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Morgan Wade celebrates success and embraces struggles as her stardom emerges

Morgan Wade is releasing a deluxe edition follow-up to her 2021-released, star-making effort, Reckless.
Morgan Wade is releasing a deluxe edition follow-up to her 2021-released, star-making effort, Reckless.

Twenty-seven year-old Floyd, Virginia, native Morgan Wade's unflinching honesty and vocal range from comfortable growl to angst-ridden rasp are the cornerstones of her career success to date. It's what finds her six months into a freshly-inked label deal with Sony Music Nashville, only a year after releasing her debut Reckless.

Now, 2022 starts with Sony Music Nashville "not wanting to change anything" about her initial foray into the mainstream, but rather bolster it with six bonus tracks for a deluxe release out on January 28, she tells The Tennessean.

Of late, "Year-End Highlight" and "Artist-to-Watch" lists have been kind to Wade. She's achieving a breakout moment from Rolling Stone to Spotify (and more). Intriguingly, alongside artists like Joy Oladokun, Sierra Ferrell and others, it's also showing an expanding expectation of what country stars look and sound like, too.

"It's a big time for females in country music," Wade said. "I look at these lists that I've been on, and I see females dominating them. We're definitely in a time where people want to hear more women express themselves."

Wade's also stands out among country artists in her promotional shots. The tattoos that cover her from her neck to her knuckles are not hidden.

"I get grief about my tattoos all the time," she said. "There are so many people who want to hear music and see past that."

In deluxe album form, Reckless serves to expand the engagement of Wade's existing fanbase that has supported the frank songwriting displayed in her songs like the defiantly heartbroken "Wilder Days" and painfully reflective "Don't Cry." Fans have gravitated to her story of struggling with alcohol addiction. Songs include "The Night," which has gained underground popularity as a favorite from her pandemic-era livestreams and during her live performances in 2021.

"'The Night' was the first song I ever recorded and is a vulnerable song that I've learned -- after playing it live and talking to my fans after shows -- has helped me as much as it's helped others. It's showed me that I have a larger purpose as an artist," she said of the tune that includes the lyrics: "by summer's end I predict that I'll have finally lost my mind / the doctor said that these new pills, they might help me this time."

Also, for the childhood fan of Elvis Presley, her expanded album allows for the inclusion of a cover of the 1968 comeback classic "Suspicious Minds." True to form for Wade, her version has a rootsier, rock-defined edge than the King's soulful original. The song has become a cornerstone of her live gigs and is a favorite of her new boss, Sony Music Chairman and CEO Randy Goodman.

"I'm not a big cover song person -- except for Elvis," says Wade. "I always wanted to do an Elvis cover, but I never had the band that was the right fit to deliver it the way I wanted to deliver it. So now that I do, I figured 'Suspicious Minds' would be easy to rock out to, and was an Elvis song that not everyone has covered."

This career-redefining moment could be one ripe with trepidation for an artist who is both a survivor and has been writing roughly twice as long as she's been playing live. Nevertheless, she's quickly arrived at a point where she's spending part of 2022 opening for 2021 country radio chart-toppers Luke Combs and Ryan Hurd on selected dates. However, a blend of deep reflection and self-care has strengthened her for exciting moments forthcoming in her development.

"On Reckless, I was nervous, because so many people [appreciate it] for me saying things that I was reluctant to say. However, [album producer and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit guitarist] Sadler [Vaden] and I worked hard on it. So now we can sit back, and the blood sweat and tears we put into it have paid off," Wade offers.

Fans now introduced to Wade as a major label country artist playing as the support for best-selling stars may feel that listening to her toil through resolving her angst is the most significant benefit of her work. When asked by The Tennessean about how she intends to resolve for being "softened" by acclaim or feeling more joyous than her output-to-date would characterize her, she said she would continue making music about the place she is in now.

"I want to write where I'm at in the moment and to those feelings. I want not to have to focus on if a song is 'too sad' or 'too happy.' I recently read somewhere that 'great art was ridiculed before it was revered.'"

And what is her current emotional condition? She pauses for the first time in a freewheeling conversation. Her final lyric-as-statement sums up her view on her life, her art, and her future:

"A setback isn't a life sentence. Embrace struggle."

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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Morgan Wade embraces success and struggles as her stardom emerges