It’s been said that all you need to make it in the music business is talent and ambition. And even though good looks and a great voice can come in handy, country singer/songwriter
Wicks grew up on his family’s potato farm in Smyrna, Del., listening to everything from traditional country to R&B, but never considered music as a career.
Then, while attending Florida Central College in Lakeland where he was studying education and entertaining dreams of becoming a professional baseball player, a passion for country music “just kind of took over.”
“I started writing songs, but I didn’t really know too much about how to get into the music industry until somebody said to me, ‘Man, you gotta go to Nashville,’” Wicks told Pollstar.
After hitching rides with friends for a few exploratory trips, the singer got a development deal at RCA Records and his mind was made up.
“I quit college two classes short of graduation,” he said. “The reason I moved was because I had a development deal in place, so I had something to stand on.
“But a week after moving to town, I got dropped. I just said, ‘You know what? I’m not going to go anywhere else. I’m not going to try to get another record deal somewhere. I’m going to do nothing but write songs.’ Through writing songs, I found out who I was as an artist.”
Fortunately for Wicks, the connections he’d already made on Music Row would eventually be his ticket to success.
“My record label ended up hooking me up with a bunch of writers. I’d write with two or three people but, through one relationship, I’d make five. And through five relationships I’d make 10. It just kept growing. I would be writing with some of the greatest songwriters in the world.
“I would do songwriter nights, but I didn’t really start performing until I got my second record deal. I just wanted to focus on nothing but the song.”
After four years practicing his craft alongside people like Monty Powell, George Teren, Rivers Rutherford and Neil Thrasher during the day and parking their cars at Fleming’s Steak House at night, Wicks went back to RCA and got another record deal.
While recording his first album for the label, the singer landed a spot on the short-lived Fox reality show “Nashville.” Although the series lasted only two episodes, he said the experience was worth it.
“I always looked at the show as a bonus. I was always going to work hard and run the gauntlet. I was going to write songs and make records and ‘Nashville’ was a great tool to get it out there in a different light. Unfortunately, two weeks of that wasn’t enough.”
Honing his craft for so long was a smart choice. Wicks scored a hit with “Stealing Cinderella,” the first single off his debut album Starting Now, which earned him a spot on the road with Brad Paisley last year.
And last fall the singer began dating former “Dancing with the Stars” pro dancer and now full-time country singer Julianne Hough. The pair competed together on the show’s eighth season, which Wicks says scored him valuable exposure despite keeping him off the road for a while.
“I recently did a show in Oregon and 11,000 people showed up,” he explained. “I was like, ‘Where did all these people come from?’ It blew my mind. I’ve seen my shows grow a ton, especially after being on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ It’s so much fun to see new fans come out.
“The show took about four months out of my touring schedule. But we’re still going to do over 100 shows this year. I love it. Every week, we’re doing two or three shows – or more.”
Shortly after he landed his first deal with RCA and moved to Nashville, Wicks secured the services of William Morris Endeavor’s Tinti Moffat, whom he met through his A&R rep.
“I kind of developed a team early on,” Wicks explained. “Tinti was one of the people that was on that team.
“She’s done a great job. The thing about her is that she cares about the project. She’s not just trying to go get a gig, she actually cares about the project. I think that’s what you need.”
Moffat told Pollstar working with Wicks is a breeze because he’s a pro when it comes to doing whatever it takes to build his career.
“He’s a very focused, hardworking guy,” she said.
One part of Wicks’ team that’s missing at the moment is a manager. Although the singer’s day-to-day affairs are being handled by his accountant Chris Wyater, he says that’s not likely to become a permanent arrangement.
Wicks’ upcoming projects include work on a second album, which he’s discovered his busy touring schedule is helping rather than hindering.
“You watch what people are responding to,” he explained. “I’ll go back and write a new song and say ‘Well, they probably want to hear this rather than this.’
“I learn something new every day. That’s the best way to learn, just go out there and do it. People can teach you things, but you don’t really find your niche until you just go out and do it.”