“I’ve always been infatuated with fire. I’ve been that way since I was a kid.“
The glide of Drake White’s Alabama drawl makes his voice sound hickory smoked. Spend any time in the songer-songwriter’s world and you’ll see words and images synonymous with flames flickering all around you.
“I grew up a real outdoorsman, hippy, earthy type of dude. I love being outside. I grew up around a campfire and an orange flame, entertaining people around that flame. If you ever go camping with me or hang out with me, I’m always trying to start a fire or build a fire and just be around it. It’s just a magical thing. It’s my infatuation with fire and being around fires and people and storytelling around them.”
SPARK is the name of White’s new debut album, hot off the grill and served up to an audience primed by the sweaty backwoods soul country of singles ‘It Feels Good’ and ‘Livin the Dream’.
“I’ve been working on this record for 32 years.”
He’s being semi-serious. The songs on the album range from five years to eight months old, but carry the thoughts, emotions and memories of his entire life to date.
“There are ideas on this record that are as old as I am, that I grew up with. It’s my first record, so there’s a lot of older ideas. Some of them are five years old. Some of them are less than a year old. I think that’s the beauty of the path that I’m on. It’s taken me a good while to get a record released with the right people and the right team to push the record. There’s a lot of songs that withstood the test of time and I’ve played a lot out there on stages. ‘Take Me as I Am’ is not but eight months old.”
Just having a new album out hasn’t put the breaks on the songwriting process. Drake tells me he’s got at least another album’s worth of songs ready to go right now.
“We wrote over a 150 songs for Spark, so I’ve got songs that didn’t make the record that are gonna be strong contenders for the next record, because they’re a little bit more progressive in my sound than what this first record stood for.
I think as a songwriter writing every day, I may write the best song I have ever written in my life tonight. I may wake up in a hot sweat in the middle of the night, get up and pen a song and it might be the best song I’ve ever wrote. That’s the beauty of chasing this thing we call music.”
FIRESTARTERS are what Drake calls his most devoted fans, his version of Deadheads or Beliebers. He swelled the ranks of his Aussie Firestarters when he lit up the stage at CMC Rocks QLD earlier this year. His first ever visit to Aussie shores was a long time coming.
“I’ve always been drawn to Australia. I love the outdoors, the drawl to it. Everybody I know grew up on Crocodile Dundee, and anyone who loves to surf dreams of going to Australia. There’s a lot of Australian type of influences growing up in the US.”
White was a resounding hit at the festival, both with existing fans and those who became infatuated after discovering him at the event.
“To be able to come over there and witness the people’s overwhelmingly friendly attitudes and tenacity for life, and how excited they were that we were there was magical. We’re not huge, we’re not these big stars with 20 #1s yet – we’re working on it – but it doesn’t matter to Australians, man. We played to ten thousand, probably more. It was a pretty crazy experience and I can’t wait to come back and bring my family. I got to go down to the Gold Coast and witness the surf down there on my day off. So I can’t wait to come show my loved ones the country.”
There’s more that unites us than divides us, despite the geographical distance between our two nations. Drake became keenly aware of that when he sat down with two ex-pat Aussie tunesmiths, Phil Barton and Lindsay Rimes.
“There are so many similarities in the personalities of the Southerners in the United States and Australians. So me and Phil and Lindsay met each other and we had a hard time at first working, because these guys were cracking jokes and we were laughing the whole time. We’ve wrote multiple songs and those guys are just phenomenal.”
THE BIG FIRE is Drake’s band. He makes sure they get billed alongside his name on festival lineups and concert posters. It’s an ‘and’ situation, inspired by some of rock’n’roll’s most legendary road warriors.
“Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Springsteen and the E Street Band – they’re the reason that I wanted a band. I know that there’s individual artists out here who are going out and doing their thing and that’s great, but I wanted a group of guys that wanted to be out here and wanted to build something special. Who wanted to be not behind me, but beside me. I wanted folks that were dedicated, I didn’t want hired guns to come and just do it for a paycheck. Frankly, five guys are better than one guy. Five brains are better than one brain. So I put that name in there to give them incentives to come out here and be a part of something special.”
Drake talks about he and his band’s mission with a fervor he might have inherited from his preacher grandfather.
“We’re not trying to just come out here and release records, and maybe we’ll do something one day. We’re coming out here to take over. We’re coming out here to take over this opportunity and to put a good vibe out into the world and to make the world a better place. We’re coming out here to change the game, to change music, to change people’s lives, to change their perspective. I’m not just poking at it, I came out here to do something special”