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HomeEntertainmentWade Bowen Enlists Troy Aikman for New Album 'Flyin': Listen

Wade Bowen Enlists Troy Aikman for New Album ‘Flyin’: Listen

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Wade Bowen never stopped pouring his heart out in his songs. What’s different about him after 25-plus years of music is the amount of joy in those pours.

“We’re having so much fun playing music, we’re having so much fun writing songs and recording,” Bowen tells Rolling Stone. “I feel like we’re in this amazing groove right now, and I feel like we need to keep the pedal down.”

Bowen is talking about Flyin, his latest record, out now. But he is also talking about his world at the moment. Long known for love ballads and some of the saddest songs in modern Texas music — when a heart breaks in a Wade Bown song, it shatters like a plate-glass window in a hailstorm — his 10th studio album is layered with optimism, even in the ballads. It reflects a contentment Bowen has with his writing and recording that he never really showed even when he had major-label backing more than a decade ago.

“We always joke around that a songwriter’s favorite song is always the last one they wrote, or an artist’s favorite record is always the last one they make,” Bowen says. “So I won’t bore people by saying this one is mine. But I feel like there’s an energy to this record that I’ve never really had in a project before. There’s something, to me, that’s different and really kind of flies out of the speakers. That includes the slow songs, not just the up-tempo ones.”

Bowen co-wrote nine of the 12 tracks on the album, including its first single, “Raining on Me,” a co-write with Randy Montana that dropped in March. That song — an up-tempo, classically-country sounding tune about questioning the end of a relationship — is a striking example of Bowen injecting a degree of hope into the music this time around. The follow-up and current single, the ballad “Mary Jane,” does more of the same. It’s a slow-dance number about a bar encounter, with the singer hopeful that a dance with an old friend may spark a relationship.

The most unique track on Flyin, however, is “Friday Night,” a Chase Bryant-penned song about high school football that features Troy Aikman narrating a faux game-winning touchdown as its intro. Bowen, an unabashed sports fan who swears by the Dallas Cowboys and his college alma mater, the Texas Tech Red Raiders, was stopped cold when he first heard it.

“I was driving in my truck, and Brock — my son — plays high school football,” he says. “I had just dropped him off for football, and I get this song sent to me. I just went, ‘Oh my gosh, this song is reading my thoughts.’ It brought back this flood of memories from when I played high school football.

“I’ve been lucky to become friends with Troy over the last few years. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. I said, ‘Any interest in being a high school football announcer for this track?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely.’ He was so gracious. He sent us a bunch of different tracks. And here I am thinking how this is the guy who I had posters of on my wall as a kid, and here he is about to be on my record. It’s pretty amazing, man.”

Bowen discussed all this shortly before taking the stage at the Texas Theater in downtown Waxahachie, Texas, in April. The theater holds fewer than 200 people, making it an underplay for Bowen, but the building’s brick walls and small-town main-street setting captivated the artist even before he took the stage.

“We don’t get to play beautiful rooms like this very often, so I thought I’d start out tonight with the truth,” Bowen told the crowd before kicking off with an acoustic version of his 2022 duet with Vince Gill, “A Guitar, a Singer, and a Song.” He was suddenly in his element. His set, usually 90 minutes, clocked in at nearly two-and-a-half hours when the lights came back on.

At one point, he shouted out Chris Stapleton — Bowen’s co-writer on “Til it Does,” which he sang as a duet with Randy Rogers on the 2015 co-branded album Hold My Beer, Vol. 1. “I’m very proud of Chris Stapleton and all his success. He really is one of the finest human beings around, and this is stone-cold, beer-drinking country music,” he said as his band played the intro.

During his encore, a young female fan held up a sign that said “Sun Shines on a Dreamer” is her softball walk-up song, and Bowen called her onstage, with the sign, to dance as he sang it to her. “What a great room,” he said before walking off.

Such intimate shows are rare for Bowen, whose usual headlining concerts are large theaters or clubs, and has played on a handful of arena stages opening for Koe Wetzel over the past year. Over Memorial Day weekend, he’ll do three nights ahead of Miranda Lambert at Whitewater Amphitheater in his hometown of New Braunfels, Texas. Lambert and Bowen have been friends since they both toiled in tiny Texas bars in the early 2000s, and they occasionally write and play together too. For her part, Lambert believes Bowen deserves a fan base that rivals her own.

“I think Wade Bowen is one of the best to ever do this,” Lambert says. “Not only is he a long-time friend of mine, but he is a hero. His voice brings out every emotion that he is trying to get across in the songs. His songwriting cuts to the bone when it needs to but also is a hell of a good time. He’s one of my favorites.”

Flyin is Bowen’s 10th studio album, and a quick turnaround by his standards from Somewhere Between the Secret and the Truth, which he released in summer 2022. Bowen estimates he brought 30 to 40 songs to the table for Flyin, and says the current state of music is such that his only path forward is turning out songs and records.

“It just seems like we write as much as possible, and put stuff out as quick as possible,” Bowen says. “It feels like that is what people want nowadays, you know? I don’t know why that is, but the attention spans of people are a little quicker than they used to be. In the early stages of my career, you could live off a record for two years. Those days are gone.”

Bowen self-produced the album. It’s the second time he’s gone that route, but the first since his friend and one-time producer, Keith Gattis, passed away in 2023. Gattis’s death hit Bowen especially hard, but he realizes his friend left a permanent mark.

“There was this chip-on-your-shoulder attitude that he always carried, and I liked it,” Bowen says. “I liked that badass sort of attitude. I liked his wild-card sense of humor. You never knew what he was gonna say. You never knew what he was gonna do. But, yet, if you needed him, he would be there.

“I carry a lot from him. I do wish I had more time. I think our friendship was just starting to really flourish and take off as friends and buddies. I would have loved to have seen the things we were gonna do together.”

If you were to say Bowen, at 46, is in his prime, he wouldn’t argue. But he also recognizes he does not have the luxury of the social media engagement that country artists half his age have found. He’s not from the TikTok era, so there’s little chance his music goes viral. He’s hoping the effort he’s putting in to record and tour is enough. Either way, he’s glad to be putting in the work.

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“I’m a hard-working guy, and a guy who takes a lot of pride in that,” Bowen says. “Yeah, I feel like right now, I’m probably working too hard. But I’m having fun. As long as I’m doing that, and not feeling like I’m miserable or something, then why not do it?”

Josh Crutchmer is a journalist and author whose third book, Red Dirt Unplugged, is set for release on December 13, 2024, via Back Lounge Publishing.

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