INTERVIEW: Jimmy Wayne Backstage CMA Fest 2009

Jimmy Wayne took a few moments to speak to the press before hitting the stage at the 2009 CMA Music Festival at LP Field.

Q: I want to ask about your memories of your first CMA Music Fest or Fan Fair. Talk about the differences and what was so cool about that time.

JIMMY WAYNE: I drove in from North Carolina in an old pickup truck. It had an engine block in the back and a bicycle just in case the truck broke down. I remember pulling into a friend’s driveway and he said “let’s go to Fan Fair”. We went down to the fair grounds and I remember standing there as a spectator just watching the artist on stage, I forget who it was at that time. I remember saying to myself “one day, I hope to be up there playing”. It was always a dream of mine and here I am today actually getting a chance to stand on this stage for the first time in eleven years, since that day I moved to Nashville. I am getting that opportunity to walk out on that stage and play my songs for 60,000 people. It is going to be amazing.

Q: You are out on your first major tour with Brad Paisley. Can you tell us what that is

JIMMY WAYNE: Coincidentally, we opened the tour in my home town. It wasn’t necessarily planned that way by my team but when we looked at the calendar, it said Charlotte, North Carolina. I was “WOW, this is so weird because it is my hometown”. So we utilized that time, we filmed a live video for the new single that is out, “I’ll Be That”. I remember walking out on stage; I was so emotional. Walking out there and seeing those familiar faces, family, friends, school teachers, students from college, and knowing that it is my home town and that it is my first time ever to be on a major tour in eleven years. There is a first time for everything. It seems like this is a “first time” for a lot of things in this week.

Q: CMA Music Fest is doing a lot to try to attract a lot of Nashvillians to this show. There are a lot more free stages, Riverfront stages are free this year. Since you live here, why is that important for locals to come to CMA Music Fest.

JIMMY WAYNE: There are a lot of folks that are use to this and it is like when you live here, you don’t get out. They should take a vacation and come downtown and hang out with us. I think it is important for them to get out and realize this is going on downtown.

Q: You are very active in keeping in touch with your fans via your posts online with your cell phone.There are very interesting photos of you in bed, by the pool. How do you decide what to post?

JIMMY WAYNE: Sometimes it is a mistake. You can’t erase a photo once it is up there and I have been called by the record label multiple times for putting up stuff. For instance, “Hey guys this is what it looks like when I am not in my underwear” and I put up a picture of my underwear. It got millions of hits though. I think instead of having MySpace and Facebook pages, where you actually have to log in, you actually can use your phone. It is real time and I want to bring the fans closer in to where I am on the road, sometimes I am in the airport laying on the floor. I am like “you gotta see this”, click and I send it and it reaches everyone all over the world and they can actually be with you at all times. I think it is fun for the artist.

Q: Would you be up for a reality show?

JIMMY WAYNE: Yes, I would. It has to be funny though. Everyone thinks I am so serious and I’m not.

Q: What is the strangest thing you been asked to autograph

JIMMY WAYNE: It is not really strange but I was asked to sign an egg. You always get asked to sign boobs but I don’t sign boobs, money or flags.

Q: You helped collect instruments earlier today. Can you talk a little about that charity and why you help it?

JIMMY WAYNE: When I was a teenager, I saw a convict from a local prison come to our school. He was on a “Think Smart” program. “Think Smart” was stay off drugs, don’t be like me. He got up and told his story and played a guitar. I remember looking around the audience and I thought to myself, “wow, that is exactly what I want to do” with the exception of going to prison. That weekend, I stopped at a yard sale on my way to work at a textile factory and I bought this $40 Harmony guitar. I went home and taught myself some chords that night and I never stopped. I hired a great guitar teacher here in Nashville by the name of Ellen Britton-she is awesome. Today I went out there to gather some instruments for less fortunate kids in the communities around here that are not fortunate enough to be able to buy the instruments. Had it not been for my guitar, my first guitar, I know for sure I would not have had that kind of focus. I would probably have been in trouble. It kept me focused and out of trouble and it also gave me a great career.

