Chuck Wicks is well known to country music fans through such hit records as the sentimental “Stealing Cinderella” and “All I Ever Wanted.” Over the past couple of years, the Delaware native has seen the other side of country radio as co-host of Cumulus’s America’s Morning Show with Blair Garner and Kelly Ford.
“I get to see both sides of the fence,” Wicks, who’s returning with Turning Point, his first full-length album in eight years (out Feb. 26). “I know the side of being an artist and a songwriter and trying to get your song played on the radio, and doing the radio tour. I have to tell you that I have such respect for the singer-songwriter, and also for country radio. To marry those two together, and see some of those guys that I’ve toured with, and that I’ve grown up listening to — to sit in the same room with them and talk shop, and get on the radio and have fun with them — you can’t beat it. I have a ball doing it.”
Ironically, Wicks says that his day job has helped his visibility with his performing career. “As an artist, you might hit a city twice a year. Doing the radio show, and being in 42-plus cities, I’m waking up with these guys every single morning. I have a better relationship now with the country music fan than I’ve ever had. When you’re able to talk with someone every single morning as they are going to work, they get to know you, and I get to know them. Now, when I go into a city to play as an artist, they know me better than they would ever know me just from hearing one or two songs on the radio.”
Wicks does admit that starting his days when he’s used to ending them is a little different, but he’s gotten used to it. “I have figured out that I’m not going to get any sleep. At first, I tried to find time to take a nap, but it’s not going to happen right now. I’m okay with that, because I love everything that I’m doing. As long as you love what it is that you’re doing, you can give up something else On the weekends, I still tour. Mondays are extremely hard for me because I’ve got to set my clock back and get on schedule, but besides that, I consider myself to be living the dream.”
Wicks has been waiting to release new music for a while. “This album was a long time in the making. There was a lot of wondering if these songs were ever going to see the light of day. When I knew it was going to happen, I got very excited,” he explains. “Every artist goes through change, and grows and becomes better, and that’s what I wanted to showcase — where I am now as opposed to where I was when I first came on the scene.”
And at this point in his career, Wicks has clarity on who he it as an artist. “have never had a clearer focus or vision on what kind of record I wanted to make,” he says. “This is my second chance to say this is who I am as a singer-songwriter. Hopefully, that’s reflected when people listen to it.”
The disc toes the line between love songs like “Whole Damn Thing” and the heartbreaking “She’s Gone.” “I don’t care who you are — you’ve experienced heartbreak. It doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship, it can be in life — maybe you don’t have the job you want, your parents aren’t around, you lost your dog, or anything that makes you feel that loss and wanting something back. That’s where I go to as a songwriter. I try to write things that I can relate to and that I can pull from.”
In a unique twist, those fans who pre-ordered Turning Point during the first week of availability will receive a phone call from the singer — something he says has been a lot of fun.
“I think a lot of people have done something of a double take. There’s not a better way to say thank you to someone than when you see them in person and shake their hand, but so many times — especially in our business — you don’t have the luxury to do that.”
One phone call was particularly memorable — and gut-wrenching. “There was a mother-daughter that used to go to a lot of my shows, and the mother answered the phone, I asked her what was going on, and how was Lauren, who’s her daughter,” says Wicks. “I hadn’t seen them in a couple of years, and she told me she had passed away during the past month. She was very young. I didn’t know anything of it. She had bought the record in honor of her daughter. To sit there and be able to swap stories about seeing them on the road together was a very touching experience. I was able to spark some great memories that she had of her daughter that I was involved in, which was very cool.”
Billboard has an exclusive sneak peek of one of the tracks from Turning Point — “I Don’t Do Lonely Well.” The song might be a little familiar to some — Jason Aldean recorded it on his 2012 album Night Train — and Wicks is excited to let fans hear the track from the perspective of the songwriter.
“Now, all of his fans that know the song the way he recorded it get to see how a different artist can sing the same song and puts a different take on it. That’s going to be really exciting for me. I go out and play the song live, and people will come up and say ‘Your version is a lot different than Jason’s,’ but I love both versions,” says Wicks. “To me, that speaks volumes about the song.”