As the consummate entertainer, Wayne Brady knows that timing is everything.
His first CD, the aptly named "A Long Time Coming," is ample proof that the creative process can't be rushed, even if you are as magnificently multi-talented as Brady.
For years, the Emmy Award winner and improv genius tried to record a CD, but was thwarted at every turn. "The songs never came, the inspiration never happened," he recalls. "Now in hindsight, I think about what my grandmother used to tell me: to just wait and as soon as it's supposed to happen it will happen. I'm a very impatient person. I didn't understand that. I love to sing. Why can't I come up with my own album?"
But slowly, the answer revealed itself: Brady had some more living to do before he was ready to create a work as true and authentic as "A Long Time Coming." "I'd worked a lot, but I think in terms of loss of love and life, I'd still done relatively little of that," he says. "Over these past six years, a lot happened personally that I've experienced that I was able to turn into this music. I finally feel like a man."
Indeed, the album's 12 songs cover life's trajectory-the highs, the lows, the joys and the sorrows. "I want this to be the soundtrack of my life," Brady says. "There aren't too many songs that echo an empty sentiment; that has no place in my writing and my life."
One listen to first single, "Ordinary," a beautiful mid-tempo burner that pays tribute to the glorious simplicity found in every day life and love, and that point is brought home by Brady's nuanced, soulful delivery. "Buying eight dozen roses and taking a carriage ride and having a big dinner is great once in a while, but when you start substituting that for true romance and spending time together, you're covering up for a deficit," Brady says. "This song says, ‘I'm so happy with the way that we are that I don't need all the bells and whistles.'"
From the playful, Marvin-Gaye-inspired sexy swagger of "FWB" to the heart wrenching pleas of "Heaven Can Wait" and the parental devotion of "You and Me," Brady puts his heart and soul on the line, revealing all sides of his personality to the listener.
Although this is his first full-length album, Brady already has a proven track record at radio. Brady performed on "Don't Stop," a hit from Jamie Jones' 2005 solo album, as well as paired with noted pianist Jim Brickman for "Beautiful," a tune inspired by Disney's "Cinderella." The positive reception to the Brickman track led Brady to prepare his own project. "That's when I started feeling like people will warm up to me not singing on stage about a mutant panda; that this is my chance to do something else."
With a new-found confidence in hand, Brady turned to Jones, Jack Kugell and Jason Pennock-better known as the superstar production team the Heavyweights--to write and record the album. The Heavyweights' productions have sold more than 28 million albums and include work with such superstars as Brickman, Martina McBride and Destiny's Child.
"The Heavyweights are an amazing collaborative team, I can't say enough about them," Brady says. "I really feel if it weren't for Jamie, Jack and Jason, the record wouldn't have come about."
Brady co-wrote many of the songs on the album with the trio. Songwriting comes naturally to Brady, who has written a number of tunes before, including the theme song for Disney's animated series "The Weekenders," and, of course, has shown his otherworldly ability to conjure up songs on the spot through his improv act. "The only difference was this time I wasn't trying to be funny, which is harder," he says. Once he and the Heavyweights picked a topic, "the songs just poured out."
Interspersed with the originals are a few well-chosen classics, reinterpreted by Brady. Especially close to his heart is his remake of Sam Cooke's seminal "A Change is Gonna Come," which takes on added significance in these extraordinary times. "We may have our first black president soon. Just before my lifetime, African-Americans were being chased down by dogs and water hoses were turned on them. I had to do the song as an homage to Obama and for all those people who came before me. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be able to say I can play a show anywhere in the country."
Brady also tackles the Beatles' chestnut, "Can't Buy Me Love," adopting the slow-churning arrangement that R&B vocal group Blackstreet made famous when it covered the song in the mid-‘90s. "I grew up in the church. This version is almost gospel and you really listen to it and the message takes on a different meaning," Brady says.
Several tracks also show Brady's well-documented ability to get his groove on. On the irrepressible "Back in the Day," which was co-written by the artist, Brady recalls his love for hip hop and funk. "I used to break dance in my street and we'd play until the streetlights came on," he recalls. "The song is basically showing my love for hip-hop. It's almost my version of ‘I Wish.' I was a big fan of Rakim, so we dropped a little bit of rap in."
Because of Brady's demanding schedule, the Heavyweights took to the road to record him in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Hawaii, often working around his hit Vegas show "Making It Up," which runs Thursday-Monday at the Venetian Hotel. "As soon as we looked at the schedule, we saw it's going to take a little bit of work," Brady says. "They made their studio mobile and jumped on a plane to Vegas. We'd record during the day, I'd do my show and then we'd come to my room and write. We were a four-man Motown."
The Las Vegas revue highlights his legendary improv skills, for which Brady won an Emmy while appearing on "Whose Line is it Anyway?" Brady, who also garnered two Emmys as outstanding talk show host for his self-titled syndicated talk show, will return this fall to TV as host of Fox's hit show, "Don't Forget the Lyrics." Additionally, the versatile Brady has become the go-to guest star appearing as Neil Patrick Harris's gay brother on "How I Met Your Mother" and Tina Fey's bad-luck boyfriend on "30 Rock."
Although he's been singing all his life, Brady knows he has to prove to non-believers that despite his busy schedule, he is dedicated to his music career. "People know I can really sing, it's not just me putting on a voice," he says. "I have to thank Jamie Foxx, he was able to sell a million copies. People could see he was a multi-hyphenate. But if you're going to do that, you really have to do it; you need to bring your A-Game to every facet of what you're bringing to the people."
Put him in coach, Wayne Brady is ready to play.