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All the country. All the soul. All the gospel of Rock & Roll.
You have to look past the hat. The boots. The beard. The hair. And even, to a degree, Adam Wakefield’s voice. You have to give yourself that extra few moments, and when you do, you discover an artist completely sold out to musical excellence, a path he started on at a very young age.
Simultaneous exposure to classical and rock & roll (plus a change in piano teachers) brought about an interest in jazz, something Adam would pursue educationally at The New School Jazz and Contemporary Arts Program in New York City.
However, self-doubt about keeping up with the demanding NYC jazz scene led Wakefield to leave school early and resettle in Baltimore, where he toiled in various bands and combos for a decade, finding a home in that area’s much-smaller musical landscape, but still feeling like something was missing. It took a relocation to Nashville in 2013 for Wakefield to rekindle his search for excellence.
“Moving to Nashville, it was just magical for someone like me. I thought maybe that feeling would go away after a time, but by no means has that gone away,” he says.
Wakefield filled his time with songwriting and playing sidemen gigs for touring country artists but still wanted to find his elusive path to a wider audience. Enter: a chance to audition for season 10 of the NBC musical artist discovery show, The Voice.
It was Wakefield’s experience, talent, skill under pressure and versatility that propelled him to turn in one great performance after another during his run on Blake Shelton’s team, ultimately finishing second overall. "Lonesome Broken and Blue" hit No. 1 on the iTunes Top 100 songs chart and boasted the season's top debut on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, entering at No. 73. The single, which Adam wrote, also arrived as his highest-charting (No. 14) of nine entries on Billboard's Hot Country Songs.
“Being on a show like ‘The Voice’ gives you a broader perspective about the business, especially television, and appealing to a big fan-base,” Wakefield says. “It opened my eyes to the fact that I could do songs nobody had heard of, a Bonnie Raitt song or a John Prine song, do it my own way, and it was about the way the music translated.”
“I had this kind of bitter, cynical view of mainstream music and that everybody wants to just hear 'beer and trucks' songs, and that's not true at all,” he continues.” To have people have such great reactions to songs they'd never heard of was so refreshing.”
This inevitable question comes at every artist who performs well on a televised talent search: “What’s next?” For Adam, it’s the same thing he’s being doing for close to 20 years… more hard work, but this time with a renewed sense of enthusiasm over what’s possible.
Aside from The Voice, he has shared the stage as a musician with artists such as Chris Cagle, Lee Brice, Keith Anderson, Michelle Wright, and more. During CMA Fest this year, he was invited to perform alongside the Oak Ridge Boys, Maren Morris, Steven Tyler and more as part of Marty Stuart's Annual Late Night Jam.
He’s assembled a talented band of Nashville-based musicians he knows to be excellent, has combed through his own catalog of songs and other influences, and is spending this latest season honing both band and setlist into laser-sharp focus.
“After putting this band together, putting these songs together and playing guitar out front, there's a lot of rock & roll in it,” Wakefield admits. “I didn't realize it was going to be like that, and while there's a lot of straight-up old-school country influence, I think it's going to be a great combination of rock & roll and country.”
“I think all the things I've learned since age four, learning to play piano through going to college and being in bands and all that stuff, I think right now is the perfect time for me to be doing this,” Adam says. “The country music industry, the trajectory of what's going on on the radio, it's ready for a change. And we are going to run with that idea.”