November 11, 2015
By Mark Hughes
“To be honest, I don't really care what people call it. But I never would have pegged myself as a country act,” Holcomb said. “I am a songwriter, and I'm certainly closer to country than to modern pop, but I'm probably closer to the Beatles than Merle Haggard.
“I've never liked the genre thing. We're definitely not trying to get on country radio, sing about trucks and beer.”
He points to the crossover success of this summer's Jason Isbell album, “Something More Than Free,” debuting at No. 1 on the rock, folk and country charts, as well as No. 2 on indie, as what can happen when music works on multiple levels.
“It doesn't have to be math; you can do whatever's working,” Holcomb said. “I'm certainly not against having a hit record, but I'm not chasing it.”
As chief songwriter and singer for Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, he's heard from various producers and music-business executives: Narrow down your sound; dial in what you're doing. That's an idea he can brand only with an expletive, and it's one main reason he's stayed indie, with five discs on his own Magnolia label since 2007.
“Everything we've seen so far from major labels, they want a piece of everything,” he said, including publishing rights, T-shirt sales, touring.
“But worse than that, they want to dictate how you spend your time, how you live your life. 'So-and-so wants you on this TV show,' and it's your daughter's birthday. ... That's a conversation I never want to have.”
Even as an indie act, though, the band's scored success, partly linked to relentless touring, and partly from TV exposure for songs on “House, M.D.,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Army Wives,” “United States of Tara,” “The Cleaner” and others.
As a happily married father of two — his wife is fellow singer-songwriter Ellie Holcomb, who has toured with the band — Holcomb channels the worries of others into some songs, and in others, simply reaches for joy.
“The music is the Dr. Jekyll to the Mr. Hyde that can be here,” he said, laughing. “Life is pretty short; I learned that young when I lost a brother ... you find people to get through it with you.