Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors - Good Light Tour

Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors

The night we played Bonnaroo a couple years ago, I sat with my younger brother Sam,
my wife Ellie, and a few other dear friends, reclining in plastic lawn chairs in the midnight
Tennessee heat outside our tour bus, drinking wine and listening to music. After a decade of
touring, (over 1700 shows) and making records, it’s easy to forget the magic of music. We took
turns introducing each other to new bands and artists, talking about our lives, our dreams, our
Music has always had a medicinal quality to me, and that’s why I started writing songs
and touring in the first place. I first needed the medicine when I was seventeen. I lost a brother
that summer, 1999. He was a great kid, lived life from the view of a wheelchair, and was gone
without warning a few days before his 14th birthday. I took lots of medicine, from Radiohead
and Bob Dylan, from Pearl Jam and Otis Redding, from Bob Marley to the Temptations, Tom
Petty and the Heartbreakers to Rage Against the Machine. I played the guitar in my bedroom,
learned songs I loved, sang along in my car alone or with a friend.
A year later I went to college in Knoxville and I became an addict. I was introduced to the
medicine of Patty Griffin, Whiskeytown, Springsteen, Tom Waits, the Jayhawks, Wilco, Beck
and hundreds more that could fill pages. I went and saw their shows and played their records
over and over and over. The honesty, the intellect, the stories, the raw emotion, the rhythm, the
vulnerability; it all made me feel like I was not alone. Music was a way of saying, “me too,” a
way of finding hope and meaning in the sorrow and confusion of life.
Somewhere in those late college years, I started writing songs, at first feeble attempts,
but it grew and grew, and I got better and better. I booked shows, I made myself vulnerable and
stood onstage and sang earnest songs about love and joy, pain and tragedy. I convinced myself
that making medicine was something I could take a swing at. After graduating, over a cup of
coffee, I asked my dentist father what he thought about my dream, and he asked me one
“Are you going to work hard at that?”
“Yes sir.” I replied.
“Well let’s go to the guitar shop and I’ll buy you the best one I can afford.”
I hit the road, and I hit it hard. I found a band of agile, competent musicians whose
musical library is vast and deep and demanding. Along the way, I married the girl I always
wanted. She quit her teaching job and joined the band, toured with us for seven great years. We
made several records, and spent the majority of the last decade on the road. You may have
heard our music on TV. We’ve had our songs on dozens of shows like Nashville, Parenthood,
How I Met Your Mother. We have toured with artists like the Avett Brothers, John Hiatt,
Needtobreathe, and a host of other kindred souls. We have sold out our own shows in places
from Chicago to Austin, LA to New York, London to Denver, on stages we never dreamed we
would play, and selling over 100,000 records in the process, all while staying independent. Our
music is simple and heartfelt, built to inhabit people’s day to day lives, like so many of the
records I have loved over the long haul in my own life.

Medicine is by far the best music we have ever made. When I played it for a respected
friend, I asked, “What do you think?” The response was,
“It sounds like it’s always been there.”
We recorded the whole album in eight days, co-produced by the band and Joe Pisapia
(Ben Folds, KD Lang, Guster, Josh Rouse) at Joe’s Middletree Studios, in East Nashville, about
a mile from my house. We recorded one song at a time, until it was finished. No studio tricks,
just me and a great band working together, creating, having fun, embracing the sorrow. It’s
always been about the song for us, a community of musicians surrounding that song and
bringing it life, trying to make it sound like it has always been there. The twelve songs on Medicine deal with loyalty, hardship, marriage, friendship, feeling
like an outsider, and wrestling with God. “You’ll Always Be My Girl” is a love song to my bride
Ellie, who after eight years on the road with us, is stepping away from the band. I came up with
the first line when I was playing with our daughter Emmylou before putting her to bed. I wasn’t
trying to write a song, just entertaining her and I came up with the first line – ‘from the start of
spring to the autumn leaves, and the summers and winters between…” After tucking her in, I
dashed off the rest of the song in 45 minutes. It was the night before we went into the studio for
the last time. When Ellie got home, I played it for her. She loved it, and we cried together for a
moment and celebrated what we’ve got and what we’re grateful for.
The next day, I taught it to the band, and we recorded the 24-hour-old song in one take.
Nathan Dugger on piano, Rich Brinsfield on upright bass and me singing, just sitting in a circle.
That ethos embodies the whole experience of making this record.
“Shine Like Lightning” is a song about us being an underdog band, never embraced by
the powers of radio, major labels, large corporate sponsorships, and in light of that we have a
healthy chip on our shoulder. But our music making has brought us, and our fans, a lot of
happiness, it seems. This is an ode to ten years of doing it our own way, on our own terms, in
spite of the roadblocks of cynicism and criticism, those who would “take something beautiful and
make it feel small.” It’s an anthem for our band and our fans, that we are going to “Shine Like
Lightning!” critics and cynics be damned.
Breaking with my previous autobiographical songwriting bent, I wrote songs like
“Heartbreak” and “Sister Brothers,” based on the experiences of friends instead. Elsewhere,
“American Beauty” looks back on the nostalgia and loss of a teenage romance. The grooving,
call-and-response “Here We Go” was inspired by that particular night shared with friends at
Medicine closes with “When It’s All Said and Done.” It’s about questioning whether God
is real and whether he cares about us or not … and not walking away from that, but holding on
to it like you’re hanging on to the side of a cliff, and that’s where I find myself at this point.
More than anything else, Medicine is born out of the stories we are told.
The email from a fan who was on the verge on suicide but our song gave her glimmer of hope to
keep hanging on. The story by the bus of fans who danced their first dance to another one of
our songs. The mom who sings our music to her kids before they go to sleep, begging for peace
and health and a happy life. The people who dance in the back of the rock club and have a
moment of joy in a world of suffering. We only hope to add to the soundtrack, in the same way
that all those artists and bands have done for me. Making medicine,
Music, it makes you feel good, makes you feel understood
like you’re not alone, not a rolling stone, you’re not the only one on the road.

