Ahead of his most recent Wednesday Night Therapy session, DRAKE WHITE took time out to speak to Six Shooter’s Sally Maybury and Alison Dewar from Whitewood Hollow, the White’s event venue just north of Nashville.
Thanks so much for taking time to speak to us today Drake.
Week 48 for WNT, when you started did you ever imagine you’d still be doing it so many months later?
No! Some of the guys from A Thousand Horses were over with us, the pandemic had just started and Bill (Satcher) the guitarist, said casually ‘man you’ve got an awesome stage right here’. So I called the band, this was back in March last year, and said let’s jam on Wednesday nights – have like a church, like a therapy session.
I used to call it WNT at the base of my uncle’s trail head where he lived. We were in our 20s and going through college, it was basically something to do in a small town to congratulate each other that we’d got halfway through another week and were that much closer to the weekend.
But the answer is no, I had no intentions of doing it this long. I don’t think anyone realised what the pandemic and coronavirus was going to do to the music industry. It’s one of those things, there’s a lot of innovation and y’all know me I look at the good and not the bad. It’s something else, what it’s done to our business specifically, I think it’s affected the music business more than any other business in the world (but) I think there is a light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully we’ll be able to start doing some shows in the next months or so and try and figure it out.
You’ve got Chattanooga coming up, Country in the Burg in August and I’m sure some other ones in between?
Yeah, we’ve got a few creeping in, which is a good sign.
It’s been 18 months or so that the current Big Fire band has been together, having these sessions together must have been a massive opportunity for you to find out more about each other. We love preacher Preston, Dylan’s ‘phone calls’ from his mum, Devin’s ripped jeans, it’s a window on your world! You obviously rehearse, but it looks very authentic.
No, we don’t rehearse! None of it is rehearsed and that’s the beauty of it all to me, I love the spontaneity of the 70s, when it seemed like rock bands and country bands were out there doing what they felt in the moment. I think in 2021 there’s so much connectivity, which is great because we can do this and I love being able to connect with you and these people. But it’s lost that cool factor, that vibe of the moment.
I believe say, you’re observing a bird out the window, I’m the sort of person that will watch a bird hit a limb, feeding on a worm and I’ll think about the bird and the song it sings, then I’ll go into its digestive system, how it’s digesting the worm…that’s truly being in the moment. That’s why I love that age of 7, 8, 9, 10-years- old, that Huckleberry Finn-type of attitude of being in the moment.
That’s what WNT is about, sharing moments with people virtually. Preston is a character, he is one of the funniest human beings I know. He grew up in church, so he knows that banter. Johnny Cash and the Grand Ole Opry and all those variety shows are a lost art, we’re so spread out now, meaning you can go to Youtube, Amazon, Netflix and watch something, there’s are so many things to grab our attention.
My grandparents watched the Grand Ole Opry and Johnny Cash used to have that variety show that was so popular. For me and my fans I want to build an escape, a window – well, we have built an escape. Y’all have built an escape for us to do that. I want to accentuate the characteristics of the band, of myself, of what’s going on in the barn and I still don’t think we’ve accomplished it 100%. The barn’s majesty of the poplar wood and all that stuff is incredible and that’s a lot to do with Alex and her visions, and people around us, but we’re getting there.
We’re at about 6 months now since you did the first international WNT, you’ve got huge fans across the world, what do you think about doing another one? Maybe to celebrate the year anniversary?
Yeah definitely. I know we have a lot of fans over there. One of the last things we did was C2C with Chris Stapleton, Ashley McBryde and Lyle Lovett, it was incredible, maybe one of the biggest arenas in the world. The answer is how do we innovate and reach the maximum number of people? That’s my question.
If we just made it 12 o clock our time, which makes it 6pm your time. It’s pretty easy for us as the day of (WNT), the guys are around, we can do it, it’s just innovating inside the space. I want to look down and see 10,000 Europeans watching! And I think it’s very possible.
It’s great being able to access WNT at all times, but it does mean so much more being able to watch it live rather than catching up.
Yeah I’ve seen a lot of fans doing that ‘hey I don’t watch it on Wednesdays, I watch it on Fridays’.
