Native son Wade Bowen will be heading back home to Waco soon with all his rowdy friends (and family) to crash Indian Springs park for a weekend of fun, music, and golf. The three day event begins on Saturday, June 3rd with a dinner honoring the sponsors, followed by an all day music festival on Sunday in Indian Springs park. Monday, Wade host the Bowen Classic golf tournament at Cottonwood Creek in Waco. I recently caught up with one of the busiest men in country music to ask about the festival and all the other things he is juggling each day.
Wade looks forward to this event each year for many reasons. “This is the 18th year that I’ve done it. It’s started off as a golf tournament and over the years, as I built my career. I grew up in Waco but I don’t live there. I started this in Waco because it’s my hometown and I wanted to give back to my hometown. I still spend a lot of time there so I felt like that was the best place to start doing something like this. That’s when eventually the concert eventually became a part of it and over the years we’ve just grown it into a music festival. Now it’s actually a three day event. We started doing that last year. We do a big sponsor appreciation night on Saturday night, the Sunday is the music festival all day for about fifteen artist, and Monday is the golf tournament. So there is a little bit of everything for everybody.”
If you are a fan of Texas Country music, there is something to satisfy everyone. This year’s lineup is headlined by .38 Special. Wade will bring many of his old friends as well: Cody Canada and the Departed, Micky and the Motorcars, Reckless Kelly, Jamie Lin Wilson/Courtney Patton, the Southern Brothers (Adam Hood and Jason Eady), Randy Rogers, Pat Green, Stoney Larue, Parker McCollum, and Bleu Edmonson – with a few surprises here and there. The magic of the festival is the family atmosphere on and off the stage. Wade and his band jam with most of the other bands on stage, playing along to all the songs. “It’s quite a long set list of about 30 songs as of now. It involves almost everybody on the festival. It’s going to be fun. There is a lot of really cool cover songs. My friends choose some fun songs to do and there is some really good originals as well. It’s a fun time and I think it’s unlike anything anybody does anywhere.”
Monday’s golf tournament brings out the competitive side of all the musicians and fans. Wade, an avid golfer, will put his game on hold to act as a gracious host. “I float around. This year we expanded the golf to two tee times. We do a morning and afternoon, so it’s going to be a real long day for me. I’m just going to float around and thank as many people for coming out and say hello to as many people as I can.”
The whole thing benefits the Bowen Family Foundation, set up to help local charities in the area. “We teamed up with the March of Dimes this year to work with them. It’s a great partnership. They are obviously a world class organization that knows how to raise money and how to take care of people. It’s been a good learning lesson for us. The pride and joy of the Bowen Family Foundation is that we keep every dollar raised in the Central Texas area – the Waco and surrounding areas. So, when people give money, they feel like their money is going back in the community. The March of Dimes, even though it’s a large worldwide organization, we’re working specifically with the NICU unit there in Waco. We went to visit the NICU unit and they are great people and do a great job. By us teaming with them this year, they are going to be able to provide more care to provide more care for more kids that need it for years.” The event and the Bowen Family Foundation have donated more than $1.3 million to area charities since 2006.
In addition to the festival and his current tour after the release of his self titled album in 2014, Wade is also playing shows with friend Randy Rogers in support of his hit 2015 Album “Hold My Beer, Volume 1.” He recently released a gospel album entitled “Then Sings My Soul…Songs For My Mother.” I asked how he kept up his hectic schedule while raising a family with his wife at home. “The balance is having a wife that balances it out for you. I can’t do it without her. The kids are very understanding about it. I think they love that they have a dad who goes out and follows his dreams and hopefully it gives them the courage to follow their dreams as well. It’s a lot of days away from home and it’s a lot of work. But I love it and they love it and we just make it work.”
The gospel album, “Then Sings My Soul…Songs For My Mother,” is exactly what the title implies. “It wasn’t supposed to be heard. My dad came to me and wanted to give a present for my mom from him for her birthday and Christmas. I just made the record for him pretty much. These are all old songs that she grew up singing in church. We gave it to her and surprised her on Christmas morning. Everybody really really pushed me to release it to the world so we did back in March. I’m glad they pushed me to release it. It’s been a lot of fun to have it out there.”
All of Country has lost a lot in 2016. Most recently, the passing of the Texas songwriting legend Guy Clark. “Guy Clark to me was losing a very important piece of my musical upbringing and hero. I was lucky enough to write with him and record to him. There is very few times that you get a chance to get that close to your heroes and for them to also be that cool to you. He was all of the above and more. I’ve been playing his music every night and trying not to cry every night. Losing Haggard was really tough on me but I cried like a baby when I found out Guy had passed away. I knew he had been sick for awhile but it’s still difficult to lose him I’m glad he’s not struggling any more and that he’s been a much better place. This one has been really hard on me.”
Co-writing and recording with so many legends, I was curious who Wade’s musical influences were that he cherished. “There are a lot of those heroes that you meet and it’s just surreal that you are doing it. I think, for me, as far as wisdom and a hero that I can kind of go to and has always been very kind to me and willing to open up his head and heart to me is Ray Wylie Hubbard. He’s always been very good to me and it seems like whenever I ask him for advice he always has the right answers.”
When asked what musical hero he hasn’t worked with yet, Wade was quick with a response. “Springsteen is my number one all time. He’s my biggest hero and biggest influence. I’d love to work with him one day. That would be an absolute blast.”
Wade has always been somewhat of a mentor to many of the up-and-coming Texas country artist that credit Mr. Bowen with the support and wisdom to help them climb the ladder to success. I asked Wade who he has currently taken under his wing and is excited about. “One of my favorite up-and-comers is a guy named John Bauman. He’s a really really incredible songwriter. They stuff I hear from him only gets better. I think he’s got a big future in this thing. There is a sweetheart named Miss Haley Cole that I think is just one of the most talented people around. Those are the two that I kind of push. But there are a lot of young talent. I could probably name you quite a few. I think Dalton Domino is another one that I think is going to be a superstar. He has that look in his eye and just enough craziness in his heart to be really fun to be around on stage. There is a good group of songwriters and people who care about music and care about carrying the torch coming up. I think this young group of kids right now that is probably better than it’s ever been.”
The Bowen Music Festival will take place on Sunday, June 5th, at Indian Springs park in Waco. Gates open at 1pm and the music starts at 2pm. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. More info can be found here: http://www.bowenfamilyfoundation.org/bowen-musicfest/
The Bowen Classic golf tournament is on Monday, June 6th. https://www.bowenclassic.com/