Jimmy Wayne is a well-known singer/songwriter who doesn’t just make music. He may be best known for his hits “Do you Believe Me Now,” and “Paper Angels,” but behind the music is a man with a mission. Jimmy Wayne’s own childhood has inspired him to be an avid voice for foster children, and homeless youth. His song “Paper Angels” was written with his past in mind and now he is raising awareness about the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree project with his new book “Paper Angels.” CMTT recently had the change to sit down and talk with Jimmy about the new book, how it came to be, his childhood and his inspirations.
CMTT: Your new book “Paper Angels” was inspired by events in your own life. Can you give us a little background on your childhood, and tell us how the Salvation Army’s Paper Angel program played a part in the lives of you and your sister?
Jimmy Wayne: The Angel Tree Program is the official name of the organization. It started in 1979 by Majors Charles and Shirley White. I didn’t know, being I was a little kid, where we were getting our gifts. The Angel tree Program was Santa Claus to me. Mom would sign up for us to get gifts and food and had there not been a program in place like the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, we (my sister and I) wouldn’t have gotten anything for Christmas. Mom was a single parent and struggling REALLY hard…we were just so poor. I have always felt the need to give back now and to raise awareness for this program.
CMTT: Your song “Paper Angels” was a big hit and also inspired by your experiences. What motivated you to write the song?
JW: After I had some success, one day I was standing in the mall and overlooking this Angel Tree. As I stood there it reminded me of my own childhood. I thought this is a way that I can help. I have been given this gift of music, to be able to go out and play for people, but it also allows me to give back and that is the coolest thing. There were a lot of people who didn’t like the idea, but I knew in my heart of hearts, they didn’t know what it was about. This made me realize, they NEED to know what it is about. So I went ahead and wrote the song “Paper Angels,” and it worked! It generated a lot of awareness, a lot of people’s eyes were opened to what that Christmas tree is in the mall that has these paper angels hanging on it. More people know what that is now because of the song. I have had many people tell me they never knew what it is before, and they are thankful for that song because it brought it to their attention.
CMTT: So how did the idea of writing the book “Paper Angels” come about?
JW: Well, the song was now old hat, people had heard it, and today’s news is tomorrow’s fish wrapping paper. I figured, we have got to do it again to raise more awareness, how are we going to do it? My mission had always been to someday write a book about it, and sure enough the time came. January 7th 2010 during my walk half way across America to raise awareness for foster youth, I received a phone call from Travis Thrasher that I will never forget it. We just started talking, and I instantly knew it he was the perfect match to write this story with me. He is very friendly, and loves his family, and sure enough we wrote it together. We also got an offer from Hallmark Hall of Fame to film a little movie about the book, this is still in the works, and not a for sure thing. I hope it comes through so this important story continues to be told.
CMTT: You dedicate the book to Bea and Russell Costner saying,” There wouldn’t be me if there hadn’t been you.” Tell us a little bit about how they encouraged you and led you to who you are today.
JW: They never bragged. They never told me to do anything, they just did it and I watched and learned from them. Actions do speak louder than words a majority of the time. They helped the community and children their entire life. I didn’t know a lot of things they did until after their death because they never ever talked about it, they just did it. That inspired me. One day I was in my house, warm and cozy and it was cold outside and I started thinking about when I was living outside. I don’t dwell on it, but the thought of it keeps me grounded. I started thinking about that, and Bea and Russell and that’s what inspired me to want to do that walk (Jimmy walked from Nashville to Arizona in 2010. 1,700 miles to raise awareness for homeless youth). I wanted to give it my all, I decided I have to do what I said I was going to do and it has to be on a grand scale. There was a lot of support, but there were people who told me I was crazy doing that walk. I lost of business partners; I lost friends, and my record deal. I came back though with exactly what I set out to find. I found myself, that’s for sure, but it helped so many people and so many kids along the way.
CMTT: In the book there is a fifteen-year-old boy named Thomas Brandt. Tell us about the process you went through creating this character and how closely related is his story to your own?
JW: To be honest, Thomas is actually based on my sister. That is who I had in mind when we were creating Thomas. She is more of the caretaker, and did take care of me when I was a kid. She and I are a year apart, but she was my sister, my mother, my friend, my bodyguard…all of these things. She has such a great heart. She has adopted a little girl of her own, and her heart is just so huge. I thought it would just be so cool to incorporate her into Thomas’s character.
CMTT: You recently had the opportunity to give a copy of “Paper Angels” to Laura Bush. How did that come about?
JW: I was invited to be at an event with the Salvation Army. They wanted me to speak and sing a few songs, one being “Paper Angels.” Laura Bush was there, and I just happened to have a “Paper Angels” book in my car (laughs). She was very nice, and I know she is an avid reader, so I handed her my book and asked her to please read it. I received a letter from her telling me she read it and enjoyed it. I hope she continues to help me raise awareness.
CMTT: What do you hope people who pick up and read “Paper Angels” get out of the book and what do you hope it stirs in people??
JW: What I always hoped that any of my work would do is to generate awareness, as much awareness as possible. I think with awareness comes change. I hope when people get this book they will not just read it, but read IN TO it, and get the message of what we should be doing in this world. For some reason this country can be a very selfish society. We need to have children’s best interest at heart. That’s what we are missing right now in this country, so I hope that when people read this book it will give them some sense of that. If you have a roof over your head and food in your stomach you are doing good compared to a lot of the world. The kids NEED to be taken care of.
Jimmy’s book, “Paper Angels” will be in stores November 1st!! Be sure to check it out, it will touch your heart!
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