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Authenticity shines like a beacon. It can’t be manufactured and isn’t a commodity for sale. It carries the potency of truth and the sting of conviction. It’s the real deal and it’s the essence of MCA Nashville newcomer Drake White.
When White sings “I’m a fan of beer ice cold, of waving at my neighbor when I meet him on the road, kissing on my woman in the moonlight. Yeah I’m a fan of the simple life,” it sounds like more than just a hit debut single. It sounds like the start of a great conversation with a new friend, and that’s just the way the Hokes Bluff, Alabama native intends it.
“One of my favorite things to do is share music with people,” says White, who has toured with Willie Nelson on the Country Throwdown tour and opened for Eric Church, Kid Rock, Alan Jackson, Little Big Town and others. “I hope that my music gives you some kind of hope, something bigger than just the music that you can relate to and it helps you get through the day.”
White’s debut album is the musical equivalent of a hearty stew. It’s spicy, substantive and likely to leave you satisfied and smiling. The young singer/songwriter wrote or co-wrote each of the album’s 12 tracks and co-produced with Jeremy Stover. The songs reverberate with an appreciation for the things that mean the most in life as well as an infectious appetite for enjoying a good time and making the very most of every moment.
White’s zest for living and his musically adventurous spirit were cultivated by family and friends in his native Alabama. “I was always really interested in music at a very early age. Any time I heard music going on, I was drawn to it,” White says. “Our neighbor, Mr. Brown, was a bluegrass musician and that’s how I got my first guitar. My family has always been very musical. My dad can out sing me. He’s great and my mom is the same way. My father was a fan of rock and roll, so I grew up listening to Journey, Bob Seger, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Allman Brothers. He was always into Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson and all those guys too. My mom likes like Joe Cocker and stuff like that. There was always music on.”
Like many young Southern boys, sports were also a big part of White’s youth and he grew up playing baseball and football while penning songs and practicing guitar. Heeding his mother’s advice to get an education, he attended Auburn University majoring in Building Science, an engineering degree geared toward commercial construction. While in school, he began performing his original songs in venues around campus. His ear-grabbing tunes and tendency to launch into some freestyle lyrical musings on stage made him a favorite with the college crowd and fueled his desire to see just where music might take him.
So after college he headed to Nashville and took a job with a general contractor. “I worked there two and a half years while I played writer’s rounds all over town. I realized that I was kind of half assin’ both things with the construction and the music,” White admits candidly. “You have to give all to something to be the best at it, so I got out of the construction job and started me a little business. It was tractor work. I was on the tractor with a bush hog, clearing property. I call that time ‘the tractor sessions.’ It allowed me to think a lot and allowed me to write a lot. It allowed me to focus on my music, focus on my God-given talent. Once that started happening, I devoted myself to playing every Tuesday night at Blue Bar down on Division Street.”
It was there that his energetic live show started drawing attention and Stover became one of White’s biggest supporters, bringing Music Row pals out to see his show. White began fielding offers and decided to sign with MCA Records. His steady gig at Blue Bar influenced his approach to recording his debut album. “I played 37 straight Tuesdays one time. It really taught me how to hold an audience,” says White, who named his band The Big Fire. “You play your music whether it’s to 10 or 10,000. You play it and you leave all your guts and blood on the stage every single time.”
White describes his music as “soulful, roots-based country with a little rock and a little funk.” His songs are populated with blue collar characters who aren’t afraid of hard work and know the value of family and friendship. The opening track, “Cold Beer With My Name On It,” is a fiddle-laced number about working all week and enjoying life off the clock to the fullest. “She Likes It Old School” celebrates the virtues of a woman who likes back roads, vinyl records, slow kisses, homemade ice cream and the very best of life’s simple, classic pleasures.
White admits his own penchant for nostalgia in the autobiographical “Fifty Years Too Late,” where he confesses: “I wish the world would move slower or that I could go back in time.” Among the album’s many highlights is “The One That Loves You Girl,” a heartfelt love song that shows White’s gentler side while “Alabama Dirt Road” is a funky look at life in his native state that showcases White’s soulful country voice and passion for the Southern way of life.
“If I Could Have a Drink” is a cleverly penned tune that opens with the line “If I could have a drink with Mr. Hank Williams, I’d ask him if the whisky made him feel strong.” White proceeds to envision conversations with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash as he muses on life, love and choices made. The closing tune, “Always Want What You Can’t Have,” explores that universal longing for things just out of reach.
Part poet, part philosopher and part backwoods rabble-rouser, White has an ability to tap into the emotions of real people living authentic lives because he’s one of them. “I know who I am and my confidence probably outweighs my ability sometimes,” Drake says with a self-effacing laugh. “I experience stuff and I write about it all the time, so there’s an abundance of songs. I’ve always known what I wanted to say and I’ve always known what I wanted to be. I’ve had that gift all along. I’ve got this opportunity now and whatever way it goes, I’ll be smiling. Whether I’m singing on the street or if I’m singing at the Ryman, I’m going to be smiling either way as long as I get to make music.”