by Grant Wentzel
At the age of 14, Brady Wrede got his first guitar.
“I was driving down 41st Street with my uncle and he said, ‘Have you thought about playing guitar? You should do it!’ So, we just stopped, walked into Sioux Falls Music and he bought me a cheap guitar. He showed me ‘Free Falling,’ and it just took off from there.”
That day would be the key to unlocking both his future and his past: Years later Brady would discover that he hails from six generations of singer-songwriters.
“I just started learning about my history in the last couple of years. I didn’t know. I had no clue. When I started playing music, I had no clue! One day my grandma told me, ‘What you’re doing is a big deal. You’re carrying on the legacy of our family, and you’re the only one doing it. It’s kinda up to you.’”
He had a lot to catch up on. Brady’s musical roots run through Kentucky, where his family would take up the stage name of “Chapel,” eventually heading down to Nashville to chase the dream.
Brady’s great-grandfather, Don Chapel was an influential songwriter and performer, penning tunes for – and soon marrying – Tammy Wynette. Don introduced her to another musician he was writing with, the already famous George Jones. What happened next is a classic country tale of love and betrayal.
For the full backstory, watch Showtime’s series George & Tammy starring Jessica Chastain. Great-grandpa Don and Brady’s grandma Donna Chapel both figure into the plot. Donna recorded extensively and performed as a backup singer for Ms. Wynette for many years, even after her dad and Tammy split ways.
“But that’s the Hollywood version,” Brady says of the show. “So, you know, not all of it is 100% true.”
Don Chapel’s sister, Jean Chapel, was an early star of rock ‘n roll. Promoted by Sun Records as “The Female Elvis,” she got her start as a teen in the family act, The Sunshine Sisters. They all went on to have their own careers, with Jean later cutting records for Capitol and RCA, and performing frequently at the Grand Ole Opry.
Despite generations of deep music-biz connections, Brady never expected to find himself in Nashville last year recording his tunes.
“I was in Nashville last November visiting my mom. Her boyfriend knew a guy who owned a studio. Honestly, it was a drunken idea,” Brady jokes. “He had a few drinks and said, ‘You know what we should do, we should record a couple of songs!’”
He called the guy that night and the spur-of-the-moment inspiration turned into a studio session a few days later. “We recorded two songs, and by the end of the two songs, everyone was like ‘yeah!’ and the producer asked me, ‘Do you want to record an album?’”
“It just took off from there. I wasn’t looking for it. That’s the coolest part about it. I was just there to see my mom and get some time away, and it fell into my lap. I’m really thankful for it and all the work that’s happening behind the scenes.”
Brady returned to Nashville last month to do a few more sessions and will be back down in May. “We’ve got five songs pretty much done, but the hope is to do ten or twelve, so we’ve got a little way to go.”
Finding you’ve inherited so much history can cut both ways. It can be empowering, or it can be intimidating. For some, it can come with some baggage. But for Brady, the real question will always be, “Where do you go from here?”
“I don’t feel like I need to make it big or be well-known. The fact that I’m doing it — the fact that I’m writing songs is enough — making sure that I’m staying true to who I am. That’s why I like that line (from his song ‘Legacy, ‘) ‘Is this all a fallacy?’ I don’t want to get to that point where I look around and say, this isn’t me. I want it to be real, authentic, and I try to write all of my songs from that vantage point.”
Brady Wrede performing at JJs Wine and Spirits in Sioux Falls on April 8, 2023. Photos by Brooke Hamilton-Nichols.
“Maybe only a hundred people will hear it, but in that hundred people you might have changed someone’s life. You never know. You may never meet them, but you accomplished the goal.”
These days, Brady’s focus is on “trusting yourself, just going for it, and not listening to all of the voices, the hundreds of others who think they know what’s best. They’re not the ones who have to live your life, you do. And when you accept that, it’s kinda freeing.”
He’ll be going for it a lot this summer, with a fixed-up camper in tow to keep touring costs under control. “I’ve got free lodging now,” he says, “and I just put solar panels on top so I can be off-grid and go whenever I want.”
You’ll find him out there, “taking it as it comes.” As he says: “Expect the unexpected. Take the opportunities and see where it goes.”
Sounds like a great way to leave a legacy.
For more information and upcoming shows, head to https://www.bradywrede.com. Listen to his latest release, Light and his track “Legacy” on Spotify or wherever you stream your tunes!