On the Edge: Wayne Hancock
At its best, country music delivers honest slices of real life and runs the full gamut of emotions from joy to heartbreak. And artists like Wayne “The Train” Hancock aren’t just singing those songs—they’re living them just like many of us. The veteran honky-tonker’s eighth—and latest—album, Ride, shows a man figuring out how to soldier on in the midst of personal unrest.
The album’s twangy title track demonstrates the Texas traditionalist’s preferred method of therapy for his troubles: screaming down the road on his Harley. “I joined an MC [motorcycle club]. Me and my wife were kind of splitting anyway,” says Wayne. “That’s pretty much what it’s about.” The up-tempo boogie plays in contrast to the heartbroken lyrics, which begin, Me and my baby, we’re splitting up, and I’m feeling really bad inside / I’m gonna put on my cut, put my kickstand up, saddle up my Super Glide.
Wayne’s involvement in the MC has also provided some much-needed comfort and community throughout his breakup. “I’m at the age where something could happen along the way. I don’t take the best care of myself,” he admits. “What if I had a heart attack? My brothers are there every day. It’s almost like a lifeline.”
Much of the last two decades of Wayne’s life has been dedicated to recording and playing his music, which has retained its defiantly traditionalist bent through massive changes in the mainstream. Softening his image for sales doesn’t appeal to him. “I tell you what, dude, I’m not gonna take the grease out of my hair, and I’m not gonna fold my jeans down,” he says with a laugh.
That “regular guy” thing is a stance many singers adopt, though few can actually pull off. In Wayne’s case, what you see (or hear) is what you get. “I want the audience to understand I’m just like they are,” he explains. “I pay bills. I worry about whether I can make my rent. It’s better if you hear it coming from somebody who’s actually been there.”
Wayne says it hasn’t been an easy way to make a living, playing more than 200 dates a year—year after year—but he believes it’s his calling and he’ll keep right on. “I didn’t think I’d last 20 years on the road out here. It’s a rough-and-tumble lifestyle,” he says. “It’s almost like being a monk. You have to be dedicated to one thing and I’m dedicated to music. Nothing else comes between me and my music: girlfriends, family life, I don’t care what it is. I think God put me here to play music. I think that’s what I’m supposed to do ’til I drop dead one day.”
He quickly adds, “Hopefully it’ll be after a show. That way the folks know they got their money’s worth.”