Craig Wayne Boyd is just getting started.
Sure, he’s already drawn a large and loyal following. Thousands thrilled to his victory in Season 7 of The Voice. That right there is more than most performers could even dream of.
But with release of his new album, Top Shelf, Boyd goes way beyond that platform to a place that even his fans might not have anticipated. Confident delivery, upbeat personality, deep country soul, and easy charisma - this is all still there.
What’s changed is that these qualities aren’t the whole picture. Rather, they’re the foundation of all the qualities that make Craig Wayne unique among today’s young artists of any genre. Top Shelf is a musical kaleidoscope - a whirl of celebration, heartbreak, the sweet pain of love, and the comfort of faith’s embrace.
Start with the producer. After relocating from Miami to Nashville, Will Edwards crossed paths with Craig Wayne through a mutual friend. Both sensed that working together could kindle some interesting results.
When explaining the process of recording this album, Craig explains, “I wanted to go in a different direction, touching on what I’d already experimented with on The Voice. Basically, I wanted to bring in a larger sound. I wanted more strings, more ambience, than I’d had before. I mean, I’m from Texas. I directed our church choir. That twang won’t go away. And that’s good. I just want to build on that in new ways.”
With Edwards in his corner, Boyd stepped further in that direction by making a decision some in Nashville would consider controversial. “I decided to be an artist rather than a singer/songwriter,” he says. “I love to write. Just about every week I’m in a writing session. And when we began work on Top Shelf, about eight songs I’d written were under consideration. But I kept finding new ones that said the same thing I wanted to say, only better.”
Boyd and Edwards listened to more than a thousand demos. Only by keeping their standards high were they able to come up with a match of material and artist that distinguishes Top Shelf from so many other releases. Once he’d confirmed the final song lineup, Boyd realized that for all its variety, there was one trait that unified it — happiness. As he describes it, “the happiness I’ve found with my family, with meeting my wife Taylor and having kids. This kind of surprised me because, honestly, it’s hard to write about being happy! I’d rather live it than write about it.”
Like life, Top Shelf isn’t just sunshine and rainbows. In fact, one of the album’s most powerful tracks, “Only in My Mind,” is also its darkest. “Only in my mind, water turns to wine, every night I find myself, beside the one, God gives to me,” the lyrics say. “We talk about my day, she knows exactly what to say, so I take her by the hand, down the hall and then we slowly fade away.”
“And,” Boyd observes, “she flies back to Heaven. The only way he can bring her back from Heaven is when he drinks. It was so intense that I had to take a break while recording it in the studio because I just lost it. I sang it in public for the very first time this summer at CMA Music Fest and people were literally bawling. I feel like this song is meant for someone but I don’t know who it is yet.”
From the buoyant “Stuck In My Head” to the dirty sound of “We Sweat,” Boyd presents himself as an artist of complex dimension, never satisfied with repeating himself but always true to his roots. Whether you’re discovering him now or already onboard, Top Shelf marks the real start of a trek toward beckoning horizons. He will never stop exploring and adventuring.
This journey will be — already is — worth it on its own.