Wayne Turns Hard-Knock Life Into Memorable Music

Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

After years of churning out slick, scrubbed, media-schooled cowboys, country music is favoring another style -- male artists with grit and substance who have led real lives.

Among the artists leading that charge is Jimmy Wayne, whose self-titled DreamWorks Records debut will be released June 24.

Wayne has lived on the streets and on the lam, been a victim and a witness to horrible domestic violence, survived a murder attempt by his stepfather, fended off suicidal thoughts, and spent his formative years in foster care while his mother was in and out of prison.

He turned his hardscrabble beginnings into a collection of edgy, memorable songs for his debut album.

Wayne's debut single, "Stay Gone," is No. 4 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. The commercial single, which also includes an acoustic demo version of the song, is No. 4 on the Country Singles Sales chart.

Slated as the second single, "I Love You This Much" is about Wayne being abandoned by his father and his own subsequent spiritual awakening.

Wayne, 30, grew up in North Carolina. Before turning to music, he got an associate's degree in criminal justice and spent four years working as a prison guard, where a chance meeting with one of his former foster brothers -- an inmate -- inspired Wayne's song "Blue and Brown."

Wayne's stepfather stabbed and beat his mother when Wayne was 14. That experience found its way into another song on the album, "The Rabbit."

He says writing such songs is "like therapy. I think God gave me a gift of experience, and I don't look at it as bad experience. It's experience he's given me to mold me the way he wants me to be and to use it to other people's advantage that may be going through a similar situation but may not be strong enough to pull themselves out of it."

Consequently, Wayne says, his songs routinely inspire others to share their life stories with him. While that may be a heavy burden for a young singer to bear, Wayne welcomes it.

"That's what I'm supposed to do," he says. "That's part of my job."

"My goal when I started working on this project was to give the listener the opportunity to feel like they're sitting in my mind's theater and feel like when they get finished listening to the record, they know who I am or something about me," he says.

Wayne has been opening dates for Lonestar, Dwight Yoakam, Sara Evans, Martina McBride, Vince Gill, Diamond Rio and Wynonna. For his schedule, visit Wayne's official DreamWorks Web site.

Excerpted from the June 28, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.

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