Nashville powerhouses came to woo Floyd County native Morgan Wade last year, almost as soon as his first national release, “Reckless,” dropped.
Small wonder. The album had a handful of earworms, with the most insistent “Wilder Days” set opener. The production, from Sadler Vaden and Paul Ebersold, splits time between shimmers and screams, with plenty of texture in between. And the woman up front possessed a combination of toughness and vulnerability that Music City has yet to bottle.
But Wade was content with her independent label, Thirty Tigers, which gave her more power and creative control than most artists can expect. It had been good enough for Jason Isbell, Vaden’s boss in 400 Unit. She wasn’t trying to turn.
“Everything was fine,” she said of the album’s late March 2021 launch. “Then pretty much every label in Nashville, pretty much every label you could name, called us .”
Skype meetings began, but Wade was not asked to leave her home base near Nashville until Sony Music called her.
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“It must be something that’s important to me to leave, and that’s when I met Sony and they were like, we can deliver a bigger platform and we can do a lot more. since we’re a bigger label,” Wade said in a phone call Wednesday.
Yet it was what they did not want to do that convinced her.
“They said, ‘We like what you’re doing. We love you and Sadler working together. We are satisfied with this disc. We don’t want to change anything,” Wade recalls. “Sony, they caught my eye and I’ve been happy ever since I signed with them.”
It didn’t hurt that the label gave Wade a French Bulldog puppy. These days, her hobbies include fighting with the pup over who gets closest to her radiator, she tweeted on Wednesday.
Sony Arista Nashville publisher wasn’t done with “Reckless.” The album gets a deluxe reissue on Friday, with six additional tracks produced by Vaden, including 2019’s “The Night,” one of the duo’s first collaborations. He didn’t make the album last year but was a fan favorite.
“A lot of people were upset,” Wade said. “They want this one on vinyl. They want a physical copy that they can have, so I knew that was really important to include in the release.
“Carry Me Home” is another fan favorite and a personal number for Wade, who wrote it about five years ago as she was beginning her sobriety. “Through Your Eyes”, originally recorded as an acoustic song, makes an appearance, with another thoughtful lyric:
“The scariest thing I ever heard / Was a three-year-old mouth the words / I want to be like you someday / Made me think / That maybe I should change my ways.”
The deluxe edition ends with “Suspicious Minds,” a song Elvis Presley made famous in the 1970s. It had hit the crowds well in concert, and Wade decided to add it. In fact, every song on the new release was her choice, she said.
“It’s always going to be my thing, and it makes me happy to still have that control to choose and do what I want,” she said.
If the new version of “Reckless” is an introduction to a wider audience, it’s one that has already achieved more critical love than most performers get on their first effort.
Rolling Stone magazine selected “Reckless” as the 2021 Country and US Album of the Year and No. 13 among all genres. For perspective, its spot on the country list puts it above releases from Brandi Carlile, Eric Church, Yola, James McMurtry, Sturgill Simpson, Valerie June and another band with Southwest Virginia roots, Old Dominion.
Other publications, including Stereogum, Billboard and Taste of Country, had “Reckless” among their top five country records.
Wade recalled a surreal feeling about the Rolling Stone news.
“I remember that day waking up and seeing Rolling Stone’s top 50 albums,” she said. “Okay, that’s great. Where am I? And then I was like, oh shit. I’m number one. That was crazy.
And that also creates a bit of pressure. The next one has to be better, right?
“Sadler and I are talking about it, and we’re already throwing out ideas and writing and stuff like that for the next album. But we want it to be better than ‘Reckless’. ‘Reckless’ was so great. I don’t want to not that the next record will come out and be a big flop.
Vaden has known her since 2019, when Isbell and Wade both headlined FloydFest. Isbell’s sound guy heard Wade playing there and bought one of his locally produced CDs. He passed it on to Vaden, who was looking for someone good to produce. Vaden quickly contacted Wade and they got to work.
As they discussed the consequences, Vaden helped her put them into perspective.
“When we were working on ‘Reckless,’ we didn’t have any of that,” she said. “We had nothing. He was like, ‘We just had fun. We wrote what we wanted to write, and we recorded those songs we wanted to record. That’s what we have to do for this next album. We don’t have to worry about pressure. Don’t worry about those other things.
Meanwhile, “Wilder Days” is on its own way. The single, which made year-end charts in Time, Billboard and Rolling Stone, is fronted by Arista Nashville. It was No. 52 on Billboard Country Airplay and No. 49 on the Mediabase/Country Aircheck charts, according to a Sony publicist.
And that’s huge with Wade fans.
“It’s still going up, so that’s really cool,” Wade said. “But I think the most important thing is that on this tour, we always play ‘Wilder Days’ last. And people can sing every word to me directly, and they shout it. It’s an amazing feeling to have everyone there knowing every word.
“Sadler and I have been working on this song the longest and we really wanted… other people to love this song as much as we do, and so to be able to get it was great.”
She and her band will be back at FloydFest at the end of July. However, she would like the road to bring her closer to where she grew up before.
“I had these discussions with my agents recently, and I would love to be able to come back out there, of course, and do a show back home,” she said. “I think a lot of my family who live there would appreciate it too. Looking at the closest shows, some of them are like Ohio and Atlanta. It would be really nice to come home and play.
Let’s go. People are waiting.