Drew Holcomb Collaborates with The Neighbors for Soulful Root-Inspired Album
Photo by Ashtin Paige
In 2015, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors boosted their career with the release of their album, Medicine. The album produced an unimaginable amount of success, resulting in international debuts all over the world, including an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
The album reached No. 30 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums, No. 6 on Billboard’s Top Digital Albums, No. 9 on Billboard’s Top Indie Albums, No. 7 on iTunes Top Albums, No. 2 on iTunes Top Singer/Songwriter, No. 3 on Amazons Top Albums, and No. 1 on Amazons Top Singer/Songwriter.
Following behind the 2015 album, the bands newest release, Souvenir almost immediately climbed the charts debuting as No. 1 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter Chart and No. 27 on American Radio. The highly collaborative album draws attention to the important things in life; family and friends, music and memories, people and places, allowing fans to personally resonate with the tracks, which can be heard through “Wild World”.
Even with the success of his music career, Holcomb not only dedicates his time to helping others but uses his musical platform to donate to non-profit organizations. Holcomb and The Neighbors are taking their shows up a notch by donating 20 percent of their merchandise sales to a charity in the town of their show as part of their "Love Your Neighbors” campaign during the Souvenir Tour.
“We’re called The Neighbors and the campaign is called Love Your Neighbors. It’s a unique way of saying thank you, but also saying, hey let’s go do some good together as a band. It’s been really good and we’ve received an incredible response.” – Drew Holcomb
Don’t miss the chance to catch Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors as they wrap up the Souvenir Tour at Rams Head Live Saturday, May 20th, 7 p.m. The band has chosen Dayspring Baltimore as the supported charity for this event. Dayspring is a non-profit organization with a mission to improve the lives of children and families affected by substance abuse, homelessness, and poverty. Tickets are $18.
Growing up in Tennessee, when did the love for music begin to develop and what made you decide to make a career out of it?
Growing up, my parents were music lovers. My dad was a big Bob Dylan fan, so we took a lot of road trips. As a kid, we always listened to music in our family van driving down a highway. That’s where it all started. I kind of remember a specific moment my senior year of high school when I was driving down Highway 7 in Mississippi to visit my sister at Ole Miss. Someone had given me a copy of David Gray’s White Ladder. That’s when I started to fall in love with the idea of finding music myself. It was honestly partly post college diversion. I was writing songs in college and doing some bar gigs in Knoxville. My plan was to go to graduate school and be a history professor, which is pretty nerdy, but that’s what I wanted to do at the time.
I decided to take a year off and started playing regular shows anywhere I knew people, a lot of southern towns in different places like Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia. I fell in love with the idea of giving it a real shot. One year turned into three and now I’m in year 14. It kind of snowballed once I started putting a lot of energy and heart into it and didn’t want to give up.
How would you say you’ve developed as a musician from start to present day?
I’d say there’s really two big differences from when I was 21 to now. The first is I really learned to be a band leader. At first these were just random guys playing backup in a show, now they’re a band, we make music, write together, and collaborate a lot. Yet, I still have sort of duty calls center of the wheel being in charge and leading that group of people creatively and personally and that’s a big difference.
Second thing, when I first started making music, I started looking at my voice as a practical vehicle getting out there. I didn’t consider myself a singer at all. Over the years, especially in the studio, I really learned how to use my voice in a multidimensional way. That was a major change for me that I enjoy the most.
Your most recent album, Souvenir, was only released a little over a week ago. What sort of reactions have you been receiving from your fans, especially after such a successful turnout with Medicine. What was the most difficult/rewarding part about putting this album together?
You always get nervous putting out a new record because your fans love your old records. You want to challenge yourself musically, but not make something derivative. We were really blown away. We’re only one week into our tour and people already know the words to the songs.
We’re able to work in enough old and new songs that it still feels like a step in a new direction without making a huge left turn. The reactions have been great. We’ve been getting some of our best reviews ever for this new album. It feels fresh and alive, it’s been really great to get back on the road.
