Country music artist and East Texas-native Cody Wayne will play in Commerce next week. But his upcoming performance holds special significance as he campaigns to raise money for U.S. veterans with his latest single.
The story of Wayne’s music journey is a long and winding one, that deviates from the accepted norm of the child prodigy-turned-superstar.
Wayne, who hails from from the Kilgore/Henderson area, didn’t get an early start to his music career.
“I never really had big ambitions to be a musician growing up,” Wayne said. “Music was always a part of my life, but it wasn’t a career path for me.”
That all changed when he joined the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 20. He credits his roommate, Ryan Turnipseed, with kickstarting his path to current success.
“While I was stationed in Japan, my roommate had his guitar with him,” Wayne said. “He would play all the time, and I decided to take up guitar myself.”
His time in the Marines also took him to Iraq. Wayne says that during his tour of duty, he blew out his knee while playing rugby, and required extensive surgery and rehab. After his tour was up in 2008, he did not return.
The musician says that the next few years were tough, struggling to find steady work, and his knee problems made him unsuitable to do hard manual labor, cutting off that avenue for him. During this time, Wayne says that he began writing music and honing his skills on the guitar. Then, his break came.
“My family had some land and a farm out near Franklin, Texas,” Wayne said. “My mother told me to head down to the farm, clear my head, and find myself, who I really was meant to be.”
It was during this time that Wayne decided to travel up FM 46 to the neighboring town of Bremond, a small community in Robertson County founded by Polish immigrants.
“I went into a bar in Bremond with my guitar and asked if I could play a few songs,” Wayne said. “It sounds cliche, but from there the rest is history.”
Following this stint in central Texas, Wayne went back to school, attending Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches. While there, he played often at the Banita Creek Hall, a longstanding music venue known for featuring some big names in the country music scene. Wayne says that he decided to start a band in 2011, and went full-time in 2015.
Since then, he has traveled all across the region, playing at the State Fair of Texas, San Antonio Rodeo, a Dallas Cowboys football game at AT&T Stadium and more. His band has even opened for country music legend Trace Adkins.
Wayne was also a featured performer at this year’s Hunt County Fair. He says he draws his musical inspiration from acts such as Jason Boland, Garth Brooks and the Zac Brown Band.
Wayne won “New Male Vocalist of the Year” at the 2018 Texas Regional Radio Annual Music Awards, and “Male Vocalist of the Year” and “Entertainer of the Year” at the 2017 Texas Country Music Awards.
While this is already quite a yarn, the story behind his latest single is a deep and personal one for Wayne.
“When I left the Marines, there were a lot of things that I had seen and experienced in Iraq that I couldn’t really put into words,” Wayne said. “I didn’t know how to talk about these things, but I knew how to express these feelings in a song.”
This was the inspiration for his song “Remember the Lost Ones,” from his newest album “Bad Influence,” which was released in March of this year. The song explores the feelings of a Marine who saw the horrors of combat and the loss of friends and compatriots. Wayne said that the song was incredibly hard to write.
“It was difficult for me to get through it,” Wayne said. “But I thought that maybe I could help give other people a voice. People like me who didn’t know how to express these thoughts.”
After writing the song, he put it aside for a while. He was hesitant to record it because it didn’t sit right with him. “I felt like I would be profiting off of other’s misfortune,” he said.
This led him to partner with the Boot Campaign, which is a non-profit that provides more than $2 million annually to veterans and their families for health and wellness services to offer “recovery from invisible wounds of war,” according to the campaign’s website.
Originally, 10-percent of the proceeds from the single would be given to the Boot Campaign. Wayne said that to him, the song still didn’t feel right. Then while lying awake one night, his wife Tamra helped him find the right way to present the music.
“She just said ‘Well are you planning to make a lot of money and get rich off of this song?’” Wayne said. “I said no, and she said ‘Well there’s your answer.’”
So now, 100 percent of all funds from downloads and streams of the song go toward the Boot Campaign.
Wayne will come to Commerce to play a show on Oct. 26. This is not the first time he has played in Commerce, and he says that the crowd then was “fantastic and open to a new artist like myself.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” Wayne said.
Cody Wayne will perform his hits, including the new single “Remember the Lost Ones,” on Oct. 26 at Little Bit Country, located at 1205 Main Street in Commerce. Wayne is scheduled to go live at 9 p.m.
Information about the single can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y6lfgsrk. 100 percent of the proceeds from downloads and streams of the song will be given to the Boot Campaign.