‘I am a future Grammy winner, I am going to pack out Madison Square Garden, I am going to put 100,000 people in Wembley Stadium – I’ve seen it in my dreams.’
After two record deals, six brain surgeries, a haemorrhagic stroke and a pandemic; on March 11, Alabama-born Drake White will release his first new album in five years. Named THE OPTIMYSTIC, it is an anthem for the power of positive thought – much like the man himself.
Six Shooter Country writer Alison Dewar caught up with Drake to talk about the power of positivity and discovered that, while he remains tight-lipped about his UK plans, he can’t wait to get over the pond.
Drake White returned to the stage last autumn with his highly-successful THE OPTIMYSTIC tour (now extended through April and May) and from this week (February 16) he’ll be on the road supporting Whiskey Myers. Come summer he’ll bring his very special brand of country, rock and soul to the UK as the headliner at August’s Millport Country Festival in Scotland. The million-dollar question is can UK fans expect more dates?
AD: Drake, lovely to talk to you again. There was a great reaction when you were announced for Millport, how excited are you to be coming over to Scotland?
DW: We love it there, we love the people, we have a bunch of friends over there and we’ve got a lot of great fans. It’s part of us, it’s part of the culture, part of the Big Fire family.
It’s a big feat to get all the band, all the crew over there at where we’re at in my career, to serve those fans and get to that part of the world.
AD: Fantastic, that’s great news. And is Alex coming with you?
DW:Oh yeah, I can’t ever get over there without bringing Alex ever again. She’s already made that clear.
AD: You’ve been to Scotland before, is there a particular empathy because of the mountains and the trees…does it remind you of home at Whitewood Hollow?
DW: Yeah, there’s definitely a connection to the Scotland underdog type of feeling. I’m a big fan of history and their fighting spirit, their rambunctiousness, they love to dance and drink and party and have a good time.
It is very, very similar to what I am and who I am and what my family is. The last time I joined up with my buddy Drew, who’s a deer tracker, and we drove through all the Highlands in a boat and explored all up through there. That is who I am, that is what I want to do, I want to see the culture and be a part of it. I love the big cities and I like going there for a little bit of time, but I like going against the grain and getting to where the people are, where the sheep are, and I like getting out and seeing the soul and smelling the land, it’s just part of it.
AD: I know you can’t tell us about any more UK dates at the moment, but how much do you enjoy touring overseas?
DW: My parents, ever since I was a kid, they told me that I needed to travel, to get out, to meet people – and growing up in a small town in Alabama, I always had that desire. I was always that nomadic spirit and so I started going to Europe and just playing everywhere. It’s always been my desire to get over there – we were all on our way when the pandemic started – my intention is to come over every year or 18 months.
AD: You’ve just come off THE OPTIMYSTIC TOUR – how did it feel to be back on the road.
DW: Yeah, it had been 18 months since I had toured. It was the best, it literally changed my life. The fans are growing and to be out there together, it’s just palpable. You can feel how hungry everybody was and we’re going to roll that right into the Whiskey Myers tour. We’re going to get new fans with the Whiskey guys, we love their Texas style of rock and roll and country and we think we’re going to fit together really well, but you don’t know until you get out there. You put your set together and you go out and let the music do the talking, music is subjective, and you hope they like it.
Then we’re keeping THE OPTIMYSTIC Tour rolling – we’re rocking, we’re not stopping.
AD: So…will it be a version of THE OPTIMYSTIC Tour that you’re bringing to the UK.
DW: Oh yeah.
AD: With all the touring, how do you manage to build your exercise regime into your daily schedule.
DW: Well, I always tell people, if you have a parking lot and a place to do push-ups and sit-ups, you don’t have any excuses. You can get physically exhausted with stretching, you don’t need to have a weight room – if people say they do, they’re making excuses – ‘cos they’re lazy or something.
There is no room for laziness in my life any more. I got to get out there and continue my mission to spread to people that you’ve got to get up, you’ve got to keep moving forward and you’ve got to keep rocking – and that’s what I do. Exercise is the same thing, I do something once or twice a day where I break a sweat, to kind of quote Matthew McConaghy and his Greenlights book.
AD: You did a podcast with Tommy Aceto, which was very motivational. Do you see yourself doing more of those and almost becoming a ‘teacher’ to help other people through similar situations, to help pull them out of the dark days that you’ve had.
DW: Oh yeah. I’m following genuinely what I want to do. Whatever I’m called to do, I pray about it, think about it and I think that now, with the injury and coming out of that kind of stuff, I’m just being pushed, I just want to help people.
Because it is so hard, whether it be depression or you broke up with your girlfriend, or you’ve had a death in your family. Everyone deals with problems and the more we talk about ‘em, the more we get out there and break through the egotistical, macho man, ‘I’m too macho to share my feelings’ the better it gets. And the better you are, the more healthy you are.
‘being in control’
I’m not saying everybody should be going around crying, you’ve got to toughen it up and grow some ‘you know whats’ every now and then. But at the same time, if a guy like me can go from paralysis to somebody out there functioning highly in a very highly-demanding world, then anybody can do it.
And that’s my message – you’re in control of a very few things in this world. One of the things you are in control of is your body, your temple, your thing. So get up move around, be glad what you do have, don’t worry what you don’t have and keep rocking, keep moving forward.
Yeah, I am a preacher, I am a teacher, I am a motivational speaker, I am a singer, I am a child of the most high God. I am a future Grammy winner, a future ACM winner, a future CMA winner; I’m going to pack out Madison Square Garden and I’m going to put 100,000 people in Wembley Stadium, that’s just all there is to it because I’ve seen it in my dreams.
AD: My very last question was going to be ‘you’re great at visualising what you want for the future, what would you write down right now’ – you obviously just visualised what question I was going to ask (laughter)
DW: Yeah, I mean, I picture having two kids, I picture Whitewood Hollow flourishing, Alex flourishing, I can picture acceptance speeches in one regard or the next.
But I picture gathering and speaking with people; whether it be young kids, going to schools, and telling about the art of remaining optimistic. And the art of winning the battle every day between your ears and speaking, so like I said, I visualise Madison Square Garden and Wembley Stadium, and records coming, and just breaking through.
I’ve planted a lot of good seeds over the last 10 years, watching those seeds flourish and become large, strong oaks, and just spread love to people for the rest of my life. I picture being like Willie Nelson, 80-plus-years-old and still out there riding in the bus and doing what I love to do.
An insight into how Drake’s Firestarter fans helped shape the tracks on THE OPTIMYSTIC album and the poignant story behind track 14.