How music healed singer/songwriter Drew Holcomb
It goes without saying that music takes on many forms for many people. But if you trace back all the reasons why people find themselves drawn to the art form, most stem from the fact that music has a medicinal quality. It's cathartic, it's honest, and most times, incredibly therapeutic. If there's anyone who understands that, it's Drew Holcomb.
The singer/songwriter first discovered his passion for music after tragically losing his brother days before his 14th birthday. Holcomb quickly used songwriting as a means to heal, "self-medicating" himself with the likes of Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, and Otis Redding. The result: wholly authentic songs that almost every listener can deeply resonate with.
His latest album with the group Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors is aptly titled "Medicine," playing off of the healing power of music for many of life's hardest moments centered around marriage, friendship, and wrestling with God. Recorded in just eight short days, the 12-song narrative is no-frills Americana music that was born out of real-life stories. Whether it was a fan on the verge of suicide or a newly-married couple dancing at their wedding, "Medicine" is about the listener and what they're experiencing above all else. As Holcomb notes, "We only hope to add to the soundtrack, the same way that all those artists and bands have done for me."
Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors's latest collection is a heartfelt anthology that hits us just so that we can't help but feel all the feels. The group is currently taking their set on the road, so you can see them in action up close and personal. To help get you excited about their upcoming tour, we recently stat down with Drew Holcomb himself to talk about the progression of his music, how his past deeply influenced his songwriting process, and more.
What went into "Medicine?" What makes this different from your other records?
We've put out records for a decade and this one was different for a couple reasons. One was that I wrote all of the songs myself which I've never done before; usually I have co-writers involved. It was the first record I've written as a dad too. The last record I wrote was before I had kids so there's a maturity and comfort that wasn't present before. I really made this record the way I wanted to make it -- it wasn't commercial purposes or for the radio. We recorded it all live which was new for us too and just made the whole record in two weeks.
What was music's role in your life growing up?
I started playing music and just like every kid in the 90s, I listened to music all the time, like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. But when I was a junior in high school I went through a personal tragedy where I lost my brother. And when that happened to me music took on a new role. That's where the new record came from. Music became like medicine to me and it helped me deal with the loss and grief and helped me find joy again.
What does it mean for you to be an independent musician?
We have total control over the record and how it's marketed. I love the business side of it and I felt like with the right team I could do as good a job as the labels could. When I was younger I was given great advice that no one would care about your work more than you, and that's something I now live by.
Nashville has been a poignant place for many musicians. How has the music scene there influenced you?
As a Memphis-native it's a rivalry between us and Nashville, kind of like Pittsburg and Philly. So I moved to Nashville in spite of the music scene there, since in my mind it was just all about country music, which I don't really love. But I moved there and realized I was dead wrong. It is very inspiring to be around people who take creativity very seriously. People move to Nashville and have their epiphany or they move there and lose their identity and get lost. But I found that there are so many great artists there so if you make friends and be kind, you'll be inspired.
What has it been like to get so much mainstream attention on your songs?
Since we're not a pop radio band, the TV has been a great way to find a national and international audience. We've had like 40 TV placements now. So everything from "Parenthood" to "House" to "How I Met Your Mother" has featured our songs and we've found a lot of people come to our music that way. It's also fun to see how other creative people interpret our songs, it's really surprising to me. It broadens the scope of the music which I think is really cool. Specifically there was Dick's sporting goods using "American Beauty." To me it's a love song and in the commercial it's about a dad and a daughter growing up playing basketball and then she leaves for college and he's playing by himself. I never thought about it like. I ended up getting a little teary-eyed as a dad when I saw it.
How do you interact and communicate with your fans while on stage?
I look up to Springsteen a lot since he treats the audience as another member of the band. Towards the end of our set we start taking requests too. We've put out a lot of songs that we won't get to perform, so people yell them out and we play what they want to hear. That's a great way to connect with the people there. Also, we try and make eye contact, but not too long because that's creepy.
You have a lot of incredible fan interactions. Is there a moment that really touched you?
What's inspiring about this record, was that a lot of songs were driven from stories by fans. Everything from people using the songs for their wedding to the more intense stories were used. There was a girl who said she was about to commit suicide and put on a playlist and our song came on and she changed her mind. She wrote us this long letter thanking us for the song. That's incredibly humbling that your music can have that kind of influence in people's lives.
For more on the healing powers of music, watch the video below!
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