You know, we’ve pushed really hard, I know a lot of people inside the music world are doing livestreams, but my goal is to push further with the production, have impeccable sound and sonics, and give a perception of gratitude, a perception of a cinematographied deal (Drake is proud to have ‘created’ a new word), where I want it to look good and professional, and I think Zack has done that. And that’s another character, Zack is not a camera guy, he likes being behind the camera, we love him. And I love his cheeky attitude, so why not give him a little spot, it’s just silly but it works and it’s fun and we’ve been able to generate and get t-shirts and hats into the hands of lots of Firestarters.
On the back of that, when you can go back on tour do you think WNT could become part of your shows? I think the UK audience would really enjoy an on-the-road intimate WNT show.
For sure, we have definitely thought of it, before we leave the house on bus call to go out on tour, doing something every Wednesday night and putting it out on our socials. Obviously, if we’re playing in Indiana or Scotland everybody in the world can’t be there, but that’s the beauty of this, all of our fans can join in with our WNT. I think consistency is key, and it’s another thing that very I’m proud of that we’re approaching 52 weeks.
It’s not quite 52 weeks straight but there’s only a week or two there that we didn’t do it and that’s because it’s not really all about saying 52 weeks straight, it’s about doing what’s best for the fans, I want to do what’s best for us, and the actual programme itself. To continue to build it and make a model that hopefully will serve the fans the best.
Talking of your fans, we asked some of the Firestarters for their questions and Lisa Compton Keener wants to know if you can pick a favourite week of WNT?
Ah man! Me and Dylan Jones have this running joke, after every show – especially after my injury and all that stuff – I kinda say a little prayer ‘that was the best show’, so the last show we played, Dylan and I will go ‘that was my favourite one’.
Because, back to the spontaneity thing, I truly am an 8-9-year-old child at heart, and that spontaneity is so important to me, I loved the Dillon Carmichael show I thought that was fantastic, the energy was great. I loved the Carl Wockner show and all the guest appearances, with Kip, all that stuff was great. There’s been so many moments, when Alex came out and played the John Prine song with me, that’s a memory, it was emotional.
And that’s what I’m obsessed with, it’s making those moments that you want to frame and put on the wall, and man, there’s probably been dozens of those. I can’t really say, last week’s show was incredible with me and Dylan and Devin; I love the time that I got to sing Legends, these new songs that aren’t even out, like Legends to my Uncle Ron and watching him get very emotional to that, he’s 82-years-old and to see that was pretty incredible.
We all know how hard this has been over the last two years for us and our family, but that makes it OK, it gives you hope to keep going and to keep pushing. That’s what I want, I want to show the light, and be the light, and keep it lit, I’m going to sloganise that – I made up another word – ‘Keep it Lit’ – I know that’s a fun term that the kids use, but I’m saying keep the fire lit, keep it going, keep the flame burning. Keeping it lit is what we’ve been able to do, I’m never going to quit, this is what I do.
You mentioned Legends, and there has been so much amazing new music, Giants, Hurts the Healing, Angel Side, they’re so personal and great songs. Everybody wants to know they’ll be recorded?
Let me be honest, right now the music industry is kind of on its back, and I say that in a good way. We do well when everyone is scrambling around because we have WNT, we have a fan base and we can go sell a ticket, so I think streaming, we’re going to continue to serve our fans with a lot of music.
I’m having a transition in my management, these songs like Hurts the Healing, Giants, Angel Side they’re literally sacred to me. In my past record deal I ran through so many ideas and songs, because they weren’t that specific ‘thread the needle’ of country radio here in America.
And I understand diplomatically and from a business standpoint why the label wanted to do that and I’m for it, I want to have hits on the radio just like anybody, but I’ve got so much more to share than just what I can thread through the radio needle.
So to answer your question, we are going to select these new team members, I am in control of my independence, I’ve embraced it, I love being an independent artist because I can do this. It’s me, Zack and Stone that are driving the ship, but to take it to the next level you have to have those people with common visions. I’m not in the business of twisting peoples’ arms to listen to my music, I want people that are passionate and that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re finding those team members, the management company, hopefully maybe that label, maybe not. Maybe we just continue with Rev White records and keep pushing it – who knows?
