Blake Wise wasn't born onstage - but he got there as soon as he could.
He has been singing onstage since age 2, was rocking nightclubs with his own band by 13 and by 18 was making his way in the Nashville music world. Music is his destiny, entertaining fans is his passion and the stage is his home. "That's where I feel the most comfortable," Blake says. "That's the reason I write songs, that's the reason I do everything in this business: to get onstage and entertain people."
The urge to connect with others through song has shaped the course of Wise's life from the very beginning, and it continues to shape the music he makes on his debut for Broken Bow Records. These are songs that speak to the joys and concerns of the working-class folks he grew up around in the small town of Nebo (pop. 3,700), nestled in the mountains of North Carolina. "I wouldn't trade the values that I got from growing up there for anything," Blake says. "It taught me to be grounded. Family has a lot to do with that as well. I had a good support system in my family."
Not to mention a great role model: Wise's father was a talented singer who was quick to integrate his music-loving son into his nightclub set. "I'd get up there and sing and act like I was playing guitar," Blake says with a chuckle. He began taking guitar lessons at 4, and over the following years added piano, mandolin, fiddle and banjo to his repertoire. At 13 he began hitting the small circuit of country bars in the counties surrounding Nebo (accompanied by his dad, of course). He paid his dues for the next several years, learning valuable lessons about how to win over skeptical audiences. "The most honesty you'll ever get is from a crowd at a bar," he says. "You know what they like and what they don't like, by whether they're dancing or just standing there looking at you." He also dealt with his share of rowdy audience behavior. "The things my eyes saw at 14 or 15..." he says with a chuckle. "It was an interesting time."
When he headed out to see concerts by favorite artists like Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, he closely observed how they rocked huge crowds. "I remember watching Kenny and being like, Wow! This is what I want to do,'" says Blake, who also cites George Strait, George Jones and fellow North Carolina native James Taylor among his varied influences.
Blake was discovered at age 15 by veteran manager John Dorris, who convinced him to wait until he finished high school before heading to Nashville. "For three years I was in waiting," he says. "At 15 you're nowhere close to being ready for this, even if you think you are. John knew that." A few months after his 18th birthday, Wise made his move to Music City. "I'd never been on my own," he remembers. "I'll never forget the feeling when my parents left the apartment that I'd just rented. That first night was tough. But I had direction."