On August 19th, Drake White’s album, Spark, hits stores and online outlets. You can pre-order right here. We got the chance to sit down with Drake and talk about his music, the passion, and vision he shares with his fans…
Let me begin by saying I love the studio version of “Story”
Thank you, is it not cool? You know the rowdiness of our show, if you’ve been to a show is what I wanted to capture in the studio. So “Story” I literally took 3, 4 shots of Jack Daniels and we got in there and started having fun and playing and I sang it. And we all just went after it, it comes across, you know we’re having fun. I’m so glad, that that one was dropped. I got a strategy behind dropping that one first. Go ahead and get that one out there cause it’s fun, it’s rambunctious, it’s a cool song.
The preorder for Spark began Friday June 24th, what does it feel like having the album so close to release given that you’ve been working on this moment for nearly 10 years?
I mean, it’s the best feeling in the world, you work hard. We’re on this earth a short period of time and to be able to do what you love to do every day and to release this and have it coming out, and have so many good songs that I’ve put my heart into and put my soul into. I can’t wait for people to hear it and respond. It’s emotional; it feels good to get it out. I mean it’s been hard, these guys have worked hard (my band), we’ve been grinding for a long time, so it feels really good.
The album art is interesting. If we take a close look we can see your church, we can see your band, your wife, your grandparents and your dog. Also, at the end of “Story” word has it that it’s your grandfather’s sermon at the end of it. How important for you to include the people who are important to you in your work?
It’s a vision, it’s been a coming vision for years that I’ve thought about what I wanted to do years ago to tell people the story. And to tell people my story and all the pictures in the album were all thought out and all placed in certain geographical locations in the picture. Everything has a purpose for the reason it’s there and even the color being blue, it has a purpose. And my point there was to educate people about my spirit and my soul and where my background was. I feel like my favorite artists, like Eric Clapton, J.J. Cale, Merle Haggard and these guys, I just wanted to know more about them. I feel like the album art is a way that instead of just a picture of myself up there, I wanted to put a story into it. That was an idea I had 5-6 years ago, that I wrote in my journal, just to put a story inside the album, I love looking through my dad’s record collection. I love holding an album and I love looking at all the writers and the words of the songs and all that stuff. So that was part of the vision to get it out. My grandfather, his name is Jack White, my publishing company is called Reverend Jack White. He’s got these amazing sermons, I grew up listening to him preach and going to his small church in Alabama. I put those in there because it’s part of the marrow of my bones, it’s what makes me the musician that I am, what makes me the person that I am. So yeah, there’s about 4-5 inserts of his old sermons and they’re conducive to the songs. I just wanted to make a piece of art, a collaboration with my guys and everybody around me and really think about what’s going to make this thing all gel together, instead of just throwing 11 songs together. This album has a purpose for each of the 12 songs, for the album art, all the way down to the texture of the sleeve that the CD is in, it’s got a different texture than most CDs and everything is thought out the way I’ve done that and I’m proud of it.
You were talking about the continuity of the album and I can’t help but notice that your grandfather’s sermon at the end of “Story” is about love, going right into what I think will be a major fan favorite, “Making Me Look Good Again”
I’m glad you caught that, I went through about 25 of his sermons from 1975 till probably 83 and just went through and grabbed the words that I thought were conducive to the songs that would come in and flow smoothly and that’s a perfect one there.
When Spark does come out on August 19th, is there a particular moment or a particular song that you’re most excited about your fans finally being able to hear?
I don’t think so, like I said, it’s a whole spider web, I just threw a web out there. “Waiting On the Whiskey to Work” is so different and it’s so out there, it’s kind of trippy even. Then there’s “Back to Free” and all the ones we’ve been playing for a while but it’s just exciting because being a song writer and being an artist is like taking your clothes off in front of somebody for the first time and saying here’s what I got, I hope you like what you see because I’m vulnerable in that. I grew up in the south where men are looked at as “you don’t cry, you hide it all, you put it underneath the rug, you go out there and be a strong man”. But songwriting is about stripping yourself down, all the way to the guts of it and willing to be vulnerable in front of the whole world. From “Waiting On the Whiskey to Work” all the way to “Making Me Look Good Again”, I mean I’m nothing without my wife, I’m nothing without my band, I’m nothing without the fans that come out there. Pride is something that could kill you but is something that could save you too and so I think the balance of pride in this record is good, just people that keep you grounded. I’ve really worked hard on really telling my story through all this.
