These are songs that speak to the joys and concerns of the working-class folks he grew up around in the small town of Nebo (pop. 3,700), nestled in the mountains of North Carolina. "I wouldn't trade the values that I got from growing up there for anything," he says. "It taught me to be grounded.
Family has a lot to do with that as well. I had a good support system in my family." Not to mention a great role model: Wise's father was a talented singer who was quick to integrate his music-loving son into his nightclub set. "I'd get up there and sing and act like I was playing guitar," Wise says with a chuckle. He began taking guitar lessons at 4, and over the following years added piano, mandolin, fiddle and banjo to his repertoire.
At 13 he began hitting the small circuit of country bars in the counties surrounding Nebo (accompanied by his dad, of course). He paid his dues for the next several years, learning valuable lessons about how to win over skeptical audiences. "The most honesty you'll ever get is from a crowd at a bar," he says. "You know what they like and what they don't like, by whether they're dancing or just standing there looking at you." He also dealt with his share of rowdy audience behavior.
"The things my eyes saw at 14 or 15 …" he says with a chuckle. "It was an interesting time." When he headed out to see concerts by favorite artists like Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, he closely observed how they rocked huge crowds. "I remember watching Kenny and being like, 'Wow! This is what I want to do,'" says Wise, who also cites George Strait, George Jones and fellow North Carolina native James Taylor among his varied influences. Wise was discovered at age 15 by veteran manager John Dorris, who convinced him to wait until he finished high school before heading to Nashville. "For three years I was in waiting," he says.
"At 15 you're nowhere close to being ready for this, even if you think you are. John knew that." A few months after his 18th birthday, Wise made his move to Music City. "I'd never been on my own," he remembers. "I'll never forget the feeling when my parents left the apartment that I'd just rented.
That first night was tough. But I had direction." There were plenty of highs and lows as Wise learned the ropes of music business. Most devastatingly, the record label with which he had signed before even moving to Music City collapsed in 2008. He remained squarely focused on achieving his goals, calling upon a fierce sense of discipline that he credits in part to his experience living with juvenile diabetes since age 4.
"It helped me to grow up quick," he says. "That's been a big part of making me who I am today. If one day I get famous for some reason, I look forward to being able to help kids that have the same disease I have." Wise's focus and determination paid off in September 2009, when he signed with Broken Bow Records and began recording his debut album with the New Voice production team. "It's been a great process," Wise says.
"I could not be happier with the songs that we've picked, and they came out great." The songs they recorded demonstrate the impressive range of Wise's powerful, versatile voice—from the uplifting anthem "I've Got This Feeling" to the yearning ballad "Could You Love Me Again" and the country-life celebration "Cornfields." "That song really hits a heartstring with me," he says of the latter. "I'm from the mountains of North Carolina, where there aren't many cornfields, but it still hit home." In fact, all the songs reflect Wise's personality. "If I can't relate to it there's no sense in recording it," he says. "It's not going to come to life if it's something that you don't feel for yourself." Now that fans are getting to hear him bringing those songs to life, Blake Wise is—as always—looking toward the future, toward the next goal, the next challenge.
"I feel like I have a solid path ahead of me now," he says. "I couldn't be more excited about what's going on right now, and I want to be able to do this for a long time. There's a lot more to come." Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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