Interview : Chatting with Drake White at C2C Festival about music, lyrics and his love for the UK fans

Drake White is a country singer/songwriter from Alabama and has just released his debut album Spark via Dot Records under Big Machine Label Group. Drake is quite possibly the most talented man to emerge from the country music industry in a while.

Making his London debut during the songwriters series on Thursday 9th March, everyone in the audience felt very privileged to have seen him under such an intimate setting, something we were unlikely to experience again in fact I would be inclined to say that Drake White was the success story of C2C Festival, the most memorable artist, the most talked about.

Those who were already familiar with him had no doubt about his popularity and performance ability but those who didn’t have come away his biggest fans, they have left C2C in awe of his talent and have spoken about no one else.

With groundbreaking songs such as Making Me Look Good Again and Story, Drake will no doubt take the country music by storm this year and will likely be nominated for every award out there, hopefully even the Grammys after all, he was named this years Grammy new artist of tomorrow.

Drake was a huge part of this years Country 2 Country Festival. He joined the line up of exceptional artists such as Maren Morris, Mac McAnally, Kristian Bush and Liz Rose for the CMA Songwriters Series, he was part of the main arenas Yamaha Stage and did various pop up shows including the after party on the Saturday. I think we can expect another Maren Morris success story and see Drake return to C2C next year but this time in the main stage, he certainly deserves it.

I was fortunate to get the opportunity to have a chat with Drake during C2C Festival. Drake was very polite, kind and incredibly welcoming and humble. He was a joy to talk to and one of the most interesting songwriters I have ever spoken to. When speaking to him about certain subjects such as his song Story, Drake giggled whilst explaining the story behind the Story and to find out why, you just have to read the interview ha!

I hope you enjoy our chat.

Hi Drake, how are you? Welcome to the UK.

I am amazing, thank you. It’s good to be here.

Is this your first time here?

It is.

How are you enjoying your trip so far? You have been around Europe touring with Darius Rucker – what has that been like?

Amazing. I have always wanted to travel and that’s the spirit of the band. What we want to do is to see the difference in the crowds and the spirit in the crowds, their attentiveness and their reaction – and them coming up to us and giving us their feedback. That has been amazing and, you know, we hope that we can come back for years; for years and years and start to build a family over here.

Well, you definitely have a family here and, as you said, we are an attentive audience. We know every track off the album and will always know every track off every album, even if you have just released it, everyone will know it. We are very observant but we cheer as well! 

You started the festival as part of the Songwriters’ series with Liz Rose, Kristian Bush, Mac McAnally and Maren Morris. That was amazing and most people I have spoken to have been talking about you in particular and how much they loved your performance. How was that experience for you?

I have told other people that I felt so lucky to be up there with the amount of talent that was up there. I love Maren – we’re part of a class; we’re friends back at home. She is a great writer; a great spirit. Then Mac McAnally – he’s not just a very, very great musician but as a person, with how laid back he is and how much of a showman he is. He is so witty and so spot on with everything.

You ask how I felt. Well, just humbled by the whole experience. I feel like to just play your songs in that light and in that place, that is where they are most effective to me. Tonight we are going to have a great time with a full band and that’s going to be amazing, but that Songwriters’, that’s a great way to start this thing.

That’s what I love about C2C – you get both experiences. You get to see an artist stripped back and then a show with a full band.

You briefly mentioned at Songwriters’ that your song Story is partly inspired by people feeling the need to tell you their life story. Do you get that a lot? Do you draw inspiration from overhearing conversations too – and would you say most of your songs are based on real experiences, or can it be a mix?

Absolutely! Yeah, that’s what The Story is about. It is a little bit about overhearing people -eavesdropping – a little bit too. You don’t ever know what people are going through. I was taught by mum that if you notice something with one of your buddies, or someone randomly – when you ask how they are doing and they respond back to you with “I’m fine!”. If you look them in the eye and you maybe get this premonition or intuition that they’re not doing fine, you need to go “Hey, I don’t believe you. What’s going on?” You might save their life you know. That story, that approach is what produced that song.You know Randall, the High School Football star, that’s my best friend’s dad and he grew up and he was that football star. Jesse went and joined the Navy after her and Terry broke up. They were two women who grew up in a Southern town – they were gay, which was a very hard thing for them, and I listened to their story and then I put them in that song. When you listen to the song, ‘Jesse’ and ‘Terry’, – they could be a man or a woman, so people listen to it and think that it’s a man but it’s two women who were having trouble, as it’s a small town.

