Much has been made of the glamour of the road life for a studio musician. If you truly want glamour, talk to Broken Bow recording artist James Wesley.
"I've got a small fifteen passenger bus that we take out for some of our shorter shows with," he begins. "I've got a heater on the back of the bus, and it's been cold lately. The heater that I have -- you have the front heater, and there's one in the back. With all of our equipment, it covers the heater up. So, it really doesn't get out. I don't want to burn the heater up, so I will run it for a while, and then go shut it off. So, we're all bundled up in the back trying to keep warm," he says, chuckling. "But, there's always some kind of road story. It's things like that that make it all worthwhile. It makes you what you are today."
And who James Wesley is today is one of the top rising stars in the business. Singles like "Didn't I" and "Real" have helped him carve out a name for himself at radio and with fans. He says that as his career continues to progress, he is grateful for the support he has received.
"I'm very thankful to country radio and the friends that I've made," he says. "It's a big circle, but there are a lot of people that are pulling for me. I can't thank them enough."
His new single, "Walking Contradiction," is one that he feels a lot of people will identify with. "I think we've all got a little walking contradiction in us. We're not all perfect. Like the song says, 'We go to Church, we go to bars, we read the word, we read the stars. It's true. If we were perfect, we wouldn't be here. Westin Davis, Kip Moore, and Dan Couch wrote this song, and I was fortunate enough to be the messenger on it. A lot of it speaks true. I'm looking forward to getting it out there."
He'll also be performing the single on the road this spring -- opening for one of country's legends.
"We've got a lot of shows coming up -- a lot of dates on the books. I've got some dates with Ronnie Dunn, that's going to be awesome. The guy can sing. When we did 'Bleed Red' at the ACM's last year, it was so moving. It really was. It's like getting invited to the Opry, standing to the side of the stage, and thinking 'I can't believe I'm here."
Wesley had had those moments at the Opry on several occasions, and it's something he doesn't take for granted. "I just feel blessed that they ask me to the Opry to come over and sing. It was Oct. 16, 2010 when they asked me to sing there for the first time. Since then, I've been on there 12 times. Every time seems like the first time."
As a performer who values the artists that have come before him, he feels every country artist needs to know about the roots of the format. "The thing I like about it is the tradition. Without the Opry, I don't think there would be a Nashville. There's so much history. I think if you're going to be in country music, you need to know about the roots and history of it, and how we got here. We're on a paved road. When it started, it was dirt. People like Marty Robbins, Patsy Cline paved the road, and it's them we should pay tribute to. Without them, we wouldn't be here."
2011 featured many highlights for Wesley, including opening for the CMA Entertainer of the Year. "It's been great. We were fortunate enough to open for Taylor Swift. It was mind blowing. You go from playing honky-tonks to 60,000 people at Foxboro. It was insane. For her to ask me to come out with her, that was one of the greatest things I've been a part of."
Wesley said he admires Swift for how she treats her fans, sometimes even sending them pizzas while waiting in line for tickets. "Call them fans, but I like to call them friends. After a while, they get to know you, and you get to know them. They come out night after night, rain or shine. It's awesome how she treats people. When you get as successful as she is, it's amazing how she gives back. Someday..," he says hopefully, eager to follow in her footsteps.