For the next three years, he alternated brief sojourns at group homes with living outside.
After a summer stint as their lawn boy, an elderly couple — Russell and Bea Costner — invited him to live with them. He did for six years, and they provided him not only with shelter, clothes and food but also with opportunities to finish school, go to community college and eventually follow his musical dreams to Nashville. His songs “Blue and Brown,” “The Rabbit” and “Paper Angels” are based on his experiences.
“This family single-handedly changed my life. It wasn't a drug, it wasn't a padded room, it wasn't ignoring me or tough-loving me or any of that stuff. It was the fact that this family simply just cared.”
On New Year's Day 2010, Wayne set out on his Meet Me Halfway walk from Nashville to Phoenix, Ariz. It took him seven months but at the end of it, he watched Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam sign into law a bill extending foster care from age 18 to 21.
Along his walk, he and novelist Travis Thrasher collaborated by phone on the book “Paper Angels,” a fictional Christmas story based on Wayne's childhood.
And his manager got an email from Wayne's record label, Valory, that the singer had been dropped.
“Sometimes you think that things are the worst they can possibly be when they're happening, but that was probably one of the best things that happened to me in my career because of what I've been able to do since,” he said.
These days, Wayne's performances feature the singer, his guitar and his songs as well as his stories from his childhood and his walk. He will return to Oklahoma City to perform Saturday at Bids for Kids, a benefit for Citizens Caring for Children, and Sept. 13 at Angels of Destiny, a fundraiser for Deaconess Pregnancy & Adoption Services.
He closed last month's Oklahoma City show with his original hymn “How Jesus Felt,” from his upcoming album, which was inspired by his 2010 walk.
“It's just a really good concept album based on the back roads of America and the Americana spirit, if you will. The spirit of real people, the kindness, the generosity of just really good old-fashioned American people,” he said.