In this Love Good exclusive interview, Love Good founder and podcast host Jimmy Mitchell sits down with Americana folk-rock artist Drew Holcomb. Drew shares his thoughts regarding the transformative power of writing music for the community and culture you find yourself in: music for the mundane, in a sense. “Music kills loneliness,” he says: but really our lives – what we do when we’re off the stage, how we conduct ourselves just as persons – can do the same.
CONVERSATION WITH DREW [SUMMARY]
Drew Holcomb does a fair bit of traveling. When asked about common threads he’s seen across cultures through his travels, Drew says that the experience of music seems to hit people at two levels: the level of everyday life (falling in love, playing with your children, roadtrips, etc), and at the “flashpoint” level (super stardom, in which millions of people look to you to form their opinions and tastes). But while every musician can’t be Kendrick Lamar – someone who’s shaping the collective culture in an historically pertinent way – anyone is capable of shaping their community. “The particular defines the broader,” Drew says, “Culture happens locally and grows into something wider. I’m influencing particular culture.”
America is made up of countless particular cultures. Drew points out that it’s not uncommon to have two people living next door to each other who have entirely different ideas about religion, leisure, and gender. But, while there’s power in particularizing our experiences, there’s also the danger of becoming an inveterate critic: when you’re given an endless array of opinions and options, it can be easier to be a deconstructionist than a cultural influencer. “When you try to be positive, you’re taking the chance of being shut down by the critics and the deconstructionists. It’s harder, and people will ridicule your vulnerability: but in those cases you have to just turn the comment section off,” Drew says with a laugh.
When asked about the impetus behind his creativity, Drew replies, “I want people to feel seen and known – to know that they’re not alone. People find community through music: [they find] a way to say something about their life that they didn’t know how to articulate themselves.” He goes on to say that, in regards to where things are at globally, he’s more hopeful than most. Although people are more unsettled than they were a couple generations ago, there’s more self-awareness, empathy, and entrepreneurship – even in the midst of so many divided beliefs. In addition to being able to carve careers with creative independence in a way we couldn’t before, Drew talks about a “new humility” that’s evident in the way his peer-group parents their children: “My friends apologize to their kids when they’ve done wrong by them. That’s not something that ever would have happened when I was a kid: parents could do no wrong.” This new malleability on the part of authority figures at the level of the family has bled into the writing styles of many current singer-songwriters like Drew, who recently partnered with the folk duo JohnnySwim to write a protest song in response to the attacks in Charlottesville this past summer. Sometimes “choosing the good” requires taking a stand and speaking up against the powers that be: even if they’re powers you’ve submitted to up until that point.
Not one to put on pretenses, Drew is honest about having never quite felt at home in church. This discomfort is a place he writes from in the hopes of giving voice to other folks who feel like they’re living in the interstices. Jimmy remarks about how hearing an artist give expression to the experience of doubt is a comfort to everyone out there who doesn’t have life entirely figured out: which is every single one of us. To present an image of perfection and unflappability would be dishonest, and would hardly make for a compelling tune.
“I’m enjoying the process and speaking my mind along the way,” Drew says. “Thank you for having me.”
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