Raised in Memphis and based in Nashville, singer-guitarist Drew Holcomb is, on one level, the sum of those musically iconic cities, a songwriter/performer able to balance feel and craft in a way that can only come from someone informed at once by the likes of Al Green and Steve Earle.
But the main catalyst behind Holcomb's musical voice has been the road. In the past four years, he has logged in more than 650 concert dates across the country from solo coffeehouse gigs to clubs, festivals, and colleges with his band, the Neighbors. He has also opened for The Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams, Los Lobos, Susan Tedeschi, Marc Broussard, Sister Hazel, and the North Mississippi Allstars, to name but a few.
That Holcomb has sold over 15,000 CDs in the process is equally impressive given he has done it all without any major label or music industry support. Not bad for someone who laughingly calls himself a "recovering singer-songwriter."
Holcomb, 26, began playing the guitar and writing songs while a student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Two school terms living abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, a place of spellbinding beauty for the impressionable musician sealed his songwriting fate.
"It's a magical place" he says. "I grew up reading Lewis and Tolkien. Edinburgh is one of those worlds . . . When I got over there, I had all this free time. I didn't know that many people, so I grabbed my guitar and wrote every day."
Those songs found their way on two records, a 2004 EP, Lost & Found, and the acclaimed follow-up, Washed in Blue (its track, "Long Gone Away," has been featured on the Lifetime series Army Wives). A concert album, Live in Memphis, came next, marking the end of his musical tenure in the Bluff City.
In 2006, Holcomb married his longtime friend and singing partner, Ellie Holcomb (ne' Bannister), and relocated to her hometown of Nashville and the way her vocals wrap so knowingly around her husband's will inevitably earn comparisons to Music City's royal couple Buddy and Julie Miller. Holcomb's backing band, the Neighbors (guitarist Nathan Dugger, bassist Rich Brinsfield, and drummer Jon Radford) also live in the same East Nashville area, hence the group name.
The fruition of Holcomb's many travels and life changes can be heard in his new studio album, Passenger Seat, a record of big songs, big gestures, and big heart that asks "How are you going to make it if you go alone?" For Holcomb the answer is, "You can't."
Explains the musician, "Jeff Tweedy talks about why people go to rock concerts and it was an epiphany for me. He said people go to rock concerts because they feel alone and they want to go and suffer with other people. And I was like, yeah, that's why I love music."
"We're all looking for somebody, and sometimes you find that in music."