The most difficult and rewarding part was the song writing process. I normally write the songs by myself and this time I invited the band to write with me and collaborate the song writing process. We’re always together in the studio, but this is the first time it was collaborative. It was more work because there’s more people involved.
It was rewarding because we wrote songs I wouldn’t have written myself. I’m really proud of these songs and proud of my guys for stepping up and making it a success. It made the whole thing feel more of a team effort.
Every album has a story. With an 11-song tracklist, what would you say is story behind Souvenir? Is there a particular track you’d call you favorite? If so, why?
It’s really an album about memory, relationships, and family, so I think it’s sort of an album by the passage of time. These songs take you on different journeys through points in your life. I think it’s a record about growing older, which were all doing, in our mid 30s with kids. Walking through that and trying to take snapshots of life along the way and in a way, that’s what these songs are, snapshots looking back and forward, souvenirs if you will, something to carry with you. That’s sort of the feel for this album.
I don’t have a favorite track yet. As a dad, the “Mama’s Sunshine, Daddy’s Rain” song is real, I’ll never forget that. As a song goes, “Wild World” is probably my favorite. It speaks to this moment in time, at least for me in terms of depictive and consuming nature, what’s happening on the national level. It seems to have spoken to a lot of people to put their frustrations into something constructive and find something positive.
Your final track, “Wild World,” was written the same time as the Presidential Election. What brought you to producing a song about this moment? How did you decide to take the direction for a simple video of you, a chair, and an acoustic guitar? Do you have a favorite line from the song?
I think for me the video is about letting people into the stark emotion of the song and not tell them how to engage the song. The video is simple so they can insert themselves into their solo black and white point of view. For me, I couldn’t stay silent this time around. I wanted to say something and tell my fans that we’re in this together and regardless of view, we should treat each other with respect. I think it’s easy to let your tempers flare when things are going on. I’m talking to myself as much as the audience.
With years of a music career under your belt, you’ve traveled to plenty of places and played countless amounts of shows. During that time, has there ever been a memorable moment that really sticks out to you?
A lot of them. The first time we played at the Nashville Ryman Auditorium. I’ve seen Bob Dylan, and Tom Waits, Patty Griffin, Flaming Lips, and all these amazing artists there. To get to have my own show and headline there, walking on stage to a sold-out crowd, is probably my favorite moment in my career.
Anytime you get to play a bucket list venue, you can’t forget the feeling. Some of my other favorite places are the tiny places I don’t even remember the names of, playing in front of 60 people in a 50-capacity room. That’s what I love about live music, the crowd is like an extra member of the band and the night is different. It’s what I love the most and keeps me doing it.
Tell me a little more about the nonprofit work you do.
My parents are very generous people. They were always involved in different things. I had a brother who had Spina Bifida. For me, it instilled a kind of sacrifice in their kids. For me this tour, especially in light of “Wild World,” we decided to pick different charities in each city and give them 20 percent of our merchandise sales as a way to say thanks for having us in your city and spending your money on us. We’d love to give back to your town.
We’re called The Neighbors and the campaign is called “Love Your Neighbors.” It’s a unique way of saying thank you, but also saying, hey let’s go do some good together as a band. It’s been really good and we’ve received an incredible response. The charities have been really overwhelmed that a random band from Tennessee would want to do something in their community. We’ve always been a real grass roots band and this is something sort of grass roots.
The last stop on the Souvenir tour will be at Rams Head Live here in Baltimore. What has the journey on this tour been like and what are you looking forward to most during this final performance?
On a smaller level, there’s a reference to Baltimore on “Postcard Memories.” It’s always fun to have a reference to a town when you’re playing in that town. I’m definitely looking forward to that.
Anytime you play the last night of a tour, everyone is exhausted and ready to go home, but really sad to see it end. We’ll be looking to let it all out that night, be lose, hang out, enjoy each other, and enjoy each other’s company. It’ll probably be a really bittersweet moment as we back it up for the summer, go out in the fall, and do it all over again.