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Back to Basics

event DrewSans band, Drew Holcomb gets reacquainted with his music

Drew Holcomb is not the man he was a few years ago. It’s normal for people to evolve over time, but Holcomb’s growth has played out in his music for all to see. This is most evident on Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors’ 2013 release, Good Light.

“It’s more of a mellow record than our last record, and I think that’s just reflective of my own life the last two or three years,” Holcomb says. “Turning 30, having a daughter. I’ve got less to prove. The chip on my shoulder that comes with youth has slowly been chipped away, so now I’m just enjoying the hard work that goes into making music and putting it out there.”

He’s also playing more solo gigs these days, including one on Monday at The Rio Theatre, where he’ll open for John Hiatt.

“It’s easy sometimes to hide behind the band,” says Holcomb. “If you have a song you’re not super confident about, the band can make it seem better than it is. But when you’re solo, it’s just you and the guitar up there. It’s one of the best challenges for performing songwriters—to have to play in front of an audience of people that don’t know my music, and have this 45-minute conversation with them via my songs and nothing else. I really enjoy it, but it is a very big challenge.”

Holcomb and his band have been an independent act for almost a decade, so they have seen their share of challenges. One of the reasons the band has endured, however, is because Holcomb has not cast aside his artistic integrity.

“People will ask me, ‘What are your goals?’” Holcomb says. “And for me, being able to create, record, write and release exactly what I want to and not have to write songs for other people’s records or write songs in certain ways, but to be the captain of the ship, it’s exactly what you want to be doing and that is the goal. I’m definitely there in that sense.”

Swelling Southern rock tracks like “A Place to Lay My Head” are balanced with more groovy numbers like “Nothing but Trouble” on Good Light. And while some of the songs are deeply philosophical (“Another Man’s Shoes”) or borderline patriotic (“Tennessee”), some of the most affecting ones are about simpler things—“Wine We Drink” being a prime example.

“[‘Wine We Drink’] is really about how your faults and your idiosyncrasies are the things you love most about each other in a relationship,” he says. “It’s the little pieces or moments of humanity that really become the markers of intimacy. That song was a gift to my wife, Ellie [who also sings in Holcomb’s band], and that’s a perfect example of a song I wrote without thinking of any kind of promotional aspect or even our fans; it’s just a song I wanted to write for my wife, and thankfully it’s been good enough for our fans as well.”

Though everything Holcomb writes is for the band, performing solo is an opportunity for him to reconnect with each song on a personal level.

“I write all these songs alone in the first place, so in a lot of ways it’s just going back to the basics of what it feels like to write a song,” he says. “It’s just a natural thing in a way, getting to play these songs alone.” 


Drew Holcomb will perform at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9 at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $39-$55. For more information, call 423-8209.

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