We shall continue with that persistence and vision that will push out to the masses, but I’m going to release this stuff in Q1 of this year, I’m figuring out right now how I want to set it all up. Every artist says this, but this truly is the best music I’ve ever written, it’s so vulnerable and it is part of who I am. So, very soon!
Are we talking another EP or album?
I don’t know yet, I’ve got probably 150 songs that I’ve got stashed away. I love albums, always will, I’ve still got a bunch of vinyl. I think denim-wearing artists need to drive the ship, I know where commerce and art meet are a slippery little slope but we love albums.
I still listen to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Stapleton is doing a great job; I’m looking at Cam right now, her album is fantastic, so brilliant. The fan likes that, but I think we can do both. We can serve the streaming the ‘I want it here and now’, we can do that with WNT live albums, take 11 songs and I can get Red, my sound guy, to mix it down and all the little imperfections in it, screw it, that’s part of what made the 70s so vibey you know.
I think I want to do both, I want to make records and I want to smash them out of the park, but also if I write a song about hot chicken here in Nashville and I like the song, I want to put it out on my socials and let y’all eat it up, I want to be direct. It’s me and the fan, there’s no middle man in between me and the fan – keep it lit!
Ultimately, an ideal business situation would be you release these songs and they start making traction through Spotify, Apple music, Amazon music and that, and you look at the numbers and you say ‘oh, I’ve got 2 million streams on Hurts the Healing, that must be the deal’. Then a big Sony or Warner or whoever, comes and says ‘hey we want to work with you now’ – that’s the way it’s working.
But I think luck belongs to the bold, so the person that can stand there and go, you know what…the major labels have their spot, they have their necessity and there’s nothing wrong with them, there’s a great thing, but it is the innovator – and they are great innovators – that a lot of time you need them to go to the next level. It’s changing in a way that’s like, I just want to do it, just put it out, don’t wait on other people to determine what, but it’s a patience game.
I could go out to 250,000 people or 250 million. To go to 250 million people, I would say…I don’t know…I about said ‘you need a label’ but I don’t know if you… it’s just changing and I’m excited about that because I know what I can do and that’s write. I can write a song, I can sing a song and can tell a story and as long as I can do that…they need me to do their job, I don’t necessarily need them to do mine.
But…I will say that I have a lot of incredible friends inside of that machine and I’m not down on them at all, I think a good relationship with a good label is what I want, but I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out.
Going back to the Firestarters, there’s something like 6,000 worldwide now?! How important is the support you get from your fans?
It is the foundation, the most important thing, next to the music that we have. Those guys and girls, and kids with the Firestarters, it was a vision a long time ago; touring with Zac (Brown) and seeing the Zamily, everybody just wants to belong to something bigger than themselves – the Firestarters are bigger than me, are bigger than the band.
I think when we go out there and we start, you know my vision is providing clean water to villages, building houses for people that need them, helping kids with bags and books and shoes. If you have 6,000 and multiply that, I’m spiritual in my being and I know that my God can snap its fingers and turn 6,000 into 6 million overnight. If you have 6,000 or 60,000 – it ain’t about the numbers, 6,000 can do a lot, so if you take those people and you compound the message, the mission, that we’re doing every Wednesday night, then that’s a pretty powerful thing.
I will say the Firestarters are something that I believe is just starting, Jenni Davis (lead Firestarter) is doing an incredible job. I listen to them, I just did a whiskey bottle thing and they actually chose, I had the tall bottle and Alex liked the tall bottle, but we went and took pictures of them and 68% of the fans decided on the short one. I made my decision based on that consensus, that’s how powerful the Firestarters and the fans are. I’m making a whiskey venture, where I’m about to put my time, effort and my money into the spirit of the storyteller and it’s important, it’s the most important thing. Start with the fan and work backwards.
Another question from a Firestarter, Leslie Barlow wants to know what has kept you motivated and inspired through this year of change?
