IF YOU GO:
Who: James Wesley
When: 10 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Dusty Armadillo,
3147 Ohio 44, Rootstown
Tickets: $10; call 330-325-0647
By John Benson
Country singer James Wesley believes his recent success is nothing short of unbelievable.
Music fans may remember Wesley, a ’90s Nashville artist who released 1999 album “Life Goes On” under the name James Prosser. The CD didn’t do much on the charts, but its title proved apropos for the Kansas native who grew tired of the country-music-industry grind. So life went on for this blue-collar worker back in Arkansas. He supported his family doing maintenance and landscaping in the daytime while still playing music at night.
“I felt like I was burning the candle at both ends and in the middle, and I told my wife I don’t want any regrets,” said Wesley, calling from Music City. “I feel like I needed to move to Nashville and give it another shot. She said if you feel that strong about it, then let’s do it. That’s what we did in 2006.”
Eventually, Wesley crossed paths with songwriter Rodney Clawson (“Amarillo Sky” and “I Saw God Today”). This partnership led to a record deal with Broken Bow Records, which is about to release his new album, “Real,” later this year. However, things already seem different this time around for Wesley, who recently scored a top-25 hit with the album’s title track.
“That single has done so much for me,” Wesley said. “For one, it’s definitely gotten me out there, and we picked up a lot more dates to get out and play and open up some shows. And on top of that, it really spoke to a lot of people out there — just in what they were feeling and what the whole economy is going through. It’s a lot fun to get out there and sing that song because the people know the lyrics. They sing it back to you, which is probably one of the most gratifying things in the world. After working so hard, trying to get a record deal, finally getting a record deal and working to put something out here for them to hear, when you get a song that does as well as ‘Real’ and makes such an impact, that’s got to be one of the greatest feelings ever.”
Other favorite songs from his new album include the traditional sounding “If I Never See Julie Again” and the fun-rocker “Walking Contradiction.” Wesley said he can’t wait to come to Northeast Ohio and play the new tunes for his fans at his show Saturday at The Dusty Armadillo. All of this recent success and notoriety has the singer happy he gave stardom another shot.
“It’s one of those things where I’m glad I didn’t put it off and turn around five years from now and go, ‘What if?’” Wesley said. “I’ve done so much just in the past year.”
Not only did he make his debut on The Grand Ole Opry last fall performing “Real” and Marty Robbins classic “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me,” but this summer he’ll be an opening act on select dates of Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now World Tour 2011.”
Yes, it sure seems as though things are getting real for Wesley.
“Exactly,” Wesley said, laughing. “It’s unbelievable to me.”