Holcomb's music inspiration is Tennessee two-suited

Monday September 23, 2013 4:37 PM

Drew Holcomb is from Memphis. He (and his wife and infant daughter, and his band) live in Nashville.

That's two musical sides of Tennessee that don't always see eye to eye.

"My wife (Ellie, who's also in his band, The Neighbors) is from Nashville," Holcomb told The Beat.

"I was kind of against the idea of living here. Memphis musicians kind of have a negative attitude toward Nashville," Holcomb said.

He confessed it was practical at the start, and has become a blessing.

"Our neighborhood in East Nashville is a real diverse place musically," Holcomb said. "It's kind of an Americana neighborhood."

The kind of neighborhood where one finds neighbors. Or, Neighbors.

Holcomb was a student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville when the solitude of a semester abroad found him writing songs.

He shared them with some friends upon his return, and graduated to campus shows and open mics. He "decided to give it a shot."

Holcomb moved back to Memphis initially, but "one thing led to another" and he was with his wife and new band in Nashville.

"My wife was a school teacher. Within eight months (of their marriage) she quit and came on the road as part of the band. It was a crazy financial choice, but the right choice."

Holcomb still plays the occasional solo date, in particular for short stints with similar artists. He said 85 percent of his live shows are with the band.

"I like the idea of testing the songs to see if people like them 'naked,' to see if the song stands on its own," he explained.

"But I generally prefer to play with the band. There's an energy. It's like riding a horse. It can be unpredictable. A living, active, moving thing."

Recording and writing with a band can still be a personal experience for Holcomb, who found that the tone of songs he was writing for the band's recently-completed fourth record, Good Light, were less like the third-person storyteller songs on which he'd made his name and more personal, first-person narratives.

A sense of personal history moved Holcomb to bring the band to Memphis to record Good Light.

"We piled into my parents' house," Holcomb said with a laugh.

Coincidentally -- or not -- Holcomb also turned 30, and he and Ellie welcomed their first child, a daughter, Emmylou (after Emmylou Harris) in the past year.

"It's not easy being on the road 200 days and try to raise a kid," Holcomb said. "It's the best thing thing that ever happened. It really is a game-changer."

The new family member, coupled by a desire on Ellie's part to dedicate more time to her own musical pursuits (she recently recorded a solo EP titled With You Now) led the couple to decide this will be the last tour for Ellie as a member of The Neighbors.

"With our daughter, and her making her own music, we felt it was time to allow her the freedom to do that. I wanted to encourage her. She has a very distinct creative vision," Holcomb said.

"It's not the end of an era, because she'll still be around.

"But in some ways (this tour is) kind of a last hurrah."

 

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