Drew Dixon knew even before he graduated that he wasn’t leaving Athens.
Magazines degree or no magazines degree, he was going to continue his music career in the Classic City. It’s where he’s been playing for the last four years, where he’s made all of his contacts. It’s also where he learned what kind of musician he wanted to be.
Now, Dixon is a self-described blend of genres: blues, soul and roots music.
“When you come to college, your mind just gets blown,” he said. “Somewhere along the way, [my music] turned bluesy.”
That opportunity for exposure to new music was a big factor in his coming to school here. Raised a few miles from the University of South Carolina, Dixon set his sights on Athens after realizing its music scene was too good to pass up for a would-be musician.
As soon as he got here, he set to work opening shows and writing material.
In the four years since, the guy whose first song was a “blatant Green Day rip-off” has evolved a sound that owes as much to literature as to his heritage.
Musically, Dixon grew up in the church. His mother was in the choir when he was a child. When he entered middle school, Dixon joined the school’s musical productions. It didn’t hurt, either, that his father had a beat-up old guitar always lying around.
There was always music in his life, and he was always certain he wanted to be a musician.
“The passion, that’s all I ever really been about,” he said.
His influences are unique in one other way as well. As a voracious reader and Grady graduate, Dixon is frequently inspired by the written word.
There have been times reading passages from Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men,” or the latest work from Dave Eggers, where a particular phrase will jump out and strike him.
“You’re in a setting and it gets your mind in that mode,” he said.
Reading as much as he does has also given him insight into new and vivid ways of describing a scene or telling a story in his music.
Taught to embrace freedom of structure in his magazine-writing classes, Dixon integrates what he reads and what he’s learned in ever-changing ways.
“It’s always great to keep writing different styles of songs,” he said. “You want to make sure what you do isn’t contrived, that it’s genuine.”
Though his journalism degree has so far taken a backseat to his music, Dixon has taken away an even shrewder lesson from his University education: how to navigate through the music business.
With the help of Keith Perissi, program coordinator of the certificate in music business, Dixon expanded his network of contacts over his years playing in Athens. When he decided to begin traveling around the Southeast eight months ago, Perissi was the one who helped him book gigs from Nashville to Columbia.
It was also on the advice of Perissi that Dixon was able to record a four-song EP for free when he performed on “It’s Friday!”
So, in December when Dixon graduated, the odd decision to not leave seemed instead like the obvious one.
“This is a great place to continue to build on the base I’ve built here,” he said. “There aren’t that many people here that play the blues.”
All practical considerations aside, the thrill of performing continues to bring him back, night after night.
“It’s that feeling you get during a show,” he said. “It’s that emotion that comes with writing a song and playing it and being like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I was trying to say.’”