Wayne Brady: Music Is The Through-Thread

Wayne Brady Interview

By Marsha Gosho Oakes

“It wasn’t that I ever set out to build a reputation for myself as a goody-goody but I’m a family guy; so I had a wife and especially now I’ve got a kid,” 36-year-old actor, comedian, TV personality and singer Wayne Brady tells SoulCulture. “You know what, maybe if I wanted more exposure then I’d be out on the street doing stupid shit but I’m pretty content and I’m happy with the life that I’ve built for myself so I don’t need to be that guy.”

You’ll remember him from hit British comedy improvisation show, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and you may have caught his talk show, The Wayne Brady Show. Astute viewers will have observed his penchant for singing in his improvisations and features; a subtle nod of his dream career.

That successful career in comedy took over from the original reason Brady had moved to LA all those years ago – to sing. Now, with his debut album A Long Time Coming, Brady bares the soul he was born with.

“Personally it was a Long Time Coming, but I also named the album that because of Sam Cooke; my folks are from the Virgin Islands, so in my household all we listened to as a kid was reggae music, soca music or soul music – and I grew up on Sam Cooke and Otis Redding and the Motown collection.”

wayneb“I think I’m a jack of all trades but I do have to say singing has always been the closest and nearest to my heart, and that’s why in my comedy, even in a lot of the theatre pieces I’ve done, music is the through-thread, that’s the one constant. Whether it’s the acting where there’s music or whether it’s the improv where there was music; that’s something I’ve always been comfortable with because I love it so much.”

“I was a singer before I started doing any TV so the only reason I’d waited that long is because I’d been lucky enough that my TV projects like Who’s Line… plus I had my own talk show for two years, and Broadway and touring, that always got in the way of the music business. I’d moved out to Los Angeles years ago to pursue a dream and it was time to get back on track. So then I got a record deal and recorded a CD and my first singe, “Ordinary” has done incredibly well and has been playing all over from Japan to Australia to New Zealand.”

The younger Brady “was a very shy private kid.” He admits, “The typical story of the kid that got picked on a lot, very scrawny, zits, the whole nine and in my own room that’s where I could be cool where I’d write those stories and act them out for myself. But I never ever thought that I’d be performing in front of people. So when I was actually able to step on stage and not have people go ‘euw’, that was a huge thing. Up until that point I’d thought I was going to go into the military.”

“I had a record deal when I was doing my talk show but I felt that I wasn’t ready. I think a bit of it is that I was frightened, that I really thought I’d kind of backed myself into this corner… I thought, ‘I don’t wanna be like a lot of these other guys that they release an album and people will laugh at you because they’re used to seeing you in this one thing’.” He admits, ”I think I chickened out and I just didn’t feel like I was ready to write the kind of material that folks would take me seriously with.”

waynebradyalbumA Long Time Coming is the material he speaks of. Proudly, he says, “It’s a really great record and I was nominated for a Grammy – I was nominated for Best Tradition R&B performance for my cover of “Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. When that happened a lot of music folks back in the US said ‘oh, this is serious…’”

The album features two covers – Sam Cooke’s “A Long Time Coming” and “All I Do” by Stevie Wonder. “If you’re not Stevie Wonder, don’t try to sound like Stevie Wonder! I get mad whenever I turn on the radio and there are so many of these guys that try to sound like Stevie Wonder and instead they sound like whiny 13 year olds.”

Stevie Wonder more than gave his blessings for Wayne Brady’s version of “All I Do.” ”Stevie heard it when I was on his radio show back home and he played it twice… He clapped me on my back and it was one of the most amazing feelings in the world having one of my idols listen to you do his song and tell you that you’re incredible.”

The key to a good cover version? “Sing the song in your own voice. We took “All I Do” and put a little Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra orchestration on it with a live symphony and we gave it a swing. And it came out really, really great.”

So how does it feel to be a new recording artist? “It feels amazing. It’s what I always wanted to do and it’s also a little scary because I consider myself and intelligent person and a bit of a realist and I know that sometimes there is that jarring factor of when you see someone out of the [zone] that you know them from there is a bit of scepticism attached with that. So it is up to you and your product to erase any doubts. “

“I know that the roadside is littered with actors that wanted to record records but I can’t really think of all that because first and foremost I was a singer and that’s how I got into show business in the first place. I was doing that right until I was lucky enough to book Who’s Line… about 10 or 11 years ago I was working as a lounge singer in Tokyo of all places. The day my contract ended I flew back to LA I got a call to audition for this British TV show…and history.”