Tragedy doesn’t have to define us. For as easy as it might’ve been for Wade Cota to give up many times, he never did. Instead, he pushed on. Rising up from abuse, poverty, and all manner of pain, the Arizona singer and songwriter went from the Top 5 of American Idol Season 17 to successfully crowd-funding his independent debut album and telling
his story like it was always meant to be told. Over robust riffs and earthshaking rhythms, he recounts an unbelievable and oftentimes inspiring journey.
“No matter how much shit gets thrown at you, you have to keep getting up,” he says. “I’ve failed so many times in my life. I’ve been broken down and beaten. Now, I finally have this opportunity to put my words out there. The only thing I can ever hope for is somebody hears them and connects.”
Wade went through hell to get here. For the first five years of his life, he endured brutal physical abuse at the hands of his biological father. Justice would be served when this man went to prison, but the damage had been done. Mom stepped up and did whatever she could to support the family as they settled into a trailer in the middle of the desert. Music called to Wade. In middle school, he became “the kid who always had his headphones in,” listening to everyone from Pearl Jam and Audioslave to Slipknot.
While driving around, his mother played tapes of Stone Temple Pilots and Led Zeppelin in the car, andhe realized he could sing.
At twelve-years-old, he dug a busted-up guitar out of a dumpster, learned how to tune it, and started playing and singing. “Everything that happened pushed me to music, because I didn’t know anyone else in the situation I was in,” he goes on. “I told my mom music was what I wanted to do. It made me feel comfortable about telling my story, because I could sing it—instead of just talking about it. I never looked back from there.”
In high school, Wade cut his teeth in various bands and even joined musical theater. Upon graduating, he continued to follow his dream. Performing around Phoenix, he made a name for himself, drawing crowds and packing houses like the Marquee Theater. In addition, he worked as a vocal coach. In 2019, he accompanied one of his students to an American Idol audition. Wade himself had originally tried out a decade earlier only to face rejection. However, he made it this time. He went further than he imagined, emerging as a finalist and earning the respect of judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan. “I’m happy I did American Idol when I did,” he states. “I just had something to prove. It gave me a lot of confidence and strength. I didn’t think I’d grow up to be anything but screwed up. To have this happen was crazy. It changed everything.”
Returning home, he crowd-funded the album and recorded with JJ Corry Rossi. The first single “Driver’s Side” trucks along on a crunchy distorted groove, wild guitar leads, and his unmistakable bellow. Lyrically, he paints a vivid picture of escape. “I wrote it when I was like 16-years-old,” he recalls. “It was about a relationship where I let her have all of my trust so she could really blossom. She had been hurt by her father and ex-boyfriends. I was hoping
to be her saving grace. All I wanted to do was help. It’s about getting your mind out of the gutter, taking a ride, enjoying the ocean and sunset, and forgetting everything else.”
Elsewhere, acoustic guitar entwines with his deep delivery on “My Lead.” His voice nearly cracks on an emotionally charged assurance, “You looked at me and said that we’ll be okay, just follow my lead.” “It’s about my current relationship,” he goes on. “She was my first serious girlfriend back in high school. She left me for someone else, and it hurt so much. Ten years later, we’re together again. She’s going to be the woman I marry. It’s a different side of the story.”
A soft click gives way to vulnerable confessions on “Remedy.” Meanwhile, a lull of clean guitars bleeds through a thick beat on “Stay” as Wade delivers a poignant message. “I’ve had a few friends commit suicide,” he sighs. “That song is a wish they would make that one phone call to me or somebody before they did to talk them out of it.”
By sharing his story, Wade ultimately possesses the power to inspire. “I hope someone listens and can relate,” he leaves off. “Maybe, it gives them the right words or advice
when they need to get through something. I’m nothing at all if I’m not a storyteller. I’m just excited to
get to the next chapter.”
Wade was voted number 1 vocalist in Arizona shortly after the release of his album April 2020.