“I’m sorry that I have a tendency of being a little bit cryptic in my responses,” Wade Martin says toward the end of our phone conversation.
Of course, nearly everything about the man most recently seen posing muscular-arm-first on billboards around the city could be defined as cryptic. According to his website, the 36-year-old DJ, producer and songwriter has worked with Britney Spears, Will.I.Am and even the Rolling Stones, but his name does not appear in any credits. He doesn’t spin live yet, choosing to wait instead for bigger gig offers.
Just how big?
“My goal is to receive a residency offer from one of the mega-nightclubs in Las Vegas,” he says.
The origin story for Martin goes like this: A 19-year-old Englishman moves to Louisville, Kentucky, stays briefly with his godfather, and then moves to Los Angeles with just a motorcycle and sleeping bag to his name. While there, he says, he made the connections necessary to act as a ghostwriter for major music acts, making enough money to eventually build his own studio in Las Vegas.
“I was given large amounts of cash from major celebrities who were paying me to ghost[write] for them,” he says. “In essence, my hustle to get my foot in the door was to write a section, or gift this thing I’ve created to you so you can put it into your stuff, and you’ll pay me lots of money.’”
Of course, the “ghost” part of “ghostwriting” is exactly that: Martin says he can’t divulge the names of those with whom he’s worked. And the lack of clarity here seems to have led to some online mythologizing. His Wikipedia page—which he says he’s had no part in and is neither accurate nor up-to-date—claims “production credit” for the Rolling Stones’ “Bridges to Babylon” (he says he was getting work experience with a London music company) and Mandy Moore’s “Coverage” for which “I was a fly on the wall,” he demurs (though a press release from 2013, supposedly authored by his company JWM Enterprises, claims he is “known for his work with” among others, Moore). Those are in addition to non-credited work with Spears, 50 Cent, R. Kelly (“I can’t go into that. I want to, but I cannot right now”).
At a time when he is trying to launch his own career, one would think that being able to name-drop the artists he’s worked with—and have them corroborate the claims—could open a door or two. But Martin has a more sanguine viewpoint.
“I don’t take it personally,” he says. “I honestly don’t care, because of the simple fact that these people know my capability. … It’s a small community, and everybody knows that if you want that multimillion-dollar huge sound, you go to see Wade or a handful of other people in the country who are able to create that.”
In 2002, Martin moved to Las Vegas and opened up the first version of his studio before heading to Phoenix to build an improved model in 2005. It was 2013 when he opened his current home base, back in Las Vegas, and started building toward his own solo career. In the last two years, Martin has released songs with hip-hop icons Coolio and Flava Flav and the duo Millionaires (alumni of TV’s Bad Girls Club), each hewing to that big-room EDM style: easy-to-chant hooks and drops that segue into dubstep-light breakdowns.
It’s his latest single, though, that has seen the most success: A collaboration with Norwegian singer Jadelle, called “Done,” has hit the No. 2 spot in Billboard’s Hot Singles Sales chart, which counts purchases of physical singles and their digital “single bundle” equivalents. More electro-pop than dance floor banger, it’s radio-friendly fare, the type that seems meant to attract crowds big enough to justify, say, a club residency.
And in the end, it is in those three- and four-minute songs—not billboards, Wikipedia entries or résumés—where Martin wants to be judged. “I just stick to what I know,” he says. “Create music, make it as good as you can, put it out and see if it takes.”