The award-winning Michigan country artist with Texas roots continues to build his fan base with shows across the state, including several in the Grand Rapids area.
THE ARTIST: Drew Hale
THE MUSIC: Country music with a Michigan twist
WHERE YOU CAN SEE HIM: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 22) at Cedar Spring Brewing Co. in Cedar Springs; March 24 at The Mitten Bar in Ludington; May 18 at The B.O.B. in Grand Rapids; May 20 at Shots on the River
Drew Hale calls it “northern country” music.
Although he was born in El Paso, Texas – and influenced by “Red Dirt” artists such as Reckless Kelly, Whiskey Myers and Turnpike Troubadours – Hale’s move to Traverse City about eight years ago has altered his musical approach and his songwriting.
As a result, his take on country “is a little bit more eclectic” than the usual radio fare.
“We were immediately attracted to the easygoing pace of a beach town, and the passion for local,” Hale, 34, says of relocating to northern Michigan with his wife, Emily, to take a job at that time as music director with Faith Reformed Church.
“I play modern country music and pull inspiration from artists like Eric Church, Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert, but I am also heavily influenced by blues and roots rock. And it’s only appropriate, being a native Texan, that the Red Dirt sound (of Texas and Oklahoma) would come into play. It’s a side effect of my Texas roots and my northern Michigan wings melding together to create something brand new.”
That twist has earned Hale and his band growing attention, with the singer winning the national finals of the 2015 Country Showdown, earning a $100,000 grand prize. The contest is billed as the country’s largest and longest-running country music talent search.
“The biggest impact from the country showdown for me in all honesty was probably the prize money,” said Hale, who’s shared stages with country stars such as Bentley, Canaan Smith, Tim McGraw and others. “It allowed me to get my family into a position where I could pursue music full-time, and I’m very grateful for that.”
TOURING BEHIND HIS SOPHOMORE ALBUM WITH A BOOST FROM VINCE GILL
In September, Hale released his sophomore album, “Roots and Wings,” which features a guest appearance by Vince Gill on the track, “Pieces.” Since then, the singer and his band have been “hard at work expanding our fan base with continued touring throughout Michigan and other parts of the Midwest.” (Scroll down for video/audio clips.)
As part of that, Hale performs Wednesday night at Cedar Springs Brewing Co., 95 N. Main St. in Cedar Springs. The music begins at 7:30 p.m.; admission is free.
“We’re spending much of our time marketing that record and trying to get our songs radio play in Michigan and around the United States,” said Hale, who went full-time as a musician and songwriter in July, after working for several years as worship leader and creative video producer at Bay Pointe Community Church.
“I have dreamed about making a name for myself in music since I was a kid. I would love to be the next big thing, but I know that doesn’t happen overnight. I have big dreams of course, like playing the (Grand Ole) Opry, winning a Grammy, taking home song of the year. But for now, I am having a blast touring with my friends, and my wife and kids, playing music that I believe in, and growing this thing from the ground up.”
The seeds for Hale’s music career were sown early: He grew up in a musical family, started playing piano as a young child and following that with other instruments.
A ‘LOVE AFFAIR’ WITH MUSIC … AND TRAVERSE CITY
“My mom and sister and aunts all sing, and music has been a constant thread that connects us all together as long as I can remember,” he said. “I found my true passion at 12 years old when I got my first electric guitar. I picked it up, taught myself to play, and it’s been a love affair ever since.”
Hale, his wife and three sons also have fallen in love with the Traverse City area.
“We consider northern Michigan home and we have put down roots for the long haul,” he said. “I’m a huge fan of local microbrews so there really is no better place than Michigan for that.”
Of course, that affection for his environment shows up in songs such as “Great Lakes Summer Night,” which appears on the new album.
“Most often my songs are a labor of love. I craft and craft until I get it right. I think it happens this way because I’m not satisfied writing about the superficial. I want to write songs that matter, songs that speak to people on a deeper level. So I write about struggle and relationships and personal battles that we all have below the surface of everyday life,” said Hale, who’s playing “quite a few” Michigan festivals this summer and continued touring to support the new album.
“And of course, I write the fun stuff as well, about beaches and beer and bonfires. It’s the things in life we all love especially as it pertains to life in northern Michigan. I love to use vivid imagery and help my listeners see what I’m seeing.”
Hale and his band – drummer Justin Van Rheenen and a rotating cast of musicians and singers, including John Paul, Rick Kiehle, Matt Hughes, Paul Kwant, Dan Swan, John Pomeroy and Victoria Hughes – often tour in “short spurts, but also in longer chunks” when necessary.
“When I play live I want to create an environment for people to engage,” he said. “I want to you to come to one of my shows and already feel like you know me and my material.”
He’s also working on new songs with his band.
“We are writing constantly and you might see some new material from us before too long,” he said. “We are already trying out a song or two at some of our live shows this spring.”
VIDEO: “Shot of Whiskey” (Live in Marshall)
AUDIO: “Southern Heart” (from “Roots and Wings”)
VIDEO: “Great Lakes Summer Night”
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC