Keeping Your Dream Alive with Drew Holcomb
Today or conversation is with music city icon drew holcomb. And you may remember that. We talked to drew's manager Paul Steal a few weeks ago. But here's the thing you need to know about drew. He absolutely refuses to be limited by other people's labels yes? He's a killer singer and songwriter. And believe me you're GONNA WANNA listen to the end of this episode. But he's used that foundation of singing and songwriting to lay a platform for becoming an entrepreneur. An investor a business owner. The guys creative he's disciplined. He's an absolute anomaly. But all of these different roles and qualities they've come together to make for a pretty remarkable and outrageous life but as you will hear his path toward becoming one of Americana Music Most beloved and authentic figures. It was one that actually started over twenty years ago and it was birthed out of a tragedy. I played music all throughout high school. I was your classic like Gout. The Guitar Planning Life and Learning Songs and having fun just with friends. I didn't write a song until I was a junior in college. I went to a personal tragedy the summer after my junior year of high school at a younger brother special needs who passed away very unexpectedly. I was actually out of the country and music was sort of thing. Kinda got me through it so really for me. Music was this personal sort of healing anchor. Anchor exactly I've no thoughts of doing it professionally especially talented at that time. I don't think so. No no not really I mean I was. I was fine You know I always had a very sort of ernest. Hard-working like plow through it. Sort of ethic involved in scouts and was in the student body organization. And all the things you know at school. I Love School. I always student so I went to school to college with the intent of going to graduate school to study. History on my goal is to write books and be a history professor so that was the dream now somewhere along the way. My junior decided to go study abroad and I studied in Edinburgh Scotland and I didn't really know anybody so I took my guitar with me. You know that was like my main hobby was playing guitar and I just started writing songs like at night. I'd finish my work or whatever three roommates. A Frenchman Franck Thomas the German Dave the Canadian and drew the American. That sounds like the makings of a killer ban. Yes that's right court. What are you studying in? Scotland studying church history so studying sort of like a variety of classes but Studying sort of fifteenth and Sixteenth Century Scotland. Studying the early sort of early Roman church so sort of. Constantine through you know the the break-up of the Roman Empire so just like nerdy stuck just had your guitar with you the whole yet. I wasn't writing songs about any of that stuff. I mean it was informing you know in a way but now I just started writing songs and really. It was diving into that pain because what I knew I was GONNA do. I started writing songs because my senior project at. Ut was an oral history about my brother. So I was interviewing fifty to eighty people. Nurses doctors friends teachers cousins. Who grew up around him in his life. And I was trying to figure out why this like kid. With Spina Bifida made such an impact when he his funeral was like twenty five hundred on my word so I was just personally curious and also just thought it was a great way to sort of put this history stuff to work to do this oral history and so part of that was started writing songs about that. Sorta as a sideline and extending come home from Scotland and start my senior year. My friends start playing songs for my friends. They're like Ayman is a pretty good. You should maybe give this a go so I started looking some gigs in Knoxville. Like at bars and I'd play covers and originals. Invite my friends out and this mentor of mine. Basically told me so. Hey man graduate. School can wait a year to like. It's not going anywhere much to take a break. Do this music thing get a job. See what happens. And that was in the fall. Two Thousand and three and here we are in two thousand twenty. Golly that's crazy so when you started doing it and you were playing in those bars. You couldn't have been making much planning those bars. No it's probably pretty scrappy beginnings for a while. I would assume yeah really four or five years of absolute scrap absolute scrap. Was that whole time where you think to yourself. This is what I want to do with the rest of my life or were you just filling time. During that season I was enjoying sort of the process of seeing the country of convincing by then friend to date me and Mary me I was enjoying the freedom I really found a lot of freedom and being my own boss that was like also and I was like well. That's pretty cool. And then also the same time I was sort of looking at the writing on the wall of the other dream going man. It's like really hard to get a real decent job at university especially as sort of a you know another southern white male just like there's a lot of those PhD's in history saturated market. So I just honestly the part of it I was really loving the business and I was finding satisfaction in putting together the band and the recording process and learning I was growing. I felt like you know all these things. I didn't understand about music. I mean as a kid you get a record and you think Oh. These people just got no room. They've set up. Some microphones push record. And that's what you hear and then you realize that. Oh It's actually this incredibly long and arduous process but very satisfying process and so I found myself enjoying it and just kept going based on my dad. You know I'm just GonNa keep doing this until it stops growing and it didn't. You're still. Here is your idol dip. It was your dad. Supportive or your parents supportive as you were kind of pursuing this dream very supportive. My Dad always jokes. He says he has all these friends that tell him like. Why did you let drew do this? And he's like I let drew do anything you know. He's twenty one years. Old graduated from College Emmy debt which was Nice Ozone. Scholarship makes a big difference in your twenty two years old about. Can you pursue this dream? Well I have all this debt and I gotta get a certain amount of money job or can I like try to do something independently with it of hamstrings you? So I didn't have any deaths and my dad basically told me like. Hey Man if you're gonNa work hard at this your mom and I are in your corner like let's go for it and actually took me guitar shop and bought me like the nicest guitar he could afford and said like this is our send you on your way thing you know. Wow so very supportive stuff had other people say like I wanted your parents. Let you do this crazy thing. Let me amount of adult. Yeah that's right. You don't have to have your parents permission but it sure helps. Psychologically I think to have people that believe in you that in your corner day deal but also. They weren't covering like they weren't paying for you to do they work. They work funding your dream. But they were supporting your. Yeah but I gave me alone ten grand and make my first record but it was expected to be paid back. And did you pay of course? I figured you're probably not still in the payment plan. No I read this in. I think it was rolling stone. That wrote it. It said while working at a Memphis studio in the early two thousands holcomb started playing small bars on weekends and eventually found himself zigzagging across the south in old Volvo Wagon and putting nearly three hundred thousand miles on the car and five years first of all. Is that true very true? John Actually totaled at around two hundred and forty thousand miles and took it around mechanic and he he made it drivable not put another ninety thousand miles on it. That's insane you're going all over and then it says initially. He says he was barely making ends. Meet playing at the most random coffee houses and community college. Lunch hours anywhere. That would give me a little scratch to play my songs. So that's a pretty accurate representation. Those first few yeah definitely and you know some of those college. Gigs were literally community colleges noon and they had these entertainment budgets that they had dispensed they bring you in. I'd bring my own P. A. And severe that set it up in the corner at start playing and literally a third of the room when they realized the somebody was sort of interrupting their lunch would put their headphones on to listen to their music. While I'm playing in the corner so you had to have pretty thick skin letting you know their checks cashed and that's how I was able to afford to keep going so it was complete survival. Did you have moments where you were just like? What am I doing at least two or three times an hour? When I was playing shows seriously though you know sometimes about halfway through that period is when I got married. Ellie was a schoolteacher and then after a year of teaching administered go on. The road means so really my last year of doing a lot of those colleges she was with me and that was so much more fun because we were just getting the car and just laugh at how terrible the experience was you know like. I said they were the gigs paid and that was the right around the time we started having some success with songs on TV and film. This song live forever came out which did really well On. Tv show. Parenthood was the season. Finale montage moment and we got paid enough to get a van and we started getting asked to go on tour other singer. Songwriters. Dave Barnes and Marvis. Are these sort of smaller. You Know Club. Things were also starting to really make real fans and then it became. Maybe I want to do this for the rest of my life. Real to that point it was like this is a big.