Five Questions With… Drew Gregory
The former Alberta Country Music Association Male Artist of the Year is also a working farmer. He has just released a new EP, Good Place To Start, and here he explains the creative process and recalls his special Big Valley night.
By Jason Schneider
The most common complaint made by country music cynics is that artists in the genre often don’t reflect the music’s rural origins as much as they once did. That cannot be said about Drew Gregory who, along with being a former Alberta Country Music Association Male Artist of the Year, is also a working farmer.
That dual personality once again shines through on his new EP, Good Place To Start, a seven-song collection that ranges from good time barroom anthems to the title track, which attempts to find hope for change in the aftermath of last fall’s massacre in Las Vegas.
Underscoring it all is Gregory’s no-nonsense approach, whether he’s writing on his own or collaborating with other notable Canadian songwriters such as Aaron Goodvin, Trinity Bradshaw and Brad Stella. Good Place To Start also again featured the production skills of multiple CCMA award winner Jason Barry, who Gregory credits for honing his sound after they worked together on his previous album I Was There.
Hailing from the town of Standard, Alberta (pop. 350), Gregory grew up listening to country and classic rock in equal measure before picking up the guitar at age 15. After a backpacking journey across Australia, he began working on the family farm while getting a music career off the ground. It’s a balance he still maintains and has no plans to change no matter where his music takes him. Find out more at drewgregorymusic.com.
What makes Good Place To Start stand apart from your previous work?
I’d like to think I’ve grown as an artist with every album, but going into this one I knew what I wanted musically more so than ever before. The notion of doing things a certain way because it’s working for someone else has diminished to the point that I felt I could make the kind of album I’d always wanted to. The writing process was also easier, as I’ve developed relationships with some amazing songwriters both in Canada and Nashville. They understood what I was after from the start as opposed to me going into a writing room not knowing which direction things would go. Then on top of that, this was the second album I’d done with producer Jason Barry, who understood how I wanted things to sound right from the start. I think having developed a certain style, and creating the album around that style with a great team gave me a sense of confidence that translated into a really strong collection of music.
What songs on the new EP are you particularly proud of?
“Good Place To Start” has been one of the coolest songs I’ve ever been a part of. I was writing in Nashville shortly after the Las Vegas shooting, and I think the country music community felt that tragedy hard as it was at a country music festival. I mostly stay away from politics but I love this song so much because it touches on some tough subjects but doesn’t really pick sides. It just talks about how maybe we can all try to listen a little more and show a little more love even if you have differences in opinion. It is definitely different than anything I’ve released before, but I’m so glad we put it on the album.
How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?
It's somewhat come full circle in the creative department. I wrote every song on my first album and then for the next two I only wrote half of the songs. We were getting pitched some great songs, and I’m really happy with the ones we cut, but that whole time I was trying to develop into a good enough writer to get back to having a hand in writing the entire album. With the help of some fantastic co-writers, I’m happy to say I was able to do that this time. An artist's first album is special because you generally don’t think much about the business. You’re just creating cause you know you need to and that's where I think the best music of all time has evolved from. I feel like I’ve tried to get back to that feeling with this album, but hopefully as a stronger artist and writer than I was when I started this journey so many years ago.
What's been the most significant change in your life over the past year?
My son Ty is two now and is constantly growing in one way or another. So he has been the biggest changing thing in my life for a while. He gets harder to leave each time I go on the road, but he has also pushed me harder than ever to be successful with the music because I so badly want him to learn that it’s okay to dream big and it's a great thing to have a career that you absolutely love.
What's your best touring story?
Of the ones I can say publicly, I think the first time we played the Big Valley Jamboree was a pretty special one for me. It was just one of those shows where everything lined up. The night was beautiful, the sound was spot on, the band played incredibly, and the connection between us and the fans was undeniable. It was the first time we played for that many people, and it was such a great music-loving crowd. I’ll never forget the end of the show, as the band played me off, the guy running the stage had a cigarette hanging off of his lip and he threw me a towel and gave me a little “good job kid” kinda nod. I nodded back and something about it just felt like a real rockstar moment. As any artist knows, there are a thousand reasons to give up on this business, but it takes one night like that to make it all worthwhile.