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Aug 17, 2015

Drew Holcomb forges independent musical path

Greenville News

Donna Isbell Walker, [email protected] 3:13 p.m. EDT August 17, 2015

For Drew Holcomb, music isn’t just art or entertainment or emotional connection.

In Holcomb’s view, music also possesses healing powers. The singer has always found solace in song, even during the most difficult moments of his life.

“One of the great things about music is ... you tell the truth about how life is hard and disappointing, but then you kind of leave out a little bit of hope and inspiration,” Holcomb said recently in a phone interview from Detroit. “A good song can take the darkness and try to shed a little bit of light, a little bit of hope in the midst of it.”

Holcomb and his band the Neighbors perform at the Peace Center’s Aug. 27 for its Rock the River concert series. They’re touring in support of their latest album, “Medicine,” a disc with a 1970s-infused pop-folk flavor.

When they began planning the “Medicine” album, Holcomb was determined that there should be no synthesizers or computer enhancements, just “real instruments.”

That’s because he wanted to allow band members’ musical talents to shine without artificial enhancements.

“They’re incredibly thoughtful and competent musicians,” Holcomb said. “And I thought it would be a waste to not record in such a way to showcase what we do, to showcase what we do live. We’ve kind of made our name and our career out of touring hard, and we have never had a big success at radio or anything like that. Our band is known as a live band, and so we wanted to track the record that way.”

One of Holcomb’s biggest inspirations in crafting the album was Van Morrison’s classic 1970s album, “Tupelo Honey.”

On that record, Morrison’s band “feels like they’re really comfortable with each other, and it feels live. It’s tight, but it also has a lot of humanity to the way that it sounds. They sound like you’re in a room listening to them play, and there’s just so much dynamic.”

While many bands spend years chasing a record deal, Holcomb and the Neighbors have intentionally maintained their status as an independent band.

There’s a lot more creative freedom when a band doesn’t have to run every decision by a record label. And while it can be more work to fly without the safety net of a record company, Holcomb wouldn’t have it any other way.

First of all, when he’s writing a song, his only concern is whether fans will like it, not whether a record executive will give it a thumbs-up.

Also, Holcomb said, “the most important thing about it is that it just breaks down one more barrier between us and our fans. And it makes the music more accessible, and I think, less tainted by the economic process that a label forces on a project.”

The Neighbors have been together for a decade, and their sound has steadily evolved as they’ve found their voice and deepened their connections as a band, Holcomb said.

“There were moments in our earlier recordings where we were exploring who we were as a band, and we went down some roads that, looking back on it, were not the right decisions,” he said. “And now, we know who we are and how we want to record. And I know what kind of songs I want to write. It’s tightened our focus, the years that we’ve spent together. You learn to communicate with each other without using words ... and most importantly, you completely trust each other.”

YOU CAN GO

What: Rock the River with Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 27

Where: Peace Center

How much: $25-$35

For more:www.peacecenter.org