Drake White Talks CMAFest, Live Covers, Favorite Songs & Upcoming UK Tour – Entertainment Focus
With a new album, “The Optimystic” under his belt and a triumphant return to the Riverfront stage at this year’s CMAFest, the future looks brighter for Drake White after a few years of struggles and roadblocks. But, after all, as he says on the new song, “Hurts the Healing,” “This pain isn’t like I’ve ever known it, this broken heart has a grip and won’t let go, even in the worst of times. , I have a hunch, maybe the wound is healing.
Every time you spend time with Drake White, you are energized and energized by his sheer enthusiasm for music, life and people. We were delighted to take 20 minutes with him to talk about all this and his upcoming UK tour.
Duck! It’s always a pleasure to talk to you. I was in Nashville for CMAFest this year and saw your set on the Riverfront stage from the front! What a thrill it was to see you back on stage and do your thing again.
Oh man, rock on!! Thanks for that. It was fantastic to see everyone in the crowd. The weather was great too, it was not too hot, and there were four thousand people gathered by the river that morning, it was a vital experience.
I’m so grateful that we’re back and doing the shows again. It was good to shake hands and kiss babies again, man. (laughing)
When you came out on stage, you said something like “Welcome to church” and the show was very much like that.
That’s what we do, man! I’m from Alabama, between Muscle Shoals and Birmingham and growing up, my grandmother played the organ, my father was a choir director and my grandfather, as most people know, was a preacher, so the influence of the church and that sense of purpose is a spiritual thing to me.
When I sing it’s something spiritual, it’s something soulful and our shows are very much like something like a revival. It gives people hope and passion and faith, which is what I try to do live.
Pearl Jam’s cover of “Alive” also made me smile, both in the way you covered the song and in what you were saying with it.
Yes my guy. Pearl Jam is my favorite rock band and we wanted to make a statement with this song to tell everyone that we’re all still alive, you know? The pandemic may have stolen something from everyone, but let’s reverse that now and realize we’re all still alive.
I also dealt with my stroke before the pandemic and I’m still breathing – God has a purpose for me and I’m still meant to be here and we wanted to extend that to everyone in the crowd. We’re still alive, Nashville is still alive, live music is still alive and country music is still alive, let’s go!! (laughing)
’50 Years Too Late’ was my favorite song you played at that CMAFest set. Do you have a favorite song to play live or does it change depending on location and your mood?
Man, it changes from night to night. People are singing ’50 Years Too Late’ on shows like crazy right now. I love that one. That’s my southern belief system in this song. Sonically, I also believe in the way we produced this song – it has that Muscle Shoals/Alabamian swagger.
I also love ‘Power of a Woman’ because I wouldn’t be where I am now without the help of powerful women. My grandmother, my mother, my aunts, my wife, they all helped me become the man I am today. Even until learning to walk again, it wouldn’t have happened without the help of powerful women. I love the juxtaposition of a rough and greasy bearded dude like me singing about the power of women.
We look forward to seeing you play a longer set when you’re in the UK in August at the Millport Festival and the Long Road Festival, as well as your own gigs.
Yes of course. I can’t wait to go back to Europe and see all those fans that I missed. I’ve toured there since I started and I like to think we’ve built a fan base that will come see us. I want to show everyone in Europe our renaissance experience and really dive into the songs.
During the pandemic, when we were playing our ‘Wednesday Night Therapy’ sessions in the barn, there were so many people from the UK, despite the time differences. We’ve seen them all connect and we’ve been thrilled and honored. The physical distance between us does not mean that we do not have the same hearts and desires and I am grateful for the support that is coming from the UK and Europe. I am here for this.
Now that ‘The Optimystic’ was released 3-4 months ago, are you satisfied with the reaction it’s getting? Are there any songs that resonate more than you expected?
There are always surprises. “Power of a Woman” resonates with people so much. It’s not necessarily a surprise because it’s a great song and we’ve done a lot with it, whether it’s TikTok, Instagram or whatever.
“American Thunder” was something of a surprise. I love this song, I love rocking it, but so do a lot of other people. I feel like a lot of people relate to that rawer sound right now. You see people like Zac Brown doing well again, Turnpike Troubadours, Brent Cobb, somewhat raw but very authentic artists doing well again. Where commercial meets credibility is where I want to live, you know?
We’re commercial – we belong to the CMA and ACM scenes, we belong to the radio but I’m always going to make music that’s true to myself and my Alabama swagger, you know? (laughs) ’50 Years Too Late’ is a swampy, hard rock number that you won’t hear on the radio, but the music industry is the Wild West right now and you hear ’50 Years Too Late’ on streaming everywhere. ‘Pawn Shop Rings’ also works very well……………….
“Pawn Shop Rings” is one of my favorites, it has a “Spark” era tie to it for me and it would go on the radio just as well.
This song is definitely a hit, man! Jonathan Singleton and Allison Veltz Cruz wrote this and between them they have thirty number ones! (laughs) They’re also very good friends of mine – this song is a big, old banger. It is a success. I can definitely hear it on the radio.
You have to play this business game of trying to get songs on the radio and that’s great the success I’ve had before is on the radio but flexing what you know to be true in your belly and what you want to say and sound like is hard to do and when you do it continuously until 10 years have passed and you say something else or sound like someone who isn’t not the root of who you are, you will not be satisfied or happy.
Who I am now is authentically me. I’m out doing what I love to do and I don’t know how to be someone else, that’s all! (laughing)
The Eagles went to the UK recently and it made me think of the cover you recently released of ‘Seven Bridges Road’ in your ‘Songs That Made Me’ series. It made me realize that in 2022 you can’t just be an artist releasing singles and albums, there has to be constant content across multiple platforms. Do you find it a pressure to constantly come up with new content or do you enjoy it?
He comes and goes. The things you see there, in terms of content, are posted because it’s something I want to do. I’m having a lot of fun with my buddy Zack Knudsen and my guitarist’s wife, Kirsten.
My phone is in my pocket most of the time. I haven’t constantly stuck it on my face even though I try to pay attention to the direction of the wind and the weather reports! I prefer to watch nature and be in the moment of things happening around me The comparison and comparison game that comes with social media is not for me – I love Instagram and I love what it’s but I don’t scroll through it forever because I’d rather be with the birds and the deer and the bees.
We look forward to seeing you again at great venues like the Millport Festival in Scotland or the Long Road Festival in England. Both are such beautiful places for your music to belong. Do you see yourself as a “festival band”?
That statement I made earlier, about living in that place where commerce meets credibility, that’s where we are. I grew up listening to festival bands, jam bands and the kind of guys that played Bonneroo or Lollapolooza. I like Neil Young and I also like Charlie Daniels and our music is probably somewhere in between.
We jam a lot as a band, so it works well in a festival setting, that Grateful Dead vibe suits us perfectly once we let loose. We never play the same set twice, we have a setlist but it’s mostly so we all know what we’re doing, but we like to experiment and jam too! Our shows are like a ‘revival’, an experience and this is suitable for festivals but also for regular shows. No one leaves without being elated, it’s a renewal!
You can catch Drake White touring the UK on the following dates over the next two months:
August 19 to 20: Millport Festival, Scotland
August 21: Manchester – Gorilla
August 22: London – Islington Assembly Hall
August 23: Bristol – Trinidad
August 26: The Long Road Festival, Leicestershire