Back in the not too distant past, when Drew Holcomb (and most other Nashville musicians) were kept off the road thanks to COVID-19, the folk-pop singer-songwriter sat down with another grounded musician — Ketch Secor of the Old Crow Medicine Show — to write a song.
Holcomb and Secor have known each other for years, as their children attend the same school in East Nashville. They started talking about what they missed in concerts and live audiences. For Holcomb, this was the meaning of “everyone in this thing together”.
“You look around the room, and there are strangers everywhere,” he told The Tennessean. “You don’t know everyone’s story.”
It ignited a spark under both music makers, and within hours they had written “Dance with everyone.”
“When the band hits, at the end of the night, there are no more strangers,” Holcomb proclaims over a steadily beating drum. “I want to dance with everyone who has passed through this door.”
The stomping and screaming celebratory single was released on Friday and is the first preview of a new series of recordings made by Holcomb and his longtime band, The Neighbours.
It also features Utah band The National Parks, who will join Holcomb and the Neighbors for a month-long tour starting in September. But just before this race, Holcomb has another business to manage: he organizes his own music festival.
The Moon River Music Festival returns to Coolidge Park in Chattanooga on September 10-11. Holcomb and The Neighbors will perform with headliners Leon Bridges and The National, as well as Band of Horses, Local Natives and Zach Bryan among 23 acts.
Holcomb founded the festival in 2014, and it was originally held in his hometown of Memphis.
“I loved this idea of an artist-run festival. I had played a lot of freshman festivals before (Moon River), and a lot of them hadn’t worked out well. I think it ‘was partly because the artists just threw away their few Instagram posts and then shut up and played. But when a particular artist takes it upon themselves to really own and promote it to their fans, it’s like a back to basics or some pilgrimage… And then I wanted to see a lot of my friends and groups who always go out at night.”
Moon River was an immediate hit – which quickly outgrew its venue, as well as Holcomb’s abilities. He immediately remembers when they ran out of change for vendors, and with the banks closed on Sunday, his wife and teammate Ellie Holcomb had to drive to a nearby casino for stacks of $1 and $5 bills.
“We were a little above our skis,” he recalls. “My manager and I were promoting it together, and we’re booking bands with lines of credit based on our houses. And it was like, ‘What are we doing? This is crazy!'”
After taking time off in 2017, they were approached by gig producers (and Bonnaroo co-founders) AC Entertainment. It was their idea to bring Moon River east of Chattanooga and let Holcomb be part of the creative process while “taking a lot of risk and work”.
“I didn’t have any company signing contracts with any porta potty companies,” he adds with a laugh.
Tickets for the first Moon River in Chattanooga sold out in less than a day, and subsequent events in 2019 and 2021 also sold out. Tickets for this year’s festival are still available.
“Dance With Everybody” was recorded as part of “an explosion” of recording sessions earlier this spring, when Holcomb and his band recorded eight songs. They should record 14 more by the time of the tour. The exact form this group of songs will take is unknown, but the group plans to release “lots of new music next year.”
And in case you were wondering, the guy who sings “I want to dance with everyone” can put his money where his mouth is.
“I love to dance, are you kidding me? »
He broke a move more than once for his music videos, including 2019 “Family” and “Here we go” from 2014. The latter, which featured Holcomb in a banana suit, had a surprising fan in Don Henley. When Holcomb opened a tour for the Eagles member, she was told not to expect to meet him. At the very first soundcheck, however, Holcomb turned around and there was Henley, who told him he was a fan of his moves.
“I think, ‘This is one of the weirdest times of my life,'” Holcomb said. “I’m having a conversation with Don Henley about me dancing in a banana suit.”
Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors officially hit the road on September 14. Learn more about www.drewholcomb.com