It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

By Lindsey Lowe Osborne

It’s about that time, my friends: Spring is coming. I’m not sure when, but I know it will. One day, the sun will shine so much that the little flowers will get enough courage to peek their heads out from the ground, and then, it’s all coming. And this month, I have the perfect springtime guy for you: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors.

If Holcomb’s story doesn’t make you want to quit your boring day job and be a musician—even if, like me, you can’t even clap a beat to a Gospel song—then I’m not sure we can be friends. He says he fell in love with music just the way flowers fall for the sun—it gives them life. “Music resonated with me probably like chefs fell in love with food. Something that is all around us, in our stories, in our daily lives, and you find a curiosity towards it,” he says. “That and the gifting of a guitar to a bored and marginally sub-par athletic eighth grader by my parents.” Of course, Holcomb does have the part of the equation that most of us do not—talent that, along with a lot of hard work and hope, was the foundation for a solid career and a good sense of humor.

“I was born on a riverboat and grew up with two dear friends, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, who taught me about music and tobacco and fishing. I got off the boat in Memphis and was picked up by Hamp and Nancy Holcomb, who took me in as their second child, and gave me a home, a Bible, a guitar, and a whole bunch of cousins,” he says. “I started listening to Bob Dylan and hitchhiked on the weekends to Mississippi, because of a girl there that I loved. Then I met a bunch of hustlers and musicians who were all neighbors. They asked me if I could sing, and I sang a version of ‘God Bless America’ that made them all cry, and then I said, ‘Henceforth, we are Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors.’ Only some of this is true.”

Holcomb and those Neighbors—who include Ellie Holcomb (yes, his wife!), Nathan Dugger, and Rich Brinsfield—formed the band in 2006. The first few years weren’t the easiest, Holcomb says. “Athens, Georgia, 2009. 40 Watt Club. It was the first show in Athens of my career and had a $5 cover. Over 200 people showed up and everyone knew the words to a new song called ‘Live Forever,’” he says. “Before this show, we were contemplating quitting music. (We’d released) two albums, and we didn’t have a lot of fans. We were scraping by. We wrote this song and released it on an EP, and it spread like wildfire. I learned in that moment that the right song can do a lot of the work for you. Obviously, we didn’t quit, and that night was a big part of the reason why.”

It’s lucky for us that they didn’t. The neighborly band from Nashville has just gained more traction since then. Their newest album, “Souvenir,” drops on March 24, and the band will spend the spring touring for it, including, of course, a stop in Birmingham at the Lyric on April 6. “I’m excited to play some bucket list venues:  the Tabernacle in Atlanta, two nights at the Ryman, and a bunch of others. But mainly just excited to see these new songs from ‘Souvenir’ come to life,” he says. “Songs are these living, breathing things and it is always a surprise to see how they change over time. I want people to hear my stories and see themselves. To hold up a mirror that says, ‘Me too.’”

And the music—the music is bright and breezy, but warm and gray all at the same time. It would be right on any day, but especially those mostly-bright-but-sometimes-gray days of spring: “I think our music conveys a good wrestling match between hope and suffering, the tension of happiness and darkness,” Holcomb says. “There are some songs—just a handful—that you never ever get tired of singing. I never thought I would say that. But there are three or four songs that no matter where I am, if I play one of them, I am completely transported to the moment of their creation and the life of that song flashes before me. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Upcoming Events:

3/7: Sleigh Bells at Saturn.

Listen to “Baptism by Fire” (on their newest album, “Jessica Rabbit.”)

3/10: Durand Jones & the Indications at Seasick Records.

Listen to “Giving Up,” from 2016’s “Durand Jones & the Indications.”

4/19: Jump Little Children at Saturn.

Listen to “Cathedrals” from 1998’s album “Magazine.”

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