Q: What country songs do you most relate to and why?

JIMMY WAYNE: That is easy. If you haven’t seen my blog, it’s “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow”. When I worked in the textile factory, every night I would work overtime because we had to blow off the cotton machines with an air hose and it took the entire shift to do this-the entire eight hours. My theme song was “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” by Alan Jackson. I just got an opportunity to go on the road and open a couple of shows for him and stand beside the stage and look at him play and think to myself “wow, that’s amazing, here I am opening up a show for him”. That is definitely my theme song.

Q: What kept you going for eleven years to get you where you are today?

JIMMY WAYNE: I think it is the person I am. I grew up in and out of the foster home system and lived on the street when I was a teenager. I’ve always been a fighter. I have never taken no for an answer, I just figured out a new way to ask the same question and just kept going and going. I knew I had something to give, I knew I had a story to tell and I knew I could pull it off with a guitar and singing. I tried it out a little bit and noticed that there were a lot of folks out there that related and that fueled the fire. It was never the money because I remember having four hits on the radio and still pulling up on the red carpet in my four door Honda Civic.

Q: How did you choose which songs to put on this project?

JIMMY WAYNE: I have been off the radar for three and a half years when the record label Dreamworks was closed and I moved over to Universal. I was let go by Universal and moved over to Big Machine and then moved over to the Vallory Music Company.
Some say that was horrible but I don’t look at it that way. It was an opportunity to recharge, write new songs, to have that time to write a great record where I can turn it into any radio station and say play any song off this record, I can promise you every song on there is great. Songs like “I’ll Be That”. I was thinking one day that I have this heavy song, like “No Good For Me” which is a duet that Patty Loveless and I did. I got songs like “Kerosene Kid” that talks about a kid that is unfortunate that grows up poor. Then I said “I have to round this record off”, it has to come back around so I am going to throw something on there that is light, it’s fun, it’s uptempo, roll your windows down, you don’t think about it, it’s not a crossword puzzle. You just listen to it and you smile and you look at your woman.

Q: Going back to the tour with Brad Paisley, I read some reports that you had already began dreaming up practical jokes for him, now you’ve had a couple of dates. Have you seen where you might have to pull some of these things out?

JIMMY WAYNE: I’m scared. Brad asked me to have lunch with him the other day. And the whole time I am sitting there I was thinking “he’s plotting”. You know how the fox circles the pen? That was exactly what he was doing. I knew he was plotting. He was “hey man, we’re real glad to have you out here”. I was “I know I am going to be the poster child, I know it already”. I remember when Lonestar had me come out and do a couple dates with them one time, they pranked me. I am kind of spontaneous, I don’t think of these things ahead of time, I think of them at the last minute. For instance, when Lonestar pranked me one time by putting hot sauce on my microphone. The next night I got off the stage and in the dark, slipped up to the keyboard and put a strip of scotch tape across the keys so when they played, it didn’t work-they didn’t see it.

Q: What are some of the things you have learned about performing to a big crowd? The hardest lesson you have had to learn?

JIMMY WAYNE: Not relying on the story, relying strictly on the songs. That was a lesson learned. You have to have great songs, songs that carry themselves. They can’t rely on story. There are three shows, I have the acoustic show, I have the trio show and then I have the full band show. Acoustic show is storytelling, funny, we’re laughing and talking. Trio is more stories and playing but the band show doesn’t have much talking so you have to keep it up. I remember one time telling my story at a fair and the guy on the front row opened up a newspaper and I said “I won’t be doing this much”. I had to figure out a new plan. That is my plan now: hit them from the first song and keep it rocking, keep it strong all the way through. A voice teacher told me one time, she said when you start a note, you have to keep it as strong on the ending as it was in the beginning and keep it round. That is how I look at my shows; keep it strong from the beginning all the way to the end.

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