Drake White Is Proud to Be Leading a Country Revival
Reaction to Drake White's new single "It Feels Good" recalls a memorable scene from the 1980 movie Blues Brothers. It's the one where Jake Blues (played by John Belushi) is touched by God. He and his brother, Elwood (Dan Aykroyd), are at church, and a sort of frantic, other-worldly dance revival breaks out. They can't help themselves.
Fans at White's concerts can't help themselves, either. For some, it's dancing. For others, it's uncontrollable starts and fits and spasms to the singer's foot-stomping, Muddy Water-inspired soul-country song. There's video all over Facebook and Twitter of fans taken by his beat.
“When we wrote this song, Pharrell’s 'Happy' was a big hit," White tells Taste of Country. "I was just thinking, ‘I wanna write a country 'Happy.' I wanna write a feel good song that makes people get up and dance.”
When I get passionate about something, I get fired up. It comes across in my body movements and the tone of my voice.
He had a captive test audience. Before anyone heard "It Feels Good" on the radio, White took it to his wife's classroom. She's a kindergarten teacher in Franklin, Tenn.
“If I can make a 5-year-old dance, I can make anyone dance,” White jokes, adding that he was happy to split when he'd gotten the reaction he was hoping for. The inference, of course, is that he left her with 17 amped-up boys and girls.
The journey to "It Feels Good" is atypical. The Alabama native had a minor hit in 2013 with "The Simple Life" on MCA Nashville, then got dropped from their roster. Instead of sulking, he kept a positive outlook and set out to keep his band on the road. They played 150-200 shows a year, and between gigs, he got busy writing.
“The guys stayed loyal to me and hung in there and I’ve got a great booking agent,” he says. That's his band on the new single, and he plans to use them on the entire record, tentatively penciled in for a fall 2015 release.
White came to Nashville after graduating from Auburn University in 2007. A few years earlier he started taking music seriously, but the rhythm has always driven him. Both of his parents are musical. Dad loves the Allman Brothers Band and Joe Cocker. Mom raised him on Ray Charles and country radio. But his grandfather was most influential — he was a preacher at the nearby Baptist church, so Drake White's education began in the pew.
When he moved to Music City, however, White hedged his bet. He took a day job with a construction company, figuring it'd be a safety net. Then, the economy crashed. In a sense, that's the best thing that could have happened to him. Two jobs split his focus.
“The construction job dissolved and I really had the opportunity to … pour all of my energy into playing," he says with his perfect Southern drawl. "So I played all over the place in Nashville. Every chance I got.”
For half a decade he refined his sound, so when it was time to sign his name to a contract, he knew who he was. Having vision is an asset, he insists.
“You have to be confident. You can’t really listen to the noises. I use that a lot. You’ve gotta shut off the noise and focus on what you’re doing and focus on your vision. I’ve always had a vision of what I thought this should be.”
While "The Simple Life" and "It Feels Good" are two very different songs, it's clear both came from the same man. His voice and forceful energy are his calling cards right now, but the Hokes Bluff, Ala., native says there is another side to him. Off the stage he's in constant search of a quasi-meditative state.
“I’m pretty laid-back,” he says, comparing his personality off and on stage. “My stage show would cater to and look like I was a pretty amped up guy, and I am an energetic guy when it comes to passionate things. When I get passionate about something, I get fired up. It comes across in my body movements and the tone of my voice.”
"It Feels Good" is White's first single on Dot Records, an imprint of the Big Machine Label Group. This summer he'll hit the road, playing clubs and festivals nationwide as he pecks away at his debut album. He just released a lyric video for the song and says the full music video will come soon. He compares that to the Matthew McConaughey movie Mud.
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