To be an opening act for a big headliner in this business can be a daunting task. However, when Zac Brown invited Drake White and The Big Fire along on his 2016 “Black Out The Sun” tour he made the perfect decision. As evening starts fans just trickle in so you never know what to expect as an opener. The ones in their seats already and the ones just coming in during the set were instantly involved once Drake and the guys hit the stage.
Winning them over with his energetic stage presence and interactions with the crowd as well as giving them his all with songs, “Making Me Look Good Again,” a bluesy ballad written for his wife that he encouraged the guys to pay attention to, “Back To Free,” and “Livin’ The Dream.” When he busted out his rendition of “Get By With A Little Help From My Friends,” he had everyone hook, line and sinker. It was a stellar take on a classic hit. I have listened to Drake’s music for a while but had never seen him live. With this performance I am now an even bigger fan. After his set he headed over to the merchandise booth to sign and take pictures with fans, which were large in number.
There was time set aside for us to visit with Drake prior to the show and there is a lot to know about who he is, what he feels is important in life, as well as thoughts of his career and what is in store for the future.
Drake has forged an alliance with Ford Motor Company on his current tour schedule to bring good things to those who are in need. He started out by giving us an insight into how his day started:
“We had a show with Zac last night and I started this initiative at the start of this tour called “Livin’ The Dream by Givin’ The Dream.” I partnered with Ford Motor Company through their philanthropic side going into these different cities and helping out. Today in East Los Angeles we paired with the American Red Cross and installed smoke detectors in some homes of underprivileged families. Had to be up at 4am after going to be bed at 2am due to playing an after party with Zac. We are going to jam out the show today then play another after party tonight after Zac’s set. We are very busy.”
Drake shared with us how it felt today helping these families who are less fortunate and what it means to give back:
“I’ve always told God, my family and everybody else if I was afforded this pedestal that I would use it to help people. I grew up around great parents and a great family who taught me to get out there and make the community good. It helps me more than it helps them, it’s a feeling that is euphoric, the rewards in your heart are great as well as the rewards in your mind that clears everything by putting things in perspective. There was a lot of gratitude this morning. All the volunteers out there just pouring their time into this, using their Saturday to help people just tells ya there are still great people in this world. The majority of people in this world are good.”
The first stop on this philanthropic endeavor was May 19th in Hartford, CT where Drake gained a new education on the power of volunteers and what can be unselfishly accomplished:
“We stopped by the Foodshare bank in CT which is the largest distributor that distributes to a lot of the smaller cities. It was an educational experience seeing all the meat that we saved and that we throw away out of the grocery stores. Seeing that process with 40 to 50 volunteers there, we went through the meat and checked it, packaged what was good along with sacking potatoes and more. It went a lot quicker than it would have with just a few people. It was another experience just like today, people are out here giving their time and their hearts to these efforts. If you wanna help, all you have to do is put the word out there cause there is so much need. Spending your Saturday or even half your Saturday to do these things make the rewards ten-fold.”
“I was involved with the Out Number Hunger program through my label Big Machine. I have a strong passion for feeding people, nobody should go hungry. My wife Alex has a little farm to table catering company in Nashville called “Milk and Honey” and she feeds people through that. There is such a need out there to help and creating awareness is what I am doing with my band, The Big Fire, by using our pedestal. We experience these things and come back and share with people how easy it is to volunteer. To help someone is to become really free as well as spiritually free which is awesome.”
“Today I had a fan in East LA today named Rachel. She came up to me nearly in tears telling me, ‘I signed up for your email list and it carried me to this page where you were Livin’ The Dream by Givin’ The Dream. Somehow I got wrapped into this and I get sent this email that I was enrolled in this Saturday’s meeting at this park and I figured I had to go now.’ She had been battling depression for eight months, she’s a registered RN with two kids and has not been able to work. Rachel told to me, ‘This morning we installed 15 smoke detectors in different houses and it was the happiest I had felt in two years. I’m going to continue to do this, and on Monday morning I am going to start the process of getting my life back on track. Today made me realize that I am worthy and I don’t have it that bad.’ I got emotional thinking about it because if God put me in this position to help that one person and her two children through my music and her being a fan, that is not a coincidence.”