David Ramirez

The life of the traveling songwriter certainly seems romantic. But as David Ramirez notched mile number 260,000 traveled in his 2006 Kia Rio, the novelty began to wear off.

"I've learned a lot from being alone and isolated," says Ramirez, who until recently toured completely by himself, without a band, manager or anyone else for company. "Yes, it's romantic in a way. But it has also been kind of rough on my head and my heart. After a while it made it difficult to connect with people on a personal level when I got home. In hindsight, I can see that it's been kind of detrimental. You know, when you travel around alone for months at a time, the world revolves around you. There's no one else in the equation. Everything was just about me. It's a selfish way of living. And I'm ready to move on from that."

It's taken three years since that realization, but with his new album 'FABLES,' out August 28 via Thirty Tigers, Ramirez takes strides towards that personal growth both as a musician and as a man.

"I hit a dry spell for a couple of years after my last album. It was frustrating. I went into the studio two years ago planning to do a whole record, and it just wasn't coming together. So I scrapped the whole thing and took some time away from it," he says. "It felt forced. I don't want to just put more noise into the world. I want to put something out there that means something to me. And if it doesn't, then I don't release it. Therefore, I haven't had a new record in three years. I know that can be frustrating for people on my business team. But I don't want to put it out there if I can't stand behind it."

The delay, it turns out, was for the best. "My focus wasn't really on my music at that point," he explains. "I was at a point in my relationship with my girlfriend where things were getting serious. The closer we got, the more I realized that I needed to be honest with myself and with her about where my life was heading. If I want to be in a meaningful relationship with someone, I have to be honest in everything I do."
The album's title, 'FABLES,' was inspired by the first single, "Harder to Lie," which captures the moment Ramirez realized, as he puts it, "I couldn't bullsh*t with her anymore. She knew me completely. It got me thinking about how much I bullsh*t in my life - exaggerating stories, faking a smile, or whatever. Just telling fables. When you don't know who you really are you can end up hurting people."

That newfound maturity and clarity translated into his approach in the studio, as Ramirez traveled to Seattle to work with his friend Noah Gundersen, who produced the album. "My previous albums were a bit less personal. I always went in with a certain idea of what I wanted them to turn out like. I had never just walked in and said 'let's just see what happens.' And that's what we did this time. From the writing to the recording, it was just based on instincts.”

In a world full of singer-songwriters hawking their stories, Ramirez has managed to stand out from the noise, developing a fiercely loyal following of fans who are drawn to his intimately personal songwriting. "When someone buys a record of mine, they're getting my life. They are essentially memoirs. They're going to know a little bit more about who I am."

'FABLES' is a sparse, poignant set of songs crafted around Ramirez' starkly beautiful baritone, which the New York Times once described as full of "haggard loneliness." NPR Music praised his knack for writing "dark, wrenching tales that are immediately identifiable to those who've loved and lost," while Paste described his "brutally honest" lyrics as "almost alarmingly descriptive."

After years on the road touring as an opening act for artists like Noah Gundersen, Gregory Alan Isakov, Shakey Graves and Joe Pug, Ramirez is excited to finally embark on his own tour. "Fans have been paying high-dollar tickets to watch me open for other bands, and I'm very thankful for it. I've also had the chance to see how other songwriters I respect work on a professional level. I've learned a lot and been challenged a lot. It's like I've been going to school. I've been taking notes. And now I think I'm ready for the job. I'm really excited to finally go out with a band and do my own full set. It will be more fun and energetic."

As he has learned to open himself up to other people in his personal relationships and in the studio, Ramirez has also been focused on putting together a full-time band and letting other musicians become involved in the creative process. "I'm trying to build a family of people who create together, not just a backing band," he says. "For the past five years traveling, I get off stage and I have no one to share it with. I've been lucky enough to ride along with some of the bands I've opened for. I watch them get ready for their set and have that sense of collaboration, and I'll just be in the alley smoking a cigarette by myself. I've always had a little envy for that. I'm like every kid that grew up playing in a garage. I want a band. No one has dreams of playing the world alone."

$12.00 - $23.00


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