MIXING TRADITIONAL FLAVORS WITH A CONTEMPORARY ROCKIN’ EDGE, THE MINNEAPOLIS BASED SINGER/SONGWRITER KEEPS COUNTRY MUSIC’S PROUD TRADITION OF OKLAHOMA BRED ARTISTS THRIVING BY RIDING WITH ‘THE LAST COWBOY’
The Multi-Talented Performer And Fiddle Player, Who Recorded His Debut In Nashville With Some Of Music City’s Top Session Players, Is Enjoying Great Success With His Upcoming First Single “Big Bad Dog,” Which Has Already Inspired The Genre’s Latest Line Dance Sensation
With the trail from Oklahoma to Nashville blazed by icons like Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Toby Keith and Blake Shelton, upstart country artists claiming roots in the Sooner State have a helluva lot to live up to. Only time will tell just how much Shane Wyatt (www.shanewyatt.com) will add to the lore of legendary Okies who struck gold in Music City, but the multi-talented singer/songwriter and lifelong fiddle player is already staking a pretty good claim, riding high and wild on the initial success of his independent debut album The Last Cowboy.
Touching hearts and scooting boots with songs inspired equally by modern traditionalists like George Strait and contemporary country rocker Jason Aldean, Wyatt is enjoying great grass roots success with his first single, “The Big Bad Dog,” a hard driving yet heartfelt tribute to a nasty looking, speed limit busting vehicle his uncle once drove.
The track has been played on major stations in (naturally) Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota, Wyatt’s adopted home state where he and his band have become a regional sensation stirring up dust in clubs, honkytonks, rodeo post shows and on the festival circuit. Among his upcoming high profile gigs is Firefest 2008 with superstar Joe Nichols (“Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off”) in Cold Spring, Minnesota, which raises money for local firefighters.
Wyatt will be taking “The Big Bad Dog” across the U.S. with its inclusion on a CDX subscription disc (volume 452, released July 7 th ) that goes out to over 2,000 country stations nationwide. But major airplay can only take a guy with this perfect combination of humility and swagger so far. The first real step in becoming a country star is getting a big time line dance created around your song, and the infectious steps created around “The Big Bad Dog” by Nashville’s famed Jamie Marshall —creator of the dance sensations around “Bomshel Stomp” and Big & Rich‘s “Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy” —are quickly inspiring a craze in dance clubs around the country.
Wyatt’s incredible breakthroughs to this point should inspire a lot of other indie artists who wonder if simple persistence—backed of course by relentless, can’t be denied talent—is enough to take their careers to the next level. A huge fan of Aldean’s 2007 hit album Relentless, the singer boldly contacted its producer Michael Knox, in turn hooked him up with Mike Noble, the studio coordinator for the Aldean project and a major player in Music City whose songs have been recorded by everyone from George Jones and Kenny Rogers to Brooks & Dunn and Restless Heart .
In producing The Last Cowboy, Noble brought in some of Nashville’s top “session cats,” including drummer Shawn Fichter (Trisha Yearwood, Peter Frampton), bassist Jimmy Carter (Dierks Bentley, Tim McGraw), guitarist Mike Durham (McGraw, Dave Matthews), fiddler Glen Duncan (Shania Twain, Kenny Chesney), pedal steel guitarist Russ Pahl (Rascal Flatts, Trace Adkins) and backing vocalist Thom Flora (George Strait).
“Every step of this journey is becoming way bigger than I ever could have dreamed,” says Wyatt, whose band has long covered songs by many of the artists these musicians have played with over the years. “The whole dance thing is really a cool, exciting surprise, but the core of who I am as an artist and songwriter is the guy who grew up in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma in an environment with lot of real cowboys, truckers and roughnecks. The title track of The Last Cowboy is a tribute to my grandfather, a real honest-to-God cowboy, sort of a passing the torch type thing talking about the legacy he left me. He wore a holster half the time, taught us to rope and shoot and ride a horse. I’m basically a storyteller, and I draw from some of those experiences in my songs. That’s also the reason, I think, that a tough, darkish element comes through in a lot of them. Beyond the autobiographical pieces, there are also some good old fashioned love songs, love gone wrong songs and songs about love lost. All of them mean something personal to me.”
These include the high spirited, whimsical observational tune “Princess,” which cleverly talks about whiskey being the fail safe, “girl” in the life of a man who has known too much real life heartbreak; the edgy, heartfelt power ballad “Waiting For Forever,” which he wrote optimistically for his wife when the two were dating; and the poignant “Just Married,” about couples who stay hitched and try to put on their best faces even after the passion is long gone.
Beyond the Oklahoma pedigree, Wyatt shares a key musical influence with Garth Brooks—an appreciation for the late great Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Chris LeDoux, a former rodeo champion who recorded 36 albums (many self-released) and sold over six million units over the course of 30 years. He shot to national prominence when Brooks mentioned him in his song “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old”) , and years later Brooks offered to donate part of his liver to LeDoux when the singer needed a transplant.
Like LeDoux and Brooks, Wyatt very naturally mixes traditional country music with feisty rockers in his unforgettable live performances that sometime run for four hours. His sets are also peppered with many classics by both legends. “One of the reasons Garth became so popular,” he says, “is that he would do a track that had a old time cowboy song flavor, then do a good old boy bar song, then something more rockin’ and mainstream. That all goes back to our mutual influence of Chris, who could also do the poignant cowboy thing, but then turn around and blow everyone away with some hard core rocking.”
Trained by the legendary Benny Kubiak, Wyatt started playing the fiddle in local talent contests at the age of 10; within a few years, he was renowned in the area around his hometown for his fiddle playing in various local country bands and bluegrass groups. As a teenager, he picked up the guitar, started writing his own songs and his musical style began to flourish. He alternated his style, playing in bluegrass festivals as well as run-down honky-tonks, often sneaking in the back door to avoid getting busted for being under age.
Like a lot of young performers who choose to play it safe rather than go after their dreams early on, Wyatt ran from his destiny for a number of years, choosing to get a more practical degree and building a career as in the business world. Wyatt’s fans can thank his wife for encouraging him to do what he always should have been doing in the first place—writing, singing and performing live. He honed his singing chops with the help of a vocal coach and developed his sense of songwriting irony with his studies at the Brave New Workshop, the longest running satirical theatre in the country specializing in teaching the art of improvisation.
“I knew I had to get back on stage when it occurred to me that nobody could relate the stories I tell in my songs as well as I could,” Wyatt says. “That’s because I know where they all come from. The most exciting part of my career so far is that The Last Cowboy has received a lot of recognition just from some basic grass roots promotion, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity now to take everything to the next level. The difference is that instead of reaching hundreds or thousands of people, I will have the opportunity to potentially reach millions, and that’s both daunting and inspiring. I love it all, from introducing my fans to LeDoux songs they may never have heard before to sharing my own material. When you’ve written a new song and see people out there singing along, there’s nothing like it. I love when they get the same feeling that I had the minute I started writing it.”