I know many people who will be really happy to hear that.

Oh, great! So yeah, it’s just one of those songs and everyone’s got their story.

You have just released your first album SPARK which is insanely good. How has it been for you since its release? How has the response been from fans and critics?

It’s a slow build. We had a lot of success for Living The Dream at terrestrial radio back in the States. We’re in it for the long haul. I am going to do this no matter what. I am going to do music, play music, write music and compose it no matter what happens or what we do. I think as long as I can continue to have these experiences and just love on people and be true to myself, true to my guitar and my songs – that God alone will bless that. So that’s where I’m at with our career; I can only control what I can control. I am going to have a happy life; it’s going to be a happy thing

What song on the album means the most to you – and why?

People answer that question in a lot of ways but I equate it to children. You sit down and write these songs – it’s a blank canvas and you’re just trying to get a song out. So when you take care of them and you nurture them and you change words and you change rhythms and phrasing here and there, they all become your babies, if you will. There’s some of them that are more fun to perform but they all have their things and people relate to them. Like Live Some on the record for example – there’s a lot of people that relate to that tune, but then there’s tons of people that love Elvis, which has more of a mellow type feel. It’s very rock and roll, where Story is very bluegrass – so I love them all for different reasons.

You performed on a plane, is that correct? Was that a good experience?

That was spontaneous! Most of the time when I’m on a plane I’m looking to sleep, so I was very apprehensive at first – but if you live in the vein of today, of Carpe Diem, of ‘today I’m going to make a memory’ and seize it, that’s what that’s about. People flipped out, they were just excited and we didn’t know what was going to happen. We didn’t know if people were going to tell us to shut up, but it worked out and that’s what this life is about – trying things to get that music heard. We just wanna play music for the rest of our lives. It was crazy to play on a plane at 30,000 feet; I’d never played a show that high, haha!

Sounds amazing and wish I could have been there.

In the US, Country artists rely heavily on country radio to be heard or known. The UK have very little Country radio, just one hour a week on mainstream radio and the others are all internet stations. How does it feel that your music, especially so early on in your career, has already reached international waters without the help of radio and purely, as it often is in the UK, word of mouth amongst the fans.

It’s emotional. We work so hard, this is my life. This is what I wake up every morning thinking about and what I go to bed every evening thinking about. It’s so appreciated; I realise that it could be gone tomorrow, I never want to take it for granted. I want to come over here and hug on and love on all the people who love the music because it’s what we do; it’s what every kid who grows up wanting to be a musician has – that dream that they want to do.

To have people search for and go and listen to the album and know the words to the songs – I mean that’s pure heaven. It’s pure heaven because those songs came from nothing. They came from an idea that you had on a subway or a bus somewhere in Hoakes Bluff, Alabama or somewhere in South Carolina – wherever you are at. Some weird idea popped into your head and now some Englishman knows it in the UK.

This is the world we live in – and I can feel it, I can feel it over here in the UK and it’s good to be at the front of it. The US is so congested, there’s so many people waiting in line. I love it, I wait in that line, too and I want to be successful in that world – but to be over here in the fore front of something where people are discovering our music for the first time is very special.

It is, and we do lean on each other and share great artists with each other – that is what C2C is all about and we are very lucky to have it. You can have one song out, come over here and sell out an entire tour. I do hope that you come back and do a tour, because that is one thing people have asked me to ask you. Are we going to see a UK return? Perhaps a headline tour?

We’re definitely working on it as we speak. Definitely before the end of the year; I would love to say that by the end of the year we’ll be back- and maybe we will be back twice.

That would be great.

I would love to say absolutely, without a doubt, we are going to nurture this area of the world. Where we’re wanted, we will go – and if you, just to quote a very famous movie ‘Field Of Dreams’ – “If you build it, they will come” and we’re building it – well y’all are building it, you fans are building it.

That’s why my site is called Building Our Own Nashville.

Right, right, so you build it and we want to be at the fore front of this and we want to be y’all’s family. We want to come in and build a tour here and visit here and I want to show my kids this, when I have kids, and bring my wife over here. I wanna have a place over here and I love it!

Well you are always very welcome and you’re on a label that are very good at bringing their artists over here, so we are thrilled about that – and please think of the UK as your ‘home away from home’.

Thank you, I will.

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