In a world awash with artificial distractions, country artist Drake White delivers a welcome dose of boot-stompin’, feel-good music as genuine and powerful as his rural Alabama roots and lifelong love for hunting, fishing and all things outdoors.
White is best known for his uplifting and up-tempo take on traditional country, which has produced breakout hits including “The Simple Life” and “It Feels Good.”
Recently named one of Billboard’s top 10 hottest new country stars, he’s rocked the Grand Ole Opry and opened for heavy hitters including Kid Rock, Eric Church and Alan Jackson. As of this writing, he’s currently on tour with the Zac Brown Band and has performances set with Little Big Town.
But there’s more to White than catchy melodies and lines that tug at your heartstrings; the firmly grounded singer-songwriter is also a walking testament to the virtues of small-town values, caring for the land and savoring time spent afield.
“I was raised in Hokes Bluff, Alabama, a little town of about 4,000 nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians,” he explains in a soothing Southern drawl.
In that hard-working community on the banks of the meandering Coosa River, White was surrounded by natural beauty and an abundance of fish and game. He was also blessed with an extended family to nurture his faith, his music and a passion for the outdoors.
“I was baptized in hunting and fishing by my father and grandfather,” he grins. “They taught me to track whitetail deer, fix old boat motors and respect the land.”
Indeed, some of White’s fondest childhood memories stem from the family hunting camp.
“Grandpa had an old Holiday Rambler camper down in southern Alabama on the Mississippi line,” he recalls. “We’d stay there for weeks on end in November, December and January.”
Like countless camps across the continent, it offered a wealth of life lessons, many of which transcended hunting.
“Those early days at hunting camp helped develop my love for the outdoors, along with an appreciation for qualities such as patience, loyalty and diligence,” he says.
White says his mentors also fostered a deep reverence for life.
“That’s probably the best one of all,” he admits. “My family instilled in me a deep respect for the land and the creatures that roam it. When we harvested a deer, a turkey or a limit of fish, we utilized every part of those animals. We’d eat the meat or donate it to the church to feed other people, and use the rest to fertilize our soil.”
White’s extended family also played an important role in honing his outdoor skills.
“My Uncle Ron was an avid hunter, Eagle Scout and Vietnam veteran who showed me the finer points of everything from knife work and knot tying to canoeing,” he says.
White’s elders also fueled a love of music.
“My grandfather was a Baptist preacher and I sang in the church choir,” he says. But he also credits his parent’s musical tastes—which included the Marshall Tucker Band, Joe Cocker, the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
“I was influenced by a combination of Southern Baptist gospel, my dad’s rock-n-roll records and my mom’s appreciation for all kinds of music,” he recalls.
Not long after getting his first guitar at age 14, he began writing songs and holding jam sessions at a variety of venues. Performing for small audiences in intimate settings taught White how to engage and energize crowds of all sizes.
The experiences also strengthened his motivation to pursue a career in such a challenging industry.
“It was—and still is—all about making people happy,” he explains. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to write and perform songs that connect with folks, make them feel good, and help them through hard times.”
After graduating from Auburn University in 2007 with a degree in structural engineering, he moved to Nashville to follow his dreams.
At first, he juggled a day job in construction to pay the bills, but soon found you can’t serve two masters on the road to Music Row.
“I always put music first, but it really demands your full attention,” he says. Indeed, playing 150 to 200 shows a year, along with writing original songs and tirelessly honing his vocals and guitar skills left little time for other distractions.
Along the way, White put together The Big Fire Band. He considers this gifted and close-knit band of road warriors family, and counts their collective, soul-stirring performances among his greatest accomplishments.
“I’m so proud of the band, how far we’ve come together, and our ability to go out and deliver live shows night after night that get people on their feet and touch their hearts,” he says.
That’s not to say the road has been easy, however.
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride at times,” he admits. “I was signed by a label and dropped. I’ve been doing this since 2004 and still don’t have a record. Remaining patient through the whole process has been one of my biggest challenges.”
Fortunately, the lessons he learned in a deer stand, duck blind and church pew have served White well. Despite the tribulations, he has patiently and persistently pursued his dream of a career in music.
“You have to trust in yourself and your abilities, and believe this is where you should be,” he says.
If his popular ballads, upcoming tours and a recent deal with the legendary label Dot Records are any indication, White is on exactly the right path.
Through it all, he says the outdoors remain a refuge from the trials of the music industry and rigors of life on the road.
“I love people and am diligent about my time, but I also love being out in nature by myself,” he says. “You can learn a lot about yourself and life in general by turning off your phone or computer and spending seven hours in a treestand.”
White hunts at every opportunity. Whitetails still rank high on his list, as do waterfowl and wild turkeys. While he treasures the hunting experience, he also savors the sustenance provided by successful days afield.
“Food that comes directly from the earth, without any hormones, steroids or chemicals is the healthiest,” he explains.
Toward that end, White also advocates the wise use of the land and sustainable, organic farming practices. “The American farmer is vital to our existence,” he says. “But our society has gotten so far off track with big corporations feeding us fake, unhealthy food, we’ve gotten away from how God intended it to be.” White’s wife, Alex, shares his passion for pure living.
“She operates the Milk and Honey Food Company in Nashville, a restaurant that serves locally raised organic produce,” he says. “You can taste the difference and feel better eating like that, and it’s better for the land and everything connected to it.” Looking ahead, White’s goals include continuing to escalate The Big Fire’s live show, packing arenas and releasing a record.
“I’d also love to build a non-profit camp for kids and other people who might not have the opportunity to experience music, the outdoors and real food,” he adds. “A place where I could encourage people to follow their dreams.” True to his roots, White also plans to maintain the perspective forged long ago in Hokes Bluff and the Alabama backcountry.