It’s evident in your music and live shows that your influences come from several genres, but when it’s time for you to wind down or let loose, what are some of your go to albums or artists?
Yeah, I think Bob Marley’s “Legend” is one that puts me in this space, it puts me in this state of relaxation, that’s my go to. I love “Eat a Peach” by The Allman Brothers, I love the Tedeschi Trucks guys, I love my Brothers Osborne, I’ve been listening to their record a lot. Zac’s first record “The Foundation” is a record that I listen to. I listen to a lot of Jack Johnson and Norah Jones and Ben Harper is a go to. I hope I’m not being too wide with that, but I like a lot of Amos Lee, Ray LaMontagne and Ben Harper type stuff you know. Like if I’m going to sit down and listen, I usually want to relax, so I want music to put me in a state of meditation, of calmness. And then when I’m working out, which I try to do daily, it’s something to motivate you, something to go. But yeah from Bob Marley, to The Eagles, to James Taylor, to The Beatles.
I have to ask you, what are your touring plans for after the “Blackout the Sun Tour”?
We got some pretty huge news that we can’t share. We scored another huge tour with a big country artist that’s just a killer dude and it’s going to be a lot of fun. But you’ll be the first to know when we’re able to share that. There’s dogs involved… We’ll leave it at that, we can reveal it in a couple of months.
While we’re on the topic of touring, you’ve also toured with Eric Church before and I’ve seen you refer to him as a mentor, which I find interesting given that your careers have a lot of parallels, with the passionate grassroots fan bases, the touring and the energetic live shows. What are some of the biggest things you’ve learned from working with him?
When I got dropped from my first record deal, I called Eric, I was just talking to him. He goes, “Man, you get in that van and you get that band and you go out and play shows. Keep CAA, keep your booking agent, keep busy. And you keep playing live and you keep playing to people and loving on people and keep pouring your spirit into the live show and everything will work out fine.” So it’s stuff like that, Eric’s beat the bushes for a long time and I don’t want a cheap route. I never wanted a cheap route and I am what I am because of things like having a blowout on I-40 going at 2AM. And being there and grabbing a bunch of guys and keeping them motivated and learning how to pay them and keep them happy and keep my wife happy and balance all that on the road. And deal with people in a good way, and I am who I am because of that struggle. Struggle is good, it seasons you like iron sharpens iron. When you have guys like Eric and Zac around you, and the guys in the Big Fire Band you’re just going to get better, you’re going to be better. That’s what I want to do. I believe that if you want to do something, you just find someone that’s already done it and you ask them how they did it and that’s the blessing that I have with Zac and Eric. I’m not too proud to go, “Hey E, how did you do it? How did you do that?” He was 8 years, 10 years deep in to it before his first song hit. It’s a struggle, it’s a good struggle though. It’s a good story to tell. I love being a little uncomfortable. If you’re not uncomfortable, if you’re not a little sore, your muscles aren’t growing.
I wanted to talk to you about your grassroots fan base, “The Firestarters.” Is there anything you’d like to say about them or to people who might not know what the Firestarters are?
You know, I love The Greatful Dead, I love Widespread Panic, I love Phish, all the jam band type, grassroots following. I love Ben Harper, I mentioned that. The fan that goes out there and comes to a show and tailgates and puts up a flag pole in the middle of a hot parking lot and sits there and waits on you. Because I want to give people memories, that’s what we’re selling here. That’s what you sell in a ticket. I want a hard ticket for Drake White and The Big Fire and have festivals and after hours, after the songs, naming these songs, naming these festivals after the songs. The fans, “The Firestarters” I call them that because we’re The Big Fire, and the album is called “Spark” because this is the spark, this is the first spark. Those guys, they are the reason that we have this opportunity. And I will never miss, I’ve watched Willie Nelson do it a hundred times that I’ve opened up for him, he signs every autograph, he stands out there every night and to the last person says, “I love you” and until the last person leaves, he’s out there. I will never get tired of signing my name, I’ll never get tired of shaking their hands and being out there. They’re the reason that we’re on this bus, they’re the reason that I have a good guitar to play and that I have a living and I’ll never forget these people. I can’t survive without them, they are who’s being affected by the music. And we have our opportunity to put our stamp on history. I grew up listening to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith and Bob Seger and Merle Haggard and Willie and this is our time, we are as present as they were, and we have an opportunity to do what they did. And we have to carry that torch and it’s carried by how well you treat your fans, it’s like a family. They’re family and I would help any of them if they called. So yeah, the most important thing of all is The Firestarters and the fan base.