Wayne Hancock — The work is what matters

Wayne Hancock (Photo by Victor Barajas)

The key to Wayne Hancock’s universe is a simple one, and it’s right there in the title track of his latest album, “Slingin’ Rhythm.”

“I love the road and my plans are never to retire.”

He means it too.

“All I need is a van, four new tires, a tune-up, and I’m ready to drive,” he said before heading into Manhattan for a Sunday gig at American Beauty NYC. And while some talk about life on the road, Texas’ Wayne “The Train” really lives it, estimating that he’s out touring at least six months out of the year. Along the way, he’s tortured his van, the last one getting 550,000 original miles.

This one? 430,000 miles so far, so he’ll be able to get a few more tours out of it. And that’s just fine with him, as touring is where you separate the men from the boys.

“I think the problem with the music business is that so many people are in it for the fame, the fortune, the money, the big houses, the reality shows,” he said. “Not too many people are in it because that’s what they want to do. Now that’s a broad statement and I don’t want people to think I’m knocking everybody. I’m not really knocking anybody, but from my perspective, when we go out on the road, we go out to make a lot of music and make our bills.”

It’s the workmanlike attitude you would expect from a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, and it’s never been about the trappings of fame for him. The music he grew up on and still loves today wasn’t about flash. All that mattered was good songs, good musicianship and good singing. Everything else was just fat. That old school approach is evident on Slingin’ Rhythm.

“I’m really, really proud of my new album,” he said. “It’s as good as anything I’ve done. Bloodshot, I’ve been with them for 15 years, longest record company I’ve ever been with, and they give me full control over everything. They give me the money, we go in to make a record — two days, three days and we’re done with it.”

What, no working on one vocal track for three months? Nah, not this guy, who was never into this for any reason other than the music.

“I have a lot of friends of mine that get really mad because I’m not making millions of dollars,” he said. “I make good music and my goal is to always be playing. We’re never going to make a lot of money, but we make a decent living doing this, and if I do my job right, when I leave this world there will be plenty of other people that we’ve enlightened, and they can go on and take that enlightenment to any job they’re doing.”

Is it safe to say Hancock is one of the last of his kind?

“When my father passed away, he wasn’t listening to any new music and going, ‘Wow, this is great stuff,’” he said. “For the first time in my life, the pendulum is swinging the other way and it’s quite possible that maybe at whatever age I pass from this world, that music might actually be starting to get really good again.”

He laughs.

“Today, you turn on a music video, if you can even find one on TV, and they’ve all got the same thing,” Hancock continues. “They’ve got girls, kids wearing baseball caps and hopping on cars, sex, sex, sex, my pickup truck down by the river with my dog and my beer. This is fine music if you’re 18. But if you’ve been up in the world and you’re getting close to 40 or maybe over 60, you need a little bit more than that.”

Hancock pauses and chuckles before continuing.
“I feel like those old guys that I used to make fun of,” he said. “They were like, ‘I just don’t understand this, I don’t understand what they’re saying.’ I’ve been doing that since I was in my 30s and I’m in my 50s now and my attitude hasn’t changed any.”

And it won’t. That’s not a good thing, it’s a great thing, because the music world needs honest musicians and honest voices like Wayne Hancock who, at 51, is likely to have a few more decades of this in him.

“It’s just like Willie Nelson,” he said of the 83-year-old legend. “You do the work until it’s time to not work no more. You’ve got to separate the bulls**t from what it is. The ones you want are the ones that do music because they have to.”

Wayne Hancock plays American Beauty NYC on Sunday, November 6. For tickets, click here