Chuck Wicks was always a fan of country music but never expected to have a career in it - he wanted to be a professional baseball player.
Through his experiences at college in Florida, Wicks' passion for country music deepened and he found himself heading to Nashville just two classes shy of graduation.
Wicks fits the mold a typical country music artist - he has a charming southern accent, he tells stories with songs full of emotion, he's a great singer, he even grew up on a farm - not to mention his rugged good looks. Then again, Wicks broke that mold by proving his worth: He paid his dues in Nashville parking cars and writing songs for years before finally landing a deal with RCA Records.
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"Stealing Cinderella" is Wicks' debut single that put him on the charts - the top 5 charts, that is. All but one song on his first album, Starting Now, he penned himself. And for Wicks, writing the songs he performs makes a big difference.
"That's how I found out who I was as an artist, was through my songwriting," he said. "It's a lot easier to sing a song, you know, if it comes from a real place." Wicks said. "I'll sing ‘What if You Stay' on stage, and every time I sing that song, I can get mad about it ... and put more passion into it because I can remember messing up like that, or knowing somebody that did and ruined a good thing or good relationship. I can put those emotions into the song every night and it makes it so much better than trying to guess what it was like to feel like that."
Country music has always been a part of Wicks' life. Alan Jackson, Vince Gill and George Strait are obvious influences - a surprising addition to that list is R&B singer Brian McKnight. While Wicks isn't cooking up a crossover scheme currently, he does offer a nod of acknowledgment to McKnight in some of his shows through a medley of McKnight songs.
Wicks is joining Brad Paisley on tour for a second time, just months after finishing up the "Bonfires and Amplifiers" tour. Wicks has seen much of the country, maybe even all of it. After spending so much time on the road for the two tours, which Wicks says it feels more like one long tour, the singer/songwriter could add a slash to his title and stick "traveler extraordinaire" in there.
LIVE: Brad Paisley, Jewel, Chuck Hicks
WHAT: Hershey's Presents Paisley Party Tour
WHEN: Thurs., Oct. 16; 8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Dodge Arena, Hidalgo
FESTIVA: It's always exciting to see a new artist collaborate with a legend. Is there a possibility that you'll be collaborating with anyone anytime soon?
CHUCK: I would love to. Good Lord. The list is pretty long. I'm a big fan of country music in general. So obviously I'd love to collaborate with Brad (Paisley), just because I'm a fan and I think he's a great person and everything else. I think Vince Gill is hands down one of the best singers in the format. It'd be nice to do that with somebody, you know?
FESTIVA: What event helped you realize that this is what you wanted to do with the rest of your life?
CHUCK: I went to college, played college baseball and I thought that was ... that was the plan. Go to college and get drafted and play baseball. But you know, as you get older and you see different things, you start to realize, oh, there's a much bigger world out here. And I started finding out about Nashville and record deals and everything else because I went to college right outside Orlando, Florida. And Orlando was, at the time, this was 10 years ago, the melting pot for pop music and stuff like that, and even rock. So I was around these record labels and songwriters and, it was much different than Nashville, but I didn't know any better at the time. But it got me interested.
FESTIVA: What advice would you give someone who wants to break into the business the way you did?
CHUCK: I would say one of the biggest things to do and eventually has to happen is, you need to move to Nashville. It makes a difference because you're around the game. You're around most of your competition. That's where all the record labels are, that's where all the publishing companies are, that's where all the songwriters are - that's where all the music comes from. You know, you don't want to be out in Alaska because no one's ever going to see you, you know? You want to be noticed.
Amy Nichol Smith covers features and entertainment for The Monitor. She can be reached at (956) 683-4420.