The LTFL team just got back from Austin City Limits Weekend Two. We had the privilege of sitting down on Sunday afternoon for a chat with Drew Holcomb – who kicked the day off on the American Express Stage. The link above will also take you to our full festival recap, if you want to know more about our ACL experience. We are super honored to have had the opportunity to go out and cover one of favorite major festivals.
Despite having an early set on Sunday, the band drew a big crowd. I wanted to be there early to make sure not to miss it. I ended up being extra early, and had plenty of time to relax with other fans near the rail. It was fun to chat with the people around me, many of whom had seen Drew Holcomb perform multiple times. I told them about being at Moon River – and they hadn’t heard about it before (more on that below). So I put on my best salesman hat and told them all about the awesome experience from last month.
For those not familiar with Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors we will start with some Americana 101. The band (which is considered Americana if you didn’t guess by my not so clever intro) hails from Tennessee and was formed in 2006 by Drew Holcomb who performs lead vocals, guitar and harmonica for the group. In August, the band released a brand new record, Dragons, which is a ton of fun. Huge fan of the easy to sing-a-long to “Family” and of the record’s title track “Dragons.” The guys have been and continue to be on a tour with Birdwalker. If that was not enough to juggle, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors are also behind a music festival of their own – Moon River Festival, which has been pretty darn successful in its own right. And has sold out solidly the last two years.
In September, LTFL travelled to Chattanooga, Tennessee to attend Moon River Festival. If you want more information about Moon River – please visit their site or check out our coverage here. The cliffs notes version is that it is a well run, boutique sized festival in a gorgeous location – boasting tons of high quality acts and delicious food!!
From the perspective of an artist, how does performing at a festival differ most from a standalone show – do you change your setlist up?
Drew answers first that they definitely alter their setlist for the festival environment, explaining that they aim to keep a lot of the upbeat favorites but not lean into some of the more intimate work – he thinks that they try not to change so much as to lose the band’s identity. Then we move on a little bigger picture and he begins explaining something a lot of other artists we have talked to have mentioned this year – that he really likes the artist discovery piece of playing a festival. People aren’t likely to pay for tickets to our show if they don’t us, but you can always make new fans at a festival. That’s how I found Bon Iver . . . I walked up and I was . . . I became a fan. Like that. We talk a little bit about how at a festival you can sort of just stroll by and wind up hearing a new artist and becoming a fan.
Living The Fest Life had the opportunity to attend Moon River earlier this year – it was amazing. Do you see any changes or expansion coming to it in the near future?
I really like where Moon River is. It is special . . . manageable . . . artists like it. He explains that he likes the two stages and the feel of the festival. You know, he says, 50% or more of our ticket buyers were returning customers, people who bought tickets last year. I always use the old saying dance with the girl you came with. He goes on to explain that what he means by that is if people are really happy (and returning) why change it. I will use my own old saying – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Here we talked a little bit about the beautiful setting for Moon River – and I talked a little about the walk in over the pedestrian bridge which we both agree is best described as dramatic – in a good way.
Despite the move to Chattanooga and Moon River’s Growth, does it still have the same vibe, the same family reunion feel you had described previously?
Drew answers affirmatively that he believes Moon River does still retain the family reunion type vibes he has described in previous interviews. Before adding, with a laugh that at some point he is going to run out of friends with bands to come play with him.
You guys have had a busy summer are are continuing to tour, is there anything special you want fans to know about?
We are going to announce a winter tour in early November and will also be announcing an acoustic tour with Ellie. Drew also notes that things with Moon River will start picking up again, and likely anticipate a lineup release in February or March.
Do you feel like being involved in Moon River has changed your perspective or thoughts on festivals things?
Definitely . . . from a practical standpoint especially. It has made me look at things and think how are they pull it off. Logistics was a hot topic of this part of our conversation, with Drew explaining how he has a greater understanding of how it takes so much work from so many people to make these things happen.
You mentioned during your set today that you had attended ACL when you were in college – were festivals a big part of your experience, prior to becoming an artist performing at them?
Yeah. In college I came here to ACL. I also used to go to Beale Street every year. It has such a diverse lineup in terms of types of artists. It has really grown. Here he describes Beale Street and some of his thoughts generally. I always like to hear what touring artists have to say about other festivals, especially festivals that they have kind of grown up with or that are local to them like Beale Street was for Drew Holcomb.
Between Moon River, touring, festivals like ACL, family – you have a lot on your plate it seems – how do you juggle it all?
It is a lot. We are really intentional about time at home, taking at least two days a week. I try to have a day with each kid. Drew goes on to explain that he and Ellie also make sure to take time to open a bottle of wine and to catch up on things. He mentions that keeping open the lines of communication has been really important.
Has touring been different without Ellie?
Completely different . . . he says immediately. But goes on to explain that this has been a good thing (for both of them). It has allowed them both to develop their creativity and work. Especially for Ellie who has gone on to do work as a solo artist. Drew explained that this has allowed them to “differentiate” which he thinks is an important part of maintaining a strong relationship and for both of them in the relationship to have the opportunity to develop their creative identities.
Is there something you would like fans to know about you or your music that they may not know? Feel free to take that any way you want – funny, serious, weird . . .
My music is pretty reflective of my life and personality. But I am actually more of a goofball (a goofy personality) than I may seem. My music is also very different from some of my favorite artists: Radiohead, Zeppelin, U2. After listing off a few of his favorites, Drew seems like he wants to give us more info – mentions that I may have stumped him and then pops out with… I love to dance to Lizzo in my kitchen – that is something fans won’t likely know.
Huge shoutout and thanks to Drew Holcomb for taking time to talk to us on a busy Sunday for him. After playing his set he also did a signing at the Waterloo Records Signing Tent and a surprise acoustic performance in the Austin Kiddie Limits area.
We really enjoyed sitting down with Drew at ACL and can’t wait to see what else he has in store later this year. We strongly recommend giving Dragons a listen. We would love to hear what you think of the record or anything festival related!