News Column

Holcomb leaves band behind, opens NorCal dates with John Hiatt

September 6, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 06--Drew Holcomb's had a nice little taste of that fame thing, what with his music used by various TV shows, including Oprah.

But the front man for Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors knows a good thing when he sees it. And if he has to leave the band behind for the sake of the bigger picture, so be it.

Take his current tour, opening for John Hiatt -- Monday in Monterey, Tuesday at the Uptown Theatre in Napa, Wednesday in Sacramento at the Crest Theatre and Sept. 13 in Reno.

Sure, the paychecks may be smaller -- pretty much a big, fat zero for the band -- but Holcomb gets to work with one of his heroes. And, perhaps, build a new fan base for The Neighbors.

"I'm excited about it," the East Nashville resident said by phone Wednesdays. "I'm thankful the guys in my band take the long view. It opens up new markets for the whole band."

Besides, said Holcomb, "they're relieved they can spend a few weeks at home."

Though Holcomb's music has been heard on "House," "How I Met Your Mother," "Parenthood," "Deadliest Catch" and an anti-texting while driving public service announcement for Winfrey, he's not deluded enough to think most folks are paying $45 or $55 to see him open for Hiatt in Napa.

"An interesting thing about opening in general is that they're not your people, your fans," Holcomb said. "So there is tension. But even when you're the headliner, there's a little bit of nervousness. You do what you do and try to earn the favor of the

crowd."

As the solo opener, it is a chance to prove himself, Holcomb agreed.

"These (Hiatt fans) are seasoned music listeners. They're people who have been buying records a lot longer than I have for the most part," Holcomb said.

Sure, he added, some Hiatt fans may not even arrive until halfway through the opener's set, if at all. But that's fine.

"I've always had the mentality that even if there's two-thirds of the audience while I'm playing, that's still a whole lot of people who haven't heard me or would have heard me otherwise," Holcomb said.

It's all part of having a career, this patience thing. And boy, that took some time to learn, the 31-year-old musician said.

"I had these rosy ideas," Holcomb said. "And I spent two, three years being frustrated. Things didn't move as quickly as I hoped they would."

Then again, music was a mere diversion. Never did he think he'd be on national tours or that his tune, "Live Forever" would have more than 500,000 YouTube views and be used on "House."

"I had a whole different life planned for myself. I thought I'd do this (music) for a couple of years," Holcomb said.

Problem was -- if one could call it a problem -- Holcomb was good. And people started showing up at his acoustic shows. And more showed up his second time and third time around and he built a following. The same is happening

with band.

"We built an audience by hitting the pavement," Holcomb said. "It's about creating energy with good songs that connect with people."

It's also helped having his wife, Ellie, along for the ride. She was a full-time band member until recently when she decided to go it part-time to work on other projects and be with the couple's young daughter.

"You're together and spending your life together doing something you love," Holcomb said of working with his wife. "But, like any working relationship, you have to learn to turn it off and not have everything in your life revolved around your work."

Napa, coincidentally, has been the Holcomb's recreational getaway since spending their honeymoon here seven years ago.

"We decided it would be our place to go back to,"

Holcomb said.

Whether it be his wife or the band members, Holcomb respects others input. To

a point.

"We call our band a 'benevolent monarchy.' I deeply respect everyone's opinion and can be swayed," Holcomb said. "But it's not a democracy. Someone has to be the one to make choices. Over the years, that's

been me."

With a growing fan base, CD sales and touring schedule, it appears to be working. Still, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors seem well

grounded.

"The first time we released a music video, we were thrilled it had 10,000 views," he said. "I was sure our family was responsible for half of them. I feel we've already gotten way further down the road than I

expected."

If you go ...

Who: John Hiatt and the Combo, with opening act Drew Holcomb

Where: Uptown Theatre, 1350 Third St., Napa

When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.

Cost: $45-$55

Info: uptowntheatre.com

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(c)2013 Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.)

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