Since the release of his EP, “It Feels Good Live,” life has been on an uphill move in the right direction for Drake and the band:
“My life has been good. We recorded the EP live in Nashville. I’ve always been a live guy, I love playing live music. Cutting my teeth so to speak in the bars of Alabama and Georgia and many different places over the last eight or nine years so that live EP made a lot of sense. Now I’ve just completed my new record called “Spark,” and have it turned in with a release time frame in the middle of August of this year. I think it is really going to change things for us. Our fans, known as “The Firestarters” and thank God for it, have been living off YouTube videos and that four for five song EP. They have been very passionate, diligent and loyal. This album is going to be a game changer.”
Every artist through their careers watch, listen and learn from the “seasoned pro’s” they may open up for or share the stage with. Drake has been blessed with lessons from some of the best:
“I take different things from the guys and gals I have opened for or played with, everyone has their talents their good at. With Zac, Eric Church, and Willie Nelson it is educational to watch those guys naturally go out there and do what they do and also how they give back. Willie is the King of giving back with all he does with Farm Aid and many other things, he is such a role model to us. If you want to do something just straight out ask them how they do it. That’s the way Zac is, he has opened up his arms to us by letting me know all I have to do is ask if I need help or want to know anything. My position is one of gratitude, of soakin’ it up and not being afraid to ask. Everybody has started out somewhere and they are incredibly driven, it becomes a mentor educational thing for me.”
CMA Fest in Nashville will be gearing up this week and Drake is excited to be involved as a way of giving back to the fans:
“We have a couple shows. The fans are my favorite part of it. They are all so excited and it’s the time to give back to them and let them experience a week in our home where a lot of the writers, creators and artists live. We have a lot of appearances, signings and my wife and I are going to get “gussied” up and attend the awards show. It’s going to be fun.”
Work hard, set a goal and accomplish a dream of headlining your own tour is something to strive for and Drake knows they are ready:
“Absolutely we are ready. We’ve played a lot of dives, bars and a lot of places. When that day comes it is part of the dream. You go out there, hang your banners on the walls, promote your brand as well as promote your way of life which has become this philanthropic part of giving back to others and spreading a good feeling. That live show to us is really about coming in for 90 minutes or however long me and The Big Fire play, and making it so that people completely forget about that they’re on this earth and go back to the 70’s way of thinking, let’s go on a journey together.”
Drake’s year has been busy and full of many different career turns in many endeavors, but there is still more to come:
“Besides the album release we have about 40 plus shows with Zac, our promo stuff with radio, our single “Livin’ The Dream” is movin’ up the charts and expected to bust out of the Top 30 this week which is a big deal. We will continue to work hard and we have a big tour announcement coming up with someone who I will not reveal until the time comes. As much as I would love to say I will just wait for the reveal but know it is BIG.”
The music industry is compiled of singers, songwriters and musicians who bring it all together. Collaborating with some of your favorites would make any artist feel proud and reach a certain fulfillment level:
“I would love to sit down and co-write with Willie, that would be super special. Paul McCartney, who I think is amazing, and James Taylor would be cool. I’m a big Rolling Stones fan, and would love to write with Robert Plant. I’m a huge Eagles fan, they were one of my dad’s favorites. “Seven Bridges Road,” has that type of harmony and southernism in what they were trying to get across there, that song encompasses a lot for me. I hear people say, ‘Oh man the 70’s were great, ‘73 was the golden year, there will never be anything like that.’ Well this is my generation so I think that we as a band have a very, very big responsibility to bring that same kind of energy, the same kind of level of integrity and craftsmen ship to our songs. I think this generation is packed full of talent, we’re in a total different society, but I think we can bring the level of music that was made in ’73. It’s just up to us to jump through the hoops and do it.”
To spend time with Drake was thoroughly enjoyable and to learn of someone so down to earth, talented, giving, smart and fun is a gift to us. Thanks to Drake and his crew for giving us this opportunity.