Proximity is power, keeping people around me, those Wednesday nights, being around the band, Alex is a huge one for me, my personal relationship with God. I have a relentless optimistic-type heart, this music, you the fan, the thousands of letters I’ve read, the financial support that the fans have given me though merch and that. But inspired, it’s the music. I went through a pretty bad injury, I’m just the type of person that takes that.
My thought was this injury just made the story better, made the book better, oh I should write a book. Alright, let’s write a book, let’s write a record, let’s form a 501c3 (a not-for-profit charitable organisation) and get Firestarters in here teaching kids how to fish, and change a tyre. That’s what’s kept me inspired, it’s my ideas and my relentlessness and my people around me that are telling me ‘yeah Drake, it’s good’. Surround yourself with those people that when they hear an idea they go ‘Yeah, that’s awesome how do we do it?’ That’s what has kept me going.
Plenty of people want to know how Alex is?
She’s doing good, it’s been a long trip for her as well, it was a like a one-two punch for us. She had an auto-immune disorder that absolutely debilitated her, put her into bed. It’s one thing for me to be down, it’s one thing for her to be down, but it is a whole ‘nother thing for both of us to be down! So it got a little scary for a minute, but through Vanderbilt and some of these treatments she’s been able to flush it out, she’s doing really good, she’s back in the kitchen as of last week. She’s going well and we have a lot of things we want to do, so she’s getting there. Thank you for asking.
Another Firestarter, Troy Ross asked what was the hardest part of your recovery, and on the flip side what has been the greatest blessing? He also wanted us to share his prayers for healing for you and Alex.
The power of prayer is so apparent to me now, the hardest part about this whole thing was I was doing what I loved, I love being busy, I love going out there and playing 200 days a year, and just being busy.
The hardest part was the rug being metaphorically pulled out from under me. The nature of this brain injury, if you hurt your knee they can give you a prescription and a prediction if you do this, this and this, it’ll be as good as new. Brain injuries, it’s not that way, it’s ‘hey we don’t know if your left side will come back, we don’t know if you’ll play guitar again, if you’ll ever run’ – I used to love to run.
You’ve seen me jump round stages, nobody can tell you if you’re going to be able to do that again. So, the hardest part and what I’m most proud of, is what’s between my ears, the growth that I’ve experienced, there’s nobody that can tell you that you’re going to heal to where you can do a backflip off the drum riser!
But, I know, without a shadow of a doubt that I’ll be playing guitar again eventually, that I’m exactly where I need to be. The hardest part is the unknown and exercising that faith every day that you’re exactly where you need to be. Even though it’s 2.30am in the morning and the devil attacks you, and you’re getting all these ‘Hey it’s too late, you’re too old, you’re too this, too that’, shutting all that out and being like ‘No, I’m exactly where I need to be’.
This music proves it, these fans prove it, my relationship growing with my wife every day proves it, and my empathy for other people, and my stuff we’re going to do through benefit for the brain all this kind of stuff, this proves it.
So I answered both questions, that’s the toughest part, and the most redemptive, greatest part is seeing people inspired by this story and seeing the ideas come into fruition and seeing the people that we’re helping, that I can talk to. It gives you a certain amount of legitimacy, if you’ve been through a near death experience people seem to tap in and listen.
All a showman or a troubadour is trying to do is get people to listen, and this has made people listen even more. So the flip coin of that is it has actually given me more legitimacy in my heart, instead where it felt like I was maybe preaching to people, now I can say it will be OK and here’s how it will be OK, because I’ve been through this and here’s what I did. I never say here’s what you need to do, I say this is what I did and what helped me. That is powerful.
It’s such a funny thing, how the good Lord works in mysterious ways, to be a cliché, it’s all spinning up above us. I got a peace about everything now that I’ve prayed for, I feel good about all of it and it’s not about driving hard every day. It’s about learning how to be happy where you’re at and keeping your goals right there.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to put 50,000 people in stadiums and we will do it, but I’m content in that progress and going through this process.
Drake, thank you so much for speaking with us today, we look forward to hearing the music and can’t wait for Wednesday of course!
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