Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors

Words by Olivia Ryan

“Earnest, sanguine, bittersweet.” Drew Holcomb calls himself “a lover of words,” and he chose these three to sum up the essence of his rootsy, Americana music.

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Drew’s music speaks to deep things of life: disappointment and success, fatherhood, psychological and familial realities, the passage of time, travel, and love. And connecting with people is a gift he takes with him wherever he plays.

Drew began playing guitar in grade school in Memphis where he grew up, but it wasn’t until he traveled to Scotland to study at St. Andrews at the age of 20 that he decided to try his hand at writing songs. Writing music quickly became an outlet and the primary way he worked through grief after facing the tragedy of losing his brother.  

“Music helped me make sense of the world,” he says—as it does for so many of us. But early in his career, Drew had no idea how many people his music would touch. Until his senior year at the University of Tennessee, Drew was planning to become a history professor.

But as soon as he began gigging around Knoxville, his friends made it clear that he needed to “give the music thing a shot.”

Since then, Drew has gone on to produce seven records and tour domestically and internationally for over 13 years. Yet another album is set to release in 2019.

His band, “Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors,” includes long-time members Rich Brinsfield (bass) and Nathan Dugger (guitar and piano), who also collaborate on the writing front. He also writes and performs with his wife, Ellie.

In 2015 Drew started the Magnolia Record Club, a self-curated vinyl subscription service that delivers a new record to members every month.

Five years ago, Drew founded the Moon River Music Festival, a September gem held at Coolidge Park in Chattanooga. The 2019 tickets sold out in less than 24 hours. Not only can attendees rock climb and paddleboard along the river while enjoying the magic of the park, but they also get to enjoy an intimate music experience.

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Drew also hosts a “songwriters in the round” the night before the festival for VIP ticket holders and a few lucky others. This unique evening entails three to four artists at a time taking the stage “Bluebird style,” telling stories and sharing their music.

The first time he sold out the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville was a pinnacle musical moment for Drew, and one he has repeated twice since.

But according to Drew, his greatest life accomplishment doesn’t involve music. “Without a doubt, it’s the kids (ages 6, 3, and 6 months). They put all of my dreams and failures and successes in perspective.”

Drew and Ellie just finished a 2019 tour, “You + Me.” They played 20 shows in 25 days across the U.S., each wrapping up with audience requests.

Drew attributes his success and longevity not only to a commitment to continuous growth and always making the most of every opportunity, but also to the encouragement he has received from Ellie, from his team, from his band, and even from his folks. “A lot of people’s parents tell them pursuing music is a crazy stupid idea, and my parents didn’t do that.”

His favorite track to date is, “What Would I Do Without You,” a simple, vulnerable ode to the companionship he has found with Ellie.

“Making music is a dream come true. Music is such an important piece of the puzzle of life. It soundtracks the important moments. And I love living in and writing my way through those. It’s really what it’s all about.”