Few artists could sing of “the wine we drink” in the same breath as “dirty dishes in the kitchen sink” and still present a quality love song. Drew Holcomb is one of those artists.
The Memphis-based songwriter is a real-life romantic. His collection of unassuming folk tunes paints the picture of someone who knows how to be content. In classic folk style, he beautifully and elegantly describes life as it is, not as it could be. If you’re a fan of David Ramirez, Ben Rector, or Josh Garrels, you’ll love Drew Holcomb.
Fun fact: Drew is married to acclaimed songwriter Ellie Holcomb, who sings in his band.
I’ve admired Drew’s music for a few years now, so I was thrilled to get the chance to ask him a few questions about his life, his musical career, and his freshly minted record. Enjoy!
Ethan Weitz: You just released a new album, Souvenir. What aspects of this record are you most excited about?
Drew Holcomb: It’s the first record I have written with my bandmates. They brought a completely different musicality and point of view that was really fun to harness together. We went in a few directions we have not gone before, so I am excited to see how that develops on the road.
Ethan: What inspires you to write music?
Drew: The need to communicate the ache and joy that are at war in my heart, to find that balance of choosing joy while acknowledging the ache.
Ethan: What does a day in the life of Drew Holcomb typically look like?
Drew: I have been alive for 12,709 days. With the exception of elementary school, there has never been a typical day. Road days are different from home days, which are always different from each other. I am musician, married to a musician, with two small children. There are way too many factors for normal to ever rear its head.
Ethan: How do you balance your musical profession with your roles as a father and husband?
Drew: I choose my wife and kids first, beg for mercy for my shortcomings, and make music and tour as much as possible.
Ethan: What gave you the idea to start the Magnolia Record Club, and how has that experience been so far?
Drew: An old friend of mine owns a record label, Dualtone Records, and they have a record club called the Vinyl Den where they release special editions of their releases. I was an early joiner of that club and thought the idea would also work if it was artist-curated. So I owe him a steak dinner.
The experience has been incredible. A big learning curve, but we have finally found a good rhythm of picking a variety of records I love and trying to get people to see the vision of a music-driven community.
Ethan: Looking back over your musical career to date, what are you most proud of? Is there anything you would have done differently?
Drew: Practically, I am most proud of things like selling out the Ryman, releasing records without the help of a major label, and keeping my band together for all these years.
Philosophically, I am most proud of being able to keep my marriage happy and to have kids that seem to love me (of course they are 4 and not-even-2, but so far so good).
Ethan: How would you say you have grown as a songwriter and musician since you started making music?
Drew: I learned how to sing. I learned how to keep time. I learned how to say things without telling the audience how to receive the song. I learned how to let my band shine in the right spots. I know about 500 things now that I didn’t know in 2004.
[I’m inspired by] the need to communicate the ache and joy that are at war in my heart, to find that balance of choosing joy while acknowledging the ache.
Ethan: What are some of your favorite memories from touring and performing?
Drew: Honestly, my favorite memories are the mundane things of hanging with the band pre- and post- show, getting ready to go onstage, laughing and cutting up, and then winding down and re-living the night. It never gets old.
Ethan: Of all the songs that you’ve written, which one is the most meaningful to you, and why?
Drew: Probably “What Would I Do Without You.” I wasn’t even sure it would make the Good Light record. The song doesn’t have a chorus and no one else in the band was very excited about it. It was clearly going to be an album cut, a deep cut.
Well, we were all wrong. It has become my signature song, and that makes me really happy, because I wasn’t trying to be anyone other than myself when I wrote and recorded it.
Ethan: What do you hope to accomplish through your music?
Drew: Honestly, if I had to quit today, I’d be pretty happy. My ambition was to make music that meant something to people beyond just background noise. I wanted to soundtrack important moments for people. That has happened in spades, so now I just want to keep getting better at it and hopefully push myself, my band, and our fans further and further.
To hear Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors’ new record, Souvenir, visit their website.
Photos by Ashtin Paige.