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Morgan Wade Is Letting Her Songs Tell Her Story: ‘I Put Out Music, Do With It What You Will’

Morgan Wade wasn’t trying to write a new record. Especially since her last release, 2023’s Psychopath, the last thing she wanted was to go through the public wringer again. “I was really struggling,” Wade says, calling from a West Virginia parking lot that she’s circling to get cell service. “I was not feeling a connection with it. My record wasn’t talked about, and that really messed with me.”

Don’t get her wrong: People were talking about her. Talking about her friendship with Kyle Richards, of Real Housewives fame, and turning every shared coffee break or shopping trip into tabloid gold. Were they really just good pals? Were they actually a couple? Does Wade’s t-shirt choice hold a hidden message clueing everyone in to the secret answer? The sensationalism and speculation propelled Wade to the top of the cultural register, which would have been fine with her if it were for the music itself, and not a bunch of fabricated headlines. 

It was a shame, because there was plenty on the excellent, downright vulnerable Psychopath to talk about. It’s a major-label country record that made no attempts at an easy airplay hit, full of raw storytelling (“all these people want to do is fuck someone at the party,” she sings on “Meet Somebody”) and guitars that sometimes twanged along with her heavy drawl, while others made her sound like a Southern Kim Deal. Wade is proud of the record, but she can’t shake the feeling she gets when she thinks about that time in her life, when people were warping every lyric — lyrics written before she and Richards even knew each other — into some coded declaration. With the release of her new album, Obsessed, out Aug. 16, she knows they’ll keep doing it. The only difference now is that she no longer cares. 

“I could write a song about a piece of paper, and they would find some way to make it into something salacious,” says Wade, who has been in West Virginia for a few weeks shooting a movie called Daisy about female bull riders — women who try to tame impossible beasts in a misogynistic industry, something she knows a thing or two about. “But I’m not going to hide my art because of people’s gossip. I am over that.” 

When the tattooed and newly sober Wade released 2021’s Reckless, an independent record produced by Sadler Vaden, a member of Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit and a solo artist in his own right, few predicted that she’d be snatched up by a major label and equally embraced by both the country mainstream and Americana worlds. But Wade’s way of combining rock sensibilities and strikingly candid songwriting with strong country roots was a captivating antidote to Music Row’s monotonous machinery, and soon she went from touring as a relative unknown to selling out two nights at the Ryman Auditorium in a year and re-releasing an extended version of Reckless through Arista Nashville. “Wilder Days” broke the top 30 on Billboard’s country airplay chart, and she performed at both the Americana Honors & Awards and CMT Music Awards, straddling two usually separate sides of the genre. Somehow, Wade seemed to have cracked an impossible country code.

“I am happy with having mainstream success,” the Floyd, Virginia-born Wade says. “And I am equally happy with Americana, because Americana embraced me first. It’s nice to be able to walk both lines, but sometimes it’s hard, because I feel a little bit more like an outcast. Is this too mainstream for Americana? Or too Americana for mainstream? But I wrote this record for me.” 

Obsessed was made casually and unintentionally, with her touring guitarist Clint Wells instead of Vaden as producing partner, because the bulk of it was conceived on the road. Wade had started writing and going back through old voice notes to connect with the parts she loved about being an artist, away from the tabloid scrutiny. “I thought, ‘If I am going to fall back in love with this, how do I do it?’” she says. The solution was just to get into the recording studio without overthinking; she ended up with a songwriter record that is stripped down, primarily acoustic, and a powerful showcase of Wade’s dynamic vocal capabilities.

Songs like the just released “Moth to a Flame,” “Department Store,” and “Spin” are striking in their sparseness, often centered around Wade’s voice and guitar only, letting the lyrics come to the forefront. They are both confessional and self-realized, rarely putting the heartbreak or blame anywhere but on her own mistakes or choices, aware that humanity is about walking an imperfect line.

Wade wrote every song solo, and Wells encouraged her to do what came naturally. “You’re a storyteller,” she says he would remind her. She’d been playing some acoustic shows on the road, and noticed how well her songs took to a room of captive, quiet listeners. Obsessed is an album meant to be heard that way — in reflection, away from the call of the world.  

Obsessed also includes Wade’s first guest feature, from none other than her childhood idol Kesha. Wade recruited Kesha for the lovelorn and lonely piano ballad “Walked on Water,” which they recorded on the first day they met, after an afternoon hanging out on the beach. Wade grew up with a poster of Kesha on her wall (alongside Elvis), and she admits it is surreal to not only be friends, but collaborators. “She is one of those people who is just super kind, spiritual, and healthy to be around,” Wade says, going on to comment on Kesha’s keen country instincts. “I’ve listened to some of her unreleased stuff, and some of it is straight-up country ballads. But she can throw out a banger at the same time.”

There’s also a song called “Juliet” that she knows will inspire some controversy. It’s a love song, about two women. “I thought, ‘What if Juliet didn’t need Romeo, and Romeo was a dick,” Wade says. “And instead, she fell in love and ran off with a woman? I want to write songs that challenge things a bit, and make people think. This is a song someone could hear and make them feel less alone.”

Wade insists that she wrote the song back in April of 2021 before she and Richards even met and became friends. “I have receipts,” she claims before adding, “and if this song was about a real situation, why would I put it out? Am I that fucking stupid?” The melody is foreboding and minor-key. “Juliet your lips taste like wine,” she sings. “You’re laying in his bed, but you’re thinking of mine.”

Wade thought it was more important to be a country artist in the world singing these types of songs and reaching people who might need them than worrying about her own personal comfort. She felt the same way when she recruited Richards, earlier in their friendship, to serve as a love interest in the video for “Fall in Love With Me,” which involves a dream sequence where they nearly kiss. What had started as little rumors turned into a full-on explosion after that, but she doesn’t regret it. “I’m happy with it, and I’m not going to regret making art,” she says. “It was funny and campy and I stand by it.” As for what will come with “Juliet,” at least she now knows what to expect. “There’s going to be some kid who has struggled with who they are who will be moved by it,” Wade says. “And if it reaches one person, then it’s fucking worth it.”

Wade prefers to communicate directly with fans through her lyrics and visual choices. She’s never commented on the speculation about Richards, nor does she talk about politics publicly (she is quick to clarify that she doesn’t see a song about queer love as “political,” but just basic human rights). “I don’t comment because I don’t fucking have to,” Wade says, though it’s clear all the gossip and intense fabrication was, and still is, painful to endure. “I put out music, do with it what you will. My true fans are going to focus on that.”

Wade does feel comfortable speaking about her health. Specifically, sobriety, exercise, and her recent preventative mastectomy after a test revealed a gene mutation called RAD51D, which raised her chances for breast cancer from 20 to 40 percent. Her aunt had the disease, and Wade is adamant about using her platform to educate others on the benefits of preventative care — and how it’s possible to get back to a new normal afterwards. An avid weightlifter, she’s returned to the gym benching 115 pounds, though she was also there a few days after surgery doing leg extensions, keeping up with her intense fitness habits even while on the road for Alanis Morissette this summer.

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The Morrissette dates, where she’s opening alongside Joan Jett, have been a stark contrast to her acoustic tour, but Wade is good at straddling two worlds. She can play a rock audience just as easily as a country or folk one, entrance both Americana and Music Row. The same goes for her music: it fits everywhere and stands alone.  

“I wrote this record for me, and that’s all that matters,” Wade says. “It’s not about money or streams, it’s about, are people going to come to my shows so I can make that grown man in the front row cry? Because that’s how I know I’ve really fucking done something.”

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