Published On: Wed, Apr 26th, 2017

Grilled: Drake White

The fast-rising Southerner on knife fights, media bullshit and why criticism fuels his fire…


Drake White

Spark. Not just the title of Drake White’s soulful debut album, but also a fair encapsulation of his charisma. As you’d hope from the Alabama bandleader’s anecdotal songcraft on the likes of Waitin’ On The Whiskey To Work, he’s also a quickfire raconteur, freewheeling between topics with downhome eloquence. “I’ll kinda ramble real quick if you don’t mind,” he warns us, “so just hang on to the saddle there…”

You’ve said that you wanted Spark to feel like sitting around a campfire. Why?
That was my upbringing. There was always a fire going. There was always wood to be split. Fire represented work. So my band’s name is The Big Fire and my logo is a fire. There’s a lot of symbolism that goes along with fire.

I think from an evolutionary standpoint, fire has changed mankind as much as the wheel. So to spread music like a fire makes a lot of sense to me.

You wrote 200 songs for Spark. Was it hard to cut that back to 12?
It definitely was. I get very obsessive, whether I’m making a kitchen table or making my yard look better. And if you’ve put your heart and soul and passion into a song, man, it’s tough.

Y’know, it’s not so hard to narrow it down from 200 songs to 100. But from 100 to 50 is tough. From 50 to 25 is excruciating. From 25 to 12 is like putting a gun in your mouth.

What memories of the recording stand out?
Man, when we went in and recorded Livin’ The Dream, it was an absolute catastrophe. There’s no other way to explain it. All the electrical stuff was messed up. I was on edge, because people were saying that song was gonna be the single and we hadn’t even recorded it yet.

We were two-and-a-half hours into recording and we hadn’t even heard the first sound. But it turned out great because of the pressure. I just had to disconnect my thoughts and let the creative part of my brain take over. Relax. Get your cup of joe and let it happen. It’s just music.
It’s not fucking rocket science.

What sort of themes were you writing about?
Well, Heartbeat is just about a hard-working man. It’s about getting back to the craftsmanship. Getting back to working with your hands and being the person that you say you’re gonna be. I Need Real is looking at CNN and Fox News and saying, if you can cut through all the bullshit and get to the point, then I think the world would be a much clearer place.

Is that possible? I don’t know. I just wrote about it. Y’know, Spark has hope, passion, fate, family, spirit. It also encourages you to disconnect from your computer, your phone, get out and smell the fresh air. Smell the roses, I guess you’d say.”

What’s been your toughest show on the way up?
There’s so many, man. There’s been shows where fights break out. Knives. Guns. But everybody’s rough spot is different. I just got through reading This Wheel’s On Fire – Levon Helm’s story of The Band – and we didn’t play what they played.

They played some real rough spots and got guns pointed in their face. Willie Nelson says the reason he hired his drummer was because he had an awesome .357 that he wasn’t afraid to shoot a man with. So those type of hard times, I’ve never ran into.

But there’s been times when the sound is not up to par, or it’s a late-night crowd that would rather hear a jukebox. You have to learn how to entertain that crowd. And I take a lot of pride in having done that. There’s no curveball you can throw that me and my band can’t handle.”

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