by Jarrett Fontaine
If you want a project done right, Le’Wade Milliner is your man. An independent producer with big-label skills, Wade is also an accomplished singer, keyboardist and drummer. He’s in the neo-soul jazz group The Last Few, and has also recently released a solo album.
The MidStarz crew hit him up for a video shoot at Versatile Studios, where we also sat down with him to get a little background story on one of Omaha’s most sought-after producers.
Born in North O, Big Wade learned to love music from an early age while attending his grandfather’s church where his mom was the choir director.
"I was that little kid running around church beating on the pews," Wade says with a big grin. Family is mostly what got him interested in music.
"My grandfather would always buy me guitars, and I would beat on them like I was doing something. That would be probably the first inspiration."
His more recent influences include the late great Luigi Waits and Preston Love. Wade’s first instrument of choice to get serious about was the drums. He had a change of heart when he realized at a school talent show that girls were more interested in him if he was playing a keyboard. "In band class I would play on the piano, and all the girls would come stand around and watch. I was like wow, this is new. See, they don’t do that when you beat on the drums," Wade chuckles.
Even as we asked him that, Big Wade was surrounded by black and ivory keyboards. He’s wearing jeans, shades, a suit and a smile. You can tell he’s comfortable in this kind of environment. He started getting paid in this industry at age 19, and has since become a prolific producer and mixer. Big Wade has had his hand in writing over 140 songs and producing over 700 tracks.
His career has been full of highlights that include playing alongside the likes of Al Green, Lyfe Jennings and Jagged Edge. And as far as his production skills go,
"I mix and produce a lot of stuff for a lot of up-and-coming artists," Wade says.
We asked Wade what gave him the satisfaction of going home and saying, "This is what I live for?"
"Well, when I first started playing with big names, it didn’t even feel real until afterwards," he reminisces. "The coolest thing was just meeting people, just all different types like that. You get to see that everybody is just regular people."
As far as our local scene here in Omaha, Wade says that people are realizing the internet is the way to go. "It would be lovely if there was a market here, like say in Houston or LA, where you could sell 100,000 units in your own city." Big Wade feels that while hip-hop is on the rise here in town, the supply of soul music is pretty sparse. "But I am proud to say that we in The Last Few started that movement here, as far as putting out soul and R&B. We’re kind of like a rebel against that poppy R&B, or your bubblegum hip-hop," Wade explains. "I make music that you can feel. It’s all about the feel."
So okay Big Wade, you made it, now do you have any advice on how someone else can make it in this field? "I would say the biggest thing is to have a plan, and be prepared to do it yourself," Wade advises. "Do the research." He speaks from experience as he’s seen many a wannabe crash and burn. "I would say the biggest mistake that I see young, talented artists make is to just sit back and expect somebody else to do it for them. There’s no excuse to not have information now that there’s the internet."Big Wade preaches some tough love, but it’s all about earning your stripes."Yeah, I don’t expect young artists to do any less than I had to do coming up."
Big Wade has stayed true to his name and has given himself a large presence in the Omaha music community. When he’s not mixing in the booth, he’s known to deliver a smooth, soulful voice over his groovy, chilled-out piano rhythms.
So as far as the future is concerned with all his different roles, what’s next for Wade?
He sits back and ponders for a second before answering.
"At the end of the day, my biggest goal is to write a score for like a big symphony," he says excitedly.Until he gets to that point in his career, he’s still plugging his 2009 solo release I Made It.Wade explains the album, "There are so many illusions about making it in the music industry. A lot of people think that you gotta be on TV or selling a million records or whatever. But I titled it ‘I Made It’ because I do this 24/7, because this is my job. In my eyes I made it, you can’t tell me nothing different. I don’t gotta be on BET, I made it right now. If I make it on BET that’s extra."