After a decade, Drew Holcomb and his band the Neighbors are finding their biggest success
One of the main reasons Drew Holcomb believes he’s been able to carve out a solid career for himself is that he never imagined he would.
“When I first started doing the artist, touring, writing and recording thing, I was 21 or 22 years old,” says the singer, songwriter and guitarist for the Nashville-based rock group Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, which plays Don Quixote’s on Nov. 5. “I had a relatively healthy perspective on it, and thought the odds were pretty long that it would actually become my career.”
But lo and behold, 10 years later the band is more successful than ever. Early last year, Holcomb released his sixth album, Good Light, and it landed in the top half of Billboard’s Top 200 chart, peaked at #7 on iTunes’ overall chart and hit #1 on its Singer/Songwriter chart. All of this despite being an independent artist without significant radio play. He and his band have called their own shots the whole way, and it’s paid off—even if it took a while for that to happen.
“The cost of doing it our own way is that it has taken a really long time, but I think the benefits far outweigh the costs, because we’ve never gotten burned out,” Holcomb says. “We’ve been able to set the pace, remember what our priorities are, take our time, and it’s definitely been gratifying.”
The band will release its seventh studio album, Medicine, in January, and it’s clear the members are not growing tired of making music together. Holcomb’s vocals are as confident as ever on the easygoing folk opener and first single “American Beauty,” and when his wife Ellie comes in with her typically rich, subtle harmonies on the swelling rocker “Tightrope,” it is a thing of beauty. “Last Thing We Do” is an ebullient piece of pop-rock, with driving guitars and drums and Nathan Dugger’s upbeat and playful piano, while the funky rock stomper “Sisters Brothers” showcases groovy licks, bunker-busting percussion and Drew’s ability to sing with verve and swagger. If it sounds like they had one hell of a good time making this record, that’s because they did.
“A lot of times recording can be a very painful, arduous process. It can become creatively numbing,” says Holcomb. “This one was the total opposite of that. We had a great time. I feel like that energy is going to come out when people hear the record.”
Holcomb is driven by a desire to connect with his audience, and with the growth of that audience has come a new intensity within the band.
“We’re more ambitious about the creative side of things now, since we’ve realized we have this opportunity to create something valuable because we have an audience,” he says. “So you feel more responsible to the audience, and less ambitious for your own ego. That’s really freed us up. Our records have gotten progressively better because our perspective has become more outward-focused and empathetic.”
The group knows they have a chance to do something meaningful, and Holcomb believes in the power of music to move its audience profoundly.
“I always say that sometimes music can tell you something you otherwise could never have articulated yourself,” he says. “That’s part of what drives me as an artist, to create things like that.”
Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors will perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 5, at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Highway 9, Felton. Tickets are $12/advance, $14/door. For more information, call 603-2294.