The Daily Gamecock

Drew Holcomb talks new album and passion project

Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, an established Americana band from Tennessee, will be performing at the Icehouse Amphitheater in Lexington on Aug. 25. Holcomb took the time to sit down with TDG to discuss his upcoming show, his latest album and how he feels about touring with the legendary Willie Nelson.

“We’ve been coming to South Carolina for a long time, not a lot to the Columbia area so this is exciting for us,” Holcomb said of playing at Icehouse for the first time. “For whatever reason our music always seems to do well in both North and South Carolina, so I’m really excited for it.”

Drew Holcomb and The Neighbor's new album, “Souvenir,” is a tender statement to bringing back the lasting qualities of what makes every person and place unique. After the success of the band’s last album, “Medicine," Holcomb was ready to go with the flow of how the band operated going into the studio.

“The best thing you do is make music that you believe in and I kinda let the chips fall. Not trying to be anything for radio — commercial success. Just make music that you love that comes from an honest point of view that can resonate most with people,” Holcomb said.

The message to get out of “Souvenir” is to hold on to what you cherish, whether it's in memories, symbols or objects. Holcomb tries to make his songs resemble souvenirs in their tone and content.

“I invoke a sort of narrative or emotion, like a song like, ‘Mama’s Sunshine, Daddy’s Rain,' I think you did your best to try and make the music match the spirit of the song, so that song is about a dad — me — loving my daughter. So it’s like you want to make the music match that emotion,” Holcomb said.

One of the biggest changes for “Souvenir” was the amount of collaboration in the songwriting and production processes. All the different inputs into the album was what made “Souvenir” sound so much grander and more eclectic than their previous repertoire.

“Everyone has different ideas to bring to the table musically speaking and that’s sort of the magic of it," Holcomb said." Half the battle is gathering the right team in the first place. The second half is letting everybody have space to talk and collaborate and cooperate and that’s sort of where the magic happens."

All that collaboration in the studio brought a familiar face back into the group. Ellie Holcomb, Drew’s wife and  a member of The Neighbors until she left for her own singing career, came back to sing on the ballad “Black and Blue."

“We sort of already laid most of the track down,” Holcomb said. “She came in, worked out the vocals, the key, all that beforehand ... It’s real, ‘Oh yeah, this is fun, we used to do this all the time.' Now it’s a little bit more of a novelty.”

Due to an unforeseen medical emergency, Holcomb was not there to approve the final mixed tracks. Facing a deadline, Holcomb had complete faith in his band members finishing “Souvenir."

“Because the record was more collaborative than the ones we’ve done in the past, they definitely had more of a stake in the way they sounded. They know what I like. I had to trust them with it, and in some ways they might’ve done a better job than even I would have,” Holcomb said.

In these increasingly tense times that our country faces, Holcomb thinks his songs like “Wild World” are examples of what music has the ability to do.

“The biggest thing we do is we don’t listen very well to each other,” Holcomb said. “So that’s sort of my way advocating in the song, for people to put down the weapons of social media for a minute and engage each other in conversation ... Hopefully we can have our minds changed every now and then.”

Aside from recording and touring, Holcomb tries to makes his passion for music resonate with listeners in a variety of ways. One of them is owning a record club called the Magnolia Record Club.

“The thing I like most about it was there’s a lot of new music that sort of energize me," he said. "I’ve been doing this for 12 years and sometimes you forget how much you love music."

Another more elaborate way Holcomb makes his music resonate is by hosting his own music festival called the Moon River Music Festival in Memphis.

“It was just a random dream ... we found some sponsors, a venue, some friend’s bands that were willing to do it for cheap and it went very well and we were able to grow it,” he said. 

Since it was established in 2014, Holcomb has learned that bringing music to a vast community can be hard but also rewarding. 

“It’s been tricky because it’s like another full time job for my manager and I to figure this festival out, make it grow and do our best," he said. "It’s sort of a garden, trim that garden and hopefully it continues to be a cool cultural moment.”

Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors continue to tour for the rest of the year and will finish off with a couple Christmas shows with Ellie Holcomb before going into the studio next year. But until then, they will rub shoulders with Willie Nelson when they tour alongside him starting in November.

“It’s literally the thing I’m most excited about that I’ve ever done in music,” Holcomb said about touring with Nelson. “You can only think of one or two other people that have this station as an American icon that are still alive like maybe Dylan or Aretha Franklin. So to get to be on tour with him is a complete honor.” “Souvenir” is available now and the Moon River Music Festival will be in Memphis in 2018.


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