The Voice has, over its four years and eight seasons, churned out a huge list of contestants and finalists, but what happens when you exit the show and are thrown back into the real world? For season seven top eight contender Luke Wade, the answer is trudge on, make new music and embrace your newly grown fanbase with an extensive U.S. tour.
Though Wade came into prominence as a Team Pharrell member on The Voice, he's by no means an overnight success story - he's been making music for over 12 years now. But with a new profile, the soulful R&B/funk/indie singer has had heights of new opportunities, from singing in Selma alongside Patti LaBelle to working with The Voice superstar coaches Pharrell and Gwen Stefani.
Find out more information about a post-Voice life with Wade below in our exclusive Q&A with the rising star:
Music Times: I just wanted to start of talking about your recent performance in Montgomery with Patti LaBelle. How did that opportunity come up?
Luke Wade: Well, apparently, someone who worked for the city was a big fan of mine and just kind of went to bat for me. There was a number of other names tossed around and she just happened to be the most persistent one, so we ended up on the show.
MT: That's awesome. What was it like performing at such a big historic event?
LW: It was different. You weren't just playing for a room of people -- you're playing for commemoration of something... It takes a lot of honesty and I had to kind of get outside of my box of just playing, doing my show. I had to really think about how each song was connecting and that what I was saying connected with the people in the moment...
MT: Did that change the way you prepared for the show?
LW: Yeah, it changed the setlist a little bit and it changed the way I thought about the songs I played. We did tuxes, just to kind of show respect for the moment; we didn't go in our usual attire. So I would be singing things and the meaning would kind of morph because of the moment, and I thought about how that was going to happen a little bit. There's no way to be completely prepared. But that's mostly what I did.
MT: Right now you're on tour with your band No Civilians. Can you talk a little bit about how your tour's going?
LW: It's been awesome. We started New Year's Day, and we've been on the road about two-thirds of the time since then. But the crowds have been steadily getting bigger and been selling out shows lately, and it's awesome. I've been at it for almost 12 years nonstop, for it to finally start happening now, I couldn't be more ready for it to be doing that, but looking back I wouldn't change any of the success I haven't had up until now because I really appreciate it.
MT: Your audiences have been bigger since your time on The Voice. Have you noticed a demographic shift?
LW: Yeah it seems to be the same kind of people. I have a certain appeal. The cool thing is that whenever you get on tour, you spend so much of your time with your fans, and they're almost like your co-workers or something, where you don't really get to choose them, but they're such a part of the quality of your life. I'm really fortunate that whatever it is that I'm playing out is attracting really great, awesome people that I connect with and enjoy being around. So I feel like, at the end of the day, it's kind of a testament to me just being honest. And venues even, I get a lot of compliments about how awesome they tip or how easy it was to work with them or to serve them when we're at a venue, so it feels really good to attract those kind of folks.
MT: I would be remiss not to ask you about your time on The Voice. What was it like once you got to the live shows? What was your week like?
LW: It just got crazier and crazier as things went along. They added songs. We shot a lot of commercials. It was probably about 95 percent of our allotted time was either filming something or recording something. That's pretty much all that it was and then we had to learn our songs on our own time. There were a lot of days where we'd have to choose whether we wanted to sleep seven hours or whether we wanted to practice our song at all.
I think there was one day where it was 20 hours or so. Actually, there was a 24-hour day at one point. It's just crazy and long and lots of songs that you've never heard before that you have to sing in front of a million people, just a whole lot of pressure and you just do your best.
MT: Your song choices, and the song choices on Team Pharrell in general kind of more obscure songs, so I can imagine that being difficult to learn old songs and put your own spin on them.
LW: Yeah, there were some times where, like my rehearsal with Pharrell and Diana Ross, it was "Try a Little Tenderness," so obviously I had heard it, but I hadn't really listened to the whole song before. It was 30 minutes before and they were like here's your song. Sometimes the music director and maybe myself, maybe Pharrell, we wouldn't all agree and we'd have to kind of pass things around and that particular time it was until 30 minutes before. And so I had to just basically wing it, go in there singing for Diana Ross.
MT: That sounds terrifying.
