Good Light, the latest album from Nashville's Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors (out on February 26th), is drenched in the sort of Southern comfort that will make you laugh, smile, nod your head and raise your beer in appreciation for every nugget of truth that slips out of the singer's mouth.
More mature than his previous releases, Good Light's songs come from Holcomb's need to be honest with himself and his fans and have no regrets about who he is and where he is going. That's a pretty good perspective to have for a new father, especially since he and his wife, singer Ellie, will be bringing their newborn daughter with them on their upcoming tour. That should make for some unusual tour stories. The bans whose songs you might have heard on Nashville, How I Met Your Mother, or Oprah is setting sail on the Rock Boat XIII this weekend, and we caught up with Holcomb to chat before the ship leaves port.
New Times: The human element on Good Light comes through loud and clear. These songs feel like they were written by an incredibly focused storyteller who knew exactly what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. What was the writing process like?
Drew Holcomb: I've always wanted to make a record that has a dynamic, three-dimensional view of people, myself included. Just because I have one song that is super emotional and melodramatic, doesn't mean that my whole life is super melodramatic and emotional. But there certainly are those moments. And there's moments of nostalgia, disappointment, great joy, and even subtle anger, so I hope that's something that gets communicated, that me and my listeners are complex people and we should be treated as such.
So your wife, Ellie, is in the band. What is that dynamic like and how has it changed over the seven years you've been married and on the road?
It's kind of taken a there-and-back-again sort of route, because when we started out, Ellie joined the band as a backup singer and sometime collaborator. Then for a while we thought more about trying to make it a duet, but we have very different artistic visions for songwriting. So instead of trying to do everything together and put it into our band, we just created separate entities and sort of let the other person serve as a role player in the other person's vision.
This record really only has like one duet on it. It's a really strong and powerful duet and it's one of my favorite moments on the record. But on our last record there were songs where she led. It was her song and she sang lead on it, so creatively we just took a different approach to it this time around. She's really sort of let me captain this particular ship alone as far as the creative process.
But on the road we have a blast together. Ellie's an incredibly cheerful and flexible person as far as her expectations of what it's going to be like out there. So honestly, I think if it wasn't for her and her magnetism, traveling with all the guys would probably cause us guys to kill each other.
She's a trooper to be on the road with five guys. And the tour this spring, we have a newborn and she'll be coming on the road with us, so that's going to be a first. That'll be another new dynamic for us to experience. She's eleven weeks old and she's been to nine states already.
Why do you make music?
For me, music has always been the medium through which my thoughts and emotions can be articulated in ways I could not have done myself. Music is always that conversation between me and the rest of the world. I love the idea that you put a song out there and you kind of leave it to the listeners to decide what the song means instead of pushing them in a certain direction. It's all about how they respond to it.
This record in particular, for me, feels like the first thing I've ever made that I will not be ashamed to walk into one of my heroes' living rooms and say, "hey, this is my record," and not toss out any caveats or give them any ideas of what to expect, but just give the record to them and be confident that they're listening to something I'm not ashamed of having created. I don't have to justify it. Whether or not they like it, who knows? But I would not be scared to give them the record and say, "This is me, and this is my music. I hope it adds to the conversation like your music has for me."
Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors sets sail on the Rock Boat XIII, Sunday, February 24 to March 1, from the Port of Miami, 1015 North America Way, Miami. Visit therockboat.com.
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