As an avid supporter of female singers and songwriters, I always pay attention to emerging new artists. When I listened to Morgan Wade’s music, I liked her immediately because she was different, and that I found her music refreshing.
There is an edge to Wade’s country, rock and pop vocals that sets her apart. And the lyrics to her songs are not that of some bubble gum pop-country princess, but someone who has been there, done that, struggled, and come out stronger in the long run.
Morgan Wade hails from Floyd, Virginia, a place where bluegrass reigns supreme.
“That was my first introduction to any kind of music,” Wade said. “My grandfather would go up to the Floyd Country Store, where people would get together in the store and play out in the streets. I remember going up there on Friday nights, falling asleep on his lap listening to bluegrass.”
Though she doesn’t play bluegrass, she knows that is where her roots are.
Wade started writing songs as a young girl primarily for herself.
“I didn’t think anybody would like it because I didn’t have any confidence. But it was good for me,” she said. “It helped me to be authentic. If you don’t think anyone else is going to read, you write whatever you want.”
As a freshman in college, she initially wanted to become a physician’s assistant. But she went through a breakup, and to woo her musician-boyfriend back, she formed a band by soliciting members from Craigslist and started playing live music.
The band, originally called the Stepbrothers, eventually dissolved.
“Three years ago, I finally made the decision that you can either play music full-time or you can work a job full-time, but you can’t do both,” Wade said. “I decided to dedicate my life to [music,] and it’s the best decision I ever made.
Wade recently did a three-song set on CBS Saturday Sessions. With accolades from Rolling Stone, American Songwriter and Billboard, it is evident that making music her forever career was a great decision.
The tattooed-covered songstress is a bit different than the normal Nashville “good girl” looking to make it big.
“I’m not a Barbie Doll, and I’m singing about addiction and stuff that I don’t hear a lot of females singing about,” Wade said. “But that’s me, and I am not going to try to be something that I am not.”
At 26, Wade said she is now four years sober.
“My introduction to music was also my introduction to alcohol,” she said. “Those first shows you start playing, half the time you are not getting paid, but you get a bar tab. I took advantage of that, and alcohol gave me liquid courage to get up and perform.”
At one point she played a show in New York and drank more that evening than she ever had before. When she woke up the next morning with no recollection of the night before, she knew she had to stop.
“I know I’m that person who can’t have any kind of drugs and alcohol. I have an addictive personality,” she said.
Wade was fortunate enough to meet Sadler Vaden, longtime guitarist for Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, several years back. After watching one of her performance videos, he called her up and took her under his wings.
“We just clicked and went down to Nashville,” she said. “He was the first person I ever co-wrote with. Before I met Sadler, I didn’t have a manager, a publicist, I had nothing. When I started working with him that’s when everything began falling in place.“
Vaden and Grammy-winning Paul Ebersold became producers of her debut record, Reckless.
Wade’s full-length debut, Reckless, is a confident rock-and-roll record that introduces a young singer-songwriter who is embracing her strengths and quirks as she continues to ask questions about who she is – and who she wants to be.
“This is different than anything I’ve ever done before,” she said of the record. “It’s opened up a bunch of different lanes – and I’m proud of it. A lot of the songs are about figuring out what the hell I’m doing.” Wade said. “Maybe record No. 2 will be a little bit more about knowing who I am.”
Wade released the official music video for “Wilder Days,” a fan favorite that many connect to. It’s the story of meeting a person you really like but at the wrong time. “And now here we go / You got me falling in love again/ You gotta secret, I wanna keep it / I wish I’d known you in your wilder days.”
With Wade’s sultry-Southern accent and Vaden’s rock-and-roll sensibility, they created a unique compilation of soul-baring, country-roots tunes that as BroBible said, “carries an authenticity into the new-school country music that genre severely lacks.”
Rolling Stone observed the song, “Last Cigarette,” has an “earworm hook” that “would be right at home with mainstream country’s biggest streaming hits.”
With other memorable tracks like “The Night” and “Don’t Cry” the artist admits to constant temptation from booze and pills but then she comes full circle as she continues to heal from her painful past.
Like so many, COVID-19 came at a time Wade’s star was beginning to rise. But she saw it as a mixed blessing.
“I feel like I thrived more during the pandemic, and my career has done better by being at home. Personally, I needed a little bit of time to sit,” Wade said.
Nevertheless, they had to push the record back to March.
“I think having that time to sit and push other things, work on getting my following up,” Wade said. “It’s hard to do during a pandemic, but everyone was home sitting on the internet, streaming more music. Honestly, it really helped me.”
Although Reckless was created for radio, the record somehow holds onto Wade’s live-show edginess while she remains true to herself throughout its entirety, a feat that rarely happens.
The singer and songwriter has a publishing deal with Universal Publishing, but she still mostly writes for herself.
Her unique style and honesty are what draw the listener to her music.
“I don’t know that I set out to be different,” she said. “I am who I am and I think that I am going to continue to do what I want to. I feel like a lot of people get a little bit of success and try to conform to what they think people want. As long as I stay true to who I am, being authentic; I will always be different.”
Now that people are coming out of the pandemic, she has emerged with more fans than ever and has many shows booked across the country.
In the meantime, follow Morgan Wade on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and all streaming platforms.
Bethany Bowman is a freelance entertainment writer. Follow her blog and her on Instagram and Twitter.