Guitar therapy

Local artist’s unexpected country success journey

By Lisa Bennett

Photo: Wyatt McCubbin plays Friday, Jan. 8 at the Clark State Performing Arts Center in Springfield; photo: Matthew Vlachos

Life can be a crazy whirlwind of chance, luck and synchronicity. We never know how one small, seemingly random event can change the course of our lives forever. A simple pit stop for a cup of coffee before work, for example, can lead to the purchase of a winning lottery ticket. A flat tire on a lonely road can lead to a chance meeting with the love of a lifetime.

For Wyatt McCubbin, what started as an average day of 7th grade football, ended with a broken arm and the start of a promising but unlikely career in music. After multiple surgeries to fix his shattered arm, McCubbin was told he would need physical therapy to restore strength and dexterity to his hand and wrist.

“I picked up a guitar for therapy. I had no intention of taking it farther than that. It’s just one of those wild things that you can’t plan for,” recalls McCubbin. “I always loved music and I figured that if I was going to sit somewhere and do something that worked my wrists and arms, why not enjoy it?”

Little did he know that this therapy would end up being the catalyst for a whole new future. Shortly after breaking his arm, McCubbin and his family went to Nashville to visit a family friend.

“I was a 14-year-old kid and I was annoying, so I packed my guitar just to be that kid that nobody wanted to listen to,” laughs McCubbin, adding, “I had left some just absolutely terrible CD back behind a bar room and the next week I got a call from a management agency.”

Through a little luck and that chance encounter, he began his journey into the world of music. In no time at all, McCubbin was recording songs in the very same RCA studio his childhood idols recorded in.

“It was crazy,” he says. “All my heroes recorded in that studio. It’s wild to think about all the boots that worked through that place.”

A set of those boots belonged to Jessi Colter, singer and widow of the late Waylon Jennings. His encounter with the lovely singer left a lasting impression on the young artist.

“I didn’t know she was going to be in there until I walked out after the vocal take,” McCubbin says. “I was surprised. She had nothing but great things to say. ’Course, I was young and I think she just wanted to encourage a young person, but she was so genuine about it. ’Course I was, and still am, a huge Wayon Jennings fan and just to get that somewhat sign of approval was really special to me.

“She said, ‘Well, I think Waylon would really like that,’ and I about fell over. After that, she sat on a piano bench and I sat right beside her and she sang some songs and it’s just one of those things I will never forget as long as I’m alive. We just shared the day at RCA Studio B.”

His day with Jessi Colter would prove to be the beginning of many shared days with a plethora of his childhood heroes, from Merle Haggard to David Allen Coe. His work on the Waylon Jennings Tribute Album landed him a writing deal with a publisher and he’s been writing ever since.

“Through that deal, I met some of my favorite song writers ever,” McCubbin says.

His album Bootleg was the result of some of his work writing songs.

“I called it Bootleg because it was freakin’ bootlegged. There wasn’t any labels or anything,” he explains. “It was just because I wanted to put out a CD.”

His album may not have a label, but the music on it is certainly exquisite enough to warrant one. McCubbin’s deep, sultry voice melts seamlessly with the sound of his guitar. It’s the kind of delicious blend that can make a fan out of someone who wouldn’t otherwise like country music. What shocks fans isn’t just the obvious raw talent this young artist has, or how humble his approach to life is, but how starkly his mature, baritone voice contrasts with his slim, baby-faced appearance. He may be young, but his voice sounds wise beyond his years.

“I’m proud of a lot of these songs that have been cranking out lately, and I’m excited to share them at the big show in January [in Springfield, OH],” he says. “None of that’s available right now. It’s a sneak peak of what’s to come.”

Though the talented, young artist has big plans for the future, he approaches it humbly.

“I’m just a guy with a song.”

Wyatt McCubbin plays at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 8 at the Clark State Performing Arts Center, 300 S. Fountain Ave. in Springfield. Tickets are $35.For more information about the show or to purchase tickets, please call 937.328.3874 or visit pac.clarkstate.edu/events/calendar/wyatt-mccubbin or wyattmccubbin.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at LisaBennett@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at LisaBennett@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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