandmates think about your decision to go on the show?
LW: They were completely supportive. I think that one of the things that makes music worth doing is doing it with your friends and making it with people you care about and who care about you. That’s the environment that I’ve created for myself.
Everyone that I play music with, they don’t just believe in my music, they don’t just come for the paycheck — they believe in me and what I do. So they want to help and be a part of it in any way they can. I think that regardless of whether they reap the financial benefits, they see success for me as success for them.
CM: Take us behind the scenes a little. What was the process from deciding to audition to actually getting in front of the coaches and wowing them?
LW: I had a couple of mentors in terms of the show. There’s a group called Dawn and Hawkes who were on season 6 of The Voice. I was really excited for them and I was able to follow their journey. I was approached about auditioning, and I asked them about it. They said that it was great and they had nothing but good things to say about the experience, so I hopped on board.
“I want to win America — I don’t want to just win the show,” Wade says.
I was a little hesitant; I had nothing to lose, but I’ve worked really hard for a really long time to get where I was in the music industry, and I didn’t want to do anything to affect that in a negative way. But by the time it was my turn to hop out in front of the coaches and give my blind audition, I’d met the production staff and the other contestants, and I found out that it was really wonderfully nurturing environment where no one wanted you to do anything other than succeed.
That’s just the way the show is, and I think that’s why it’s so successful.
CM: Why did you choose Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” for your audition? Did you know you’d be able to crush it the way you did?
LW: The thing I really like about that song is that if you just write the words from that song down on a piece of paper, it’s not really going to do anything for anybody. It’s a balloon with no air. It has that hook that you say over and over again, and you have to re-attack it and re-approach it every time you sing it in order to just affect people.
And I knew that it’s a very artist-dependent song. What I mean by that is that if the wrong person sings it, it ceases to be a good song. I wanted that challenge and I wanted the opportunity to inject myself into a song and make it mine. I don’t feel like it’s the best song, but it was the best song to show people that I could take a song and make it better and make people feel something with it.
Whenever I was thinking about performing that song, I was thinking about showing America and showing the audience and the coaches, “This is how strong my passion is for singing music and making music and sharing a message and a feeling with people.” I found that all of those aspects and elements combined created an amazing first impression for the people that are watching, from my perspective.
CM: You chose Pharrell as your coach. Do you think you could have gone wrong if you had chosen any of the other coaches?
LW: Oh, absolutely not. I would be humbled and honored to work with any of the coaches. And as I said on the show, they’ve all made something that has moved me in some way. They’re all pros, and they’re all genuinely kind, respectful people who treat their team members well and genuinely want to make people better.
I do think that maybe people’s agendas are a little bit different. I think that Adam and Blake are very personally competitive. There’s a little bit of ego to that, and I think that what I was looking for was someone who was going to help me show America my voice and show them who I am and who I want to represent myself as, and not necessarily the thing that’s going to work best to win the show.
I want to win America — I don’t want to just win the show.
CM: Do you have any expectations about new fans showing up to your concerts because of your time on The Voice?
LW: I don’t know if “expectations” is the right word, but I know that there’s a combination of things happening right now. Having been working hard for 10-plus years, I’ve gotten in front of a lot of people. There are a lot of people who have believed in me and have loved what I’ve done who may have moved on to other things and forgot about what I’m doing who have been re-energized.
Then there are the new people who have been exposed to me through the show. And so the combination of all those things has changed my life, probably forever.