LW: I was pretty stressed out about it. It ended up working out really well. I had never done it before, but I had to figure out how to make myself a chart, where I circled all the words that were over minor chords and then I drew an arrow above all the lyrics pointing which direction the melody was going, whether it was going up or down. I was like, "How am I going to do this? How am I going to do this?" So, that was the only way I could think of to chart it out, and so I did it, and I went in and it ended up going really well actually.
MT: That was a good performance, I really enjoyed that. So you kind of touched on this a little, but you worked with Pharrell a lot on the show. What was it like working with him? How much time did you actually get with him?
LW: I don't know if I'm supposed to say or not, probably not. It was like, probably 10 hours over the course of the show.
MT: That's a good amount of time. Did it feel like enough time?
LW: Well, yeah. As you got further on, you would get personal time. For the most part, it's on camera because they want to get the value of those moments. They want to capture any time that you're actually talking with your coach. You actually get a few private moments towards the end where you just talk to people. That was one of the biggest and best rewards for getting that far.
MT: Not a lot of people get to do that so that's really cool. What was it like working with him?
LW: It was a learning experience. I felt gratitude that not only is he a good musician, he's really good at finding himself in that world. Him being him is a very important part of his process, and him being humble and him making space for other talent. That's very important to him, and I learned a lot about what it means to get out of your own way, which I think is one of the most, if not the most important, lesson in making music.
MT: He mentioned it a lot on the show that he had plans to work with some of his contestants. Do you have any plans to work with him in the future?
LW: We've been in communication since the show. He's been super busy. He called me to let me know that, not too long, calling to let me know that he was running and he was busy, but he still looks forward to working with me. He's had [the "Blurred Lines"] trial and The Voice and then, released a lot of records that he's been working on.
MT: That's a good benefit of being on his team. I don't know if a lot of the other coaches really do that. So that seems very cool.
LW: They do what they can. Their intentions are there. Twelve kids per season times how many seasons, it's just too much.
MT: That's true. That's basically a hundred people over the course of the show. And they're all very busy people.
LW: Yeah, for sure. Pharrell, I was his first one on his first team, and I was the last one standing on his first season, so maybe that means something. I'm pretty good at being me, which he's particularly into.
MT: Yeah he keeps saying that on this season of the show. He really wants people who are very unique and themselves. Have you been watching this season at all?
LW: I really honestly haven't had time. I watch videos on YouTube, but I haven't had a chance to watch the season because I've been all over the place.
MT: Especially on tour, I'm sure you don't have a lot of time to turn on the TV. You have your album The River. Do you have any plans to record a new album any time soon?
LW: Yeah. I do. I've been writing like crazy, I've put together a pretty good chunk of material that I'm really excited of and proud of. We've got at least four songs for this record. We've done some pre-production, some of the songs we're going to work, so on and so forth, we are working at it. We're starting to figure out which ways and maybe the next record that Pharrell and I collaborate on, because I think I'm going to have to Gwen to collab on this one.
MT: Very cool. What else is next for you other than the album and touring, but do you have anything else in the works right now?
LW: Yeah, we're, I'm doing the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has a song every year and it's the 50th anniversary of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and I forget the females on the track. We're trying to find the female singer to sing it with me, but that's going to be a big deal. By the end of the summer we will have hit every major U.S. market, so trying to really do it and give our utmost to shake hands and look everybody in the face that's a new fan for me being on TV and turn them on, the fans, to what I do in real life.
MT: How did you get the opportunity to do the Susan G. Komen song? That's really cool and that's a huge honor.
LW: I do work in healthcare in Forth Worth. It was a tremendous honor, but whenever I can I go to hang out with kids at Cook Children's Hospital here in Forth Worth and they're a great place and I had a lot of health problems as a kid and so there's a thing called a business press and it's called Healthcare Heroes Banquet with all the who's who from that world; I was the Volunteer of the Year. I got to give a speech and get an award. The people from the foundation were there and we started talking about it.
MT: That's really cool. Do you have any idea when that will be out?
LW: It's going to be fall.
Luke Wade's album The River is out now. Wade will also be performing on April 17 and 18 in New York City aboard two Alive After Five Cruises hosted by Hornblower Cruises & Events. Check out his full list of tour dates on his official website.