Long-Term Effects

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors write songs to last a lifetime on Souvenir

click to enlarge Drew Holcomb (second from right) and the Neighbors, who play Spokane for the first time on May 4.
Drew Holcomb (second from right) and the Neighbors, who play Spokane for the first time on May 4.

Drew Holcomb has what he calls a "collector personality," and the rootsy singer-songwriter has a Nashville house full of objects he's gathered through the years.

It started when Holcomb was a kid growing up in Memphis. His dad took the family on regular road trips, giving each sibling $50 to buy one particularly meaningful reminder of the journey, not "some touristy crap." And it continues now when Holcomb and his band the Neighbors hit the road for months on end, although now he tends to search for things his kids might like as much as mementos for himself.

"I like first-edition books and things that mark time," Holcomb says by way of describing the title of his latest album, Souvenir. "Music is kind of like that. Certainly, I can look back over different parts of my life and there's music that stands out as sort of marking events and moments.

"I want these songs to kind of mark people, and stick with them. I listen to records that my dad loved, and I hope this record gets played by people for their kids, and 20 years later [those kids] are still going back and listening."

Given the ingratiating sounds on Souvenir, Holcomb isn't just fantasizing. The album's 11 tracks are a natural extension of the soulful, country-tinged tunes on his 2015 breakthrough Medicine, while adding some subtle sonic flourishes that give the new songs added heft.

The instantly addictive "California" and stacked harmonies on "Sometimes" are standouts on an album that incorporates elements of Holcomb's past work — bluegrass, folk, rock — but Souvenir's easy grooves were created through much more pain and stress than the sounds would indicate.

While Medicine brought Holcomb's music to a wider audience than ever, landing in the Top 15 of both the folk and rock album charts, it also led to relentless touring that left the frontman fried. Instead of penning all the songs on Souvenir by himself, Holcomb says the Neighbors took a prominent role in both writing new songs and spurring him back to life.

"The grueling pace of the Medicine tour sort of left me exhausted and with a little bit of writer's block," Holcomb says. "That record was sort of intensely personal for me in a lot of ways. The tank was empty and I needed some help."

The results show that the collaboration worked, and the album's early success — it reached the Top 5 on both the folk and rock album charts when it arrived in late March — means the band can take the songs to new places, like when they play in Spokane for the first time on May 4. Those who go will find a band refreshed and renewed, collecting new road-trip treasures and experiences that will undoubtedly make their way into another set of new songs some day.

And they might just leave with a memory of a great concert that will last a lifetime, too, if Holcomb has anything to say about it.

"I just want to be one of those artists who make songs for posterity," Holcomb says. "Even if it's just for our small fan base, I hope that's the case." ♦

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors with Stephen Kellogg • Thu, May 4 at 8 pm • All-ages • $18 • Knitting Factory • 919 W. Sprague • sp.knittingfactory.com • 244-3279

Ronnie Milsap @ Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox

Sat., Sept. 26, 8 p.m.
  • or

About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied...