Having opened for country musicians such as Eric Church, Luke Bryan and Lynryd Skynyrd, Drake White has made big strides since his days growing up in the small town of Hokes Bluff, Alabama.
He won’t be opening for anyone when his band, Drake White and the Big Fire, performs at The Foundry on Feb. 26. The band also recently released a live EP and a single, “Livin’ the Dream” in 2015 and is set to release the group’s first full-length album in the summer of 2016.
Drake White spoke to The Red & Black about his small town upbringing, the fiery love of his fans and how the film “Almost Famous” represents the group’s journey.
The Red & Black: You’re from a small town, correct? How was growing up there?
Drake White: My grandfather pastored a small church and that’s how I got my musical upbringing. I started listening in church to my mom and dad sing. My dad was a classic rock fan and started introducing me to his vinyl collection, with everybody from the Allman Brothers to Jim Croce to Merle Haggard to Willie Nelson. [It’s] just a little map dot where everybody loves everybody and everybody knew everybody. [It was a] cool place to grow up but a cool place to venture out of.
R&B: For the past few years, you’ve been touring with the Big Fire. Where did the name come from?
DW: I love the concept of fire, the way it spreads, the way it keeps you warm, the way it can kill you. There’s a lot of power in the flames. It didn’t come to me until me and my wife was having dinner one night. She ordered a bottle of wine, and it was called “Big Fire.” I was trying to figure out a band name, and I said, “What about Drake White and the Big Fire?” She said, “I kind of like that,” and it stuck around – all from a bottle of wine.
R&B: There’s a quote I like from your drummer, Adam Schwind. “I’m thankful to be able to rely on the guys riding beside me down whatever road.” What roads have you guys traveled together?
DW: The roads never really seem to end. Everybody’s seen- what movie am I talking about? Damn, what’s that movie where Kate Hudson plays Penny Lane?
R&B: “Almost Famous?”
DW: Yeah! That’s exactly the movie I was talking about. Everybody’s got what [he or she] imagines being on the road would be like, but you really gather this divine respect for these guys. We have a group of gentlemen that really just want to be out there playing music, making people feel better than they did before. There’s disappointment, frustration, celebration, birthdays, babies being born … there’s all these different types of emotion. We’ve seen each other through all that and we’ve always remained steadfast in what the goal is, and that’s to make unbelievable f**king incredible music.
R&B: You said you had over a 100 songs to choose from for your EP “It Feels Good: Live”. How did you pick?
DW: We played out there live with the band, and you can tell which ones resonate with the crowd. Those are the ones you gravitate towards. The EP was a live record done in Nashville. We played a show and recorded it, and that’s what you’re hearing.
R&B: Do you feel like you’ve developed that family relationship with the fans?
DW: There’s no doubt. Our fans are called Fire Starters. We haven’t released a full-length album yet. These fans have stuck in there with us. They’re listening to stuff off of Youtube, and grabbing this live EP. Our fans are caring, and giving, and they just love the music.
R&B: What haven’t I asked that you want people to know about you?
DW: We play music for one reason and one reason only: that’s because we were born to play it. We try to create moments inside these live shows, and I am so excited to play in Athens, because it’s one of those cities that evokes that live music spirit. We’re excited to be here and I do think we’ll fit really well into Athens culture and into the spirit of what Athens music is. We’ve got the single out on the radio; we’ve got a record coming, man. We’re just a bunch of hungry musicians.