Touring behind a new Americana/folk-rock album, “Strangers No More,” Drew Holcomb plays Kalamazoo State Theatre on Sunday. The Local Spins Q&A with this veteran troubadour.
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Drew Holcomb has made a name for himself as a song-slinging troubadour with a big heart. Hailing from Memphis, Holcomb began his artistic journey in 2003 as a solo artist, before rounding out a talented full band, dubbed Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors.
Since then, Holcomb has released 14 albums, toured the globe and opened for artists like The Avett Brothers and NEEDTOBREATHE. On his newest Americana and folk-rock record, ”Strangers No More,” Holcomb delves into themes of mortality, friendship and human connection, through a lens of gratitude.
Holcomb rolls through West Michigan for a headlining performance at Kalamazoo State Theatre on Sunday (Sept. 24). The show begins at 7 p.m., with Josiah & The Bonnevilles getting the night started. Tickets are $25-$114.50 and available online here.
The singer-songwriter and his band return to Michigan in November to open for The Head and The Heart, playing Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater on Nov. 6 and GLC Live at 20 Monroe in Grand Rapids on Nov. 7.
Local Spins caught up with Holcomb ahead of his national fall tour for a wide-ranging conversation. In an intriguing Q&A, the revered songwriter discusses his new record, Taylor Swift and horseback riding.
Local Spins: Your new record grapples with getting older; how has your relationship to your own mortality evolved over the years?
Drew Holcomb: I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to celebrate being alive and the things that I’ve gotten to do while also sort of grieving the passage of time. Really the sort of the big moment for me though dealing with my own mortality was in 2016 at Christmas. I got meningitis and went to the hospital. The song “Free Not Afraid to Die,” which is the closer, was really a song written about that. I was at the hospital for eight days, I thought I was going to die, felt like I was gonna die and thankfully I didn’t. And not ever sure if it was really as serious as it felt. But I was definitely in a bad spot for a long time and it took me a long time to recover.
I’ve always had that kind of carpe diem attitude since I was a kid and saw “Dead Poets Society.” Just this idea that life is short so grab it by the horns and you know, make the most of it. Build relationships with people and go places and learn new things. Being a musician is a big part of that for me so the more I make music the less I care what people think and the more I just am sort of dealing with my own self in a way.
Local Spins: While shamelessly stalking your Instagram to prepare for this interview, I stumbled upon a video of you masterfully riding a horse around a couple barrels. What has horseback riding taught you?
Drew Holcomb: That’s a great question. Yes, I love to ride horses. I grew up around horses a little bit and loved to ride them. It’s taught me that in order to do things that are fun and adventurous, you have to take some chances. You have to risk getting hurt physically or emotionally. Anything that’s really fun and hard also sort of has an element of risk to it.
Local Spins: There’s also a clip of you in the cockpit of a plane, perhaps even flying it yourself? Can you calmly walk me through the protocol for an emergency landing?
Drew Holcomb: Yes, I am a pilot. The biggest misnomer about flying is that if something happens you just fall out of the sky when actually you’ve got quite a bit of time depending on how high you are to find a place to land. There’s a radio frequency that you dial and start talking to air traffic control. You declare an emergency and if you can get to an airport you have precedence to land over anybody else and they’ll clear the runway for you. If there’s not a runway in sight, then you find a field if you can.
Thankfully, the plane I fly has a built-in parachute, not for people, but for the actual airplane. So once you hit 1,500 feet above ground and you haven’t been able to solve your problem, you pull the parachute and you float down safely. Pretty awesome.
Local Spins: Photo evidence seems to suggest you appreciate a good hat; what do you look for when shopping headwear?
Drew Holcomb: I’ve been wearing the same kind of wide brim hat. The Stetson Hardliner for like seven years and that’s pretty much all I wear. And then I wear a lot of different caps. I’ve been wearing our band, Drew & The Neighbors on stage this year, the rope hat. Just bought this Tom Petty hat that has a cool emblem of wildflowers and it just says “You belong among the wildflowers.” So, I’m not too choosy with my hats, but I do like to wear a hat. That’s what happens when you go bald.
Local Spins: Found a tweet where you praise Taylor Swift’s album “Folklore” a few years back. If you could play Taylor in a sport of your choosing and it was televised nationally, what sport would you choose?
Drew Holcomb: Oh, definitely golf ’cause I don’t think she plays, so I could teach her. It would be a lot of fun and she seems like a pretty good-natured person, so she’ll probably take it pretty well and we’d have a nice walk and talk about music and talk about her records and which ones I like and ones I’m neutral on. Yeah, at least I think that’d be a pretty funny time.
Local Spins: If you could put a single line from the new record on a billboard, what would it read?
Drew Holcomb: “You gotta find your people, then you’ll find yourself.” It’s a little preachy I know, but I’m talking to myself. So yeah, any billboard anywhere you gotta find your people then you’ll find yourself.
VIDEO: Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, “Find Your People”
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