• NOLA COVID-19 Era Art

    When I arrived in New Orleans last week it was a strange site to see empty streets and the impacts that Coronavirus has had on the city. I was happy to arrive at my second home after a 14-hour drive from Cincinnati. This is usually the place that I go to relax and eat great food but the city definitely feels different this time. Most of the buildings, stores and restaurants are boarded up with plywood. The streets are empty with only a few people walking and biking to get some exercise and enjoy the perfect May weather.

    On Saturday morning I got up and walked around Frenchmen Street and the French Quarter. I knew that a local artist, Josh Wingerter has been creating art on the plywood covering the doors and windows of the usually busy establishments. Josh’s art represents the spirit of New Orleans music and the current situation with the virus shutdown. You can see art work that represents the famous musicians of the city like Alan Toussaint and Louis Armstrong and graphics that represent the virus like toilet paper with angel wings. My street of Frenchmen has been turned into a drive thru art gallery and it is spectacular.

    I ended up taking walks at several different times throughout the day to photograph the murals in even light. Josh has been selling his paintings and giving the proceeds to several charities in New Orleans including Second Harvest Food Bank and #HashtagLunchbag to help provide supplies and groceries to those in need. So far he has raised thousands of dollars for these charities and he is still creating art for sale and display around the French Quarter.

  • Interview: Maggie Rose

    Maggie Rose has been a favorite artist of mine for a long time. I first met Maggie at CMA Festival in 2013. When I started digging into her music during my stay at home time I found many of her lyrics to take on new meanings. There really is no FOMO right now as the world has come to stop. Lyrics like, “The world wasn’t broken in a day. It ain’t going to stay this way forever. You ain’t got to change the whole thing; you just have to leave it a little better” and words about having “More dreams than dollars” seem prolific during this pandemic as people are really trying to deal with a situation that is challenging everyone across the globe. Music has been one item that we have had access to during this crisis and her music really brought me joy during this time.

    The documentary, “Change the Whole Thing” was created to document the process she used to record her album with her close friends. For Rose, it was the best way for her to convey the journey she’s been on since releasing her freshman album Cut to Impress in 2013. Watching the documentary really provided insight into the daunting task the singer took on to make the project happen in a full band live recording setting. It was eye opening to watch the music come to life and I highly recommend taking time to watch the movie.

    I caught up with Maggie at her home in Tennessee to talk about making new music, fan connection, touring with Joan Jett, New Orleans, and charities she is supporting during the pandemic.

    Are you in Nashville quarantining?

    We are here in our house in East Nashville and I feel like we have been here more in the last month consecutively than since we got the house in 2018. We moved in the week you saw me at Bonnaroo. It’s not normal for musicians by any means to not be on the road. There’s a lot of beauty to it and we can help and entertain people in certain ways by being creative about it and that makes us feel better about it.

    I feel like your song “Can’t Miss Something” feels appropriate right now.

    I hadn’t even thought about that. We used that as a bonus track but you mentioning that gives good perspective.

    You have done your own shows on Instagram the past few weeks but also participated in Magic Giant’s Quarantine Concert Series. Are there other things you are doing to stay connected to certain organizations?

    The concerts we have been doing on Facebook and YouTube and Instagram have helped an artist that I had helped vocally produce his record, Dylan Hartigan. He just put his first single out, “My Island”, so we did a joint promotion for him. He is a young artist and I’m sure this isn’t how he imagined his first single release to be, but we are making the best of it where we can. We met him when we were on tour with Kelly Clarkson. He met her during his time on The Voice. Bobby Holland produced his record as well. We are all trying to band together and give him the support for the release he deserves. 

    Another campaign that I support is called MY HERO BOX, is starting to gain some traction. It is about spreading the message of reclaiming the medical supplies doctors need. We got all these artists to do a PSA to ask people to look through their house and find those items the people on the frontlines need and send them back in to a medical distributor we are working with in New York. You can also make long term donations.

    We want to just bring some music to people on Friday evenings with everything going on to brighten their days.

    Do you have a can’t live without quarantine item at your house?

    It is turning into a handful of things, this cast-iron pan I got for Christmas is seeing so much action. My acoustic guitar has been a life saver. I am practicing piano again which is something I haven’t been able to dig into because it requires patience and large chunks of time and it’s starting to open back up to me. Audible, listening to different books has been great. I am still going through my rainy-day to-do items.

    You just went on tour with Joan Jett who is legendary. Do you have any highlights from that tour and did she offer you any advice?

    It’s not very PG. She said something very amazing to me. She is a tiny human but her presence his huge. When I finally met her, she took a picture with me when my leg of the tour was ending. We hadn’t talked much up to that point. She said “Pussies Unite” really loud and my facial expression was completely transparent. That was Joan Jett’s very R-Rated send off for me. She was so cool and the Wilson Sisters were fantastic. They sounded wonderful. They packed out these stadiums. It was impressive to see the loyal fan bases they created and retained and they are continuing to build on. It was so much fun.

    Why did you decide to release the Deluxe Edition to the “Change the Whole Thing” album?

    We had all this content with the way we recorded the album and we wanted to give people a peek into that process. That was important to me. You can enjoy the music without knowing the back story but it’s also more meaningful knowing it is a bunch of friends coming together to make the record. It was an independent machine. It was because we wanted to. It was lightning in a bottle in a lot of ways when we started it. I think we were smart to pursue the recording that way even though it had its obvious challenges but it is just a beautiful moment in my life I wanted to let people in on.

    I totally changed the way I looked at the record after watching the documentary. I was amazed you were able to bring all those people together and you changed the way you were doing business and the way you do everything really. I thought that was super interesting, the career progression that got you to that point.

    Thank you. That album continues to categorize the moves we have made after that. We just finished a third album in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with Ben Tanner and other members of Alabama Shakes along with Emily King’s band. They sing with Brittany Howard as well, and people from my own band as well. I think King’s band substantiated my confidence in them as collaborators and myself. When we found someone to expand that sound with in Ben, I think we had to go for it. And to do an album in that room is a bucket list thing for us. It is a room that is a location of so many treasured recordings that I love and that made me want to sing in the first place. I didn’t think it would lead me to there but it made sense.

    That room seems to be special in a lot of ways. Are you going to do a documentary for the Muscle Shoals session? Did you record it?

    We have some footage and we recorded one session in particular to document a bit more. This was a deeper dive as far as production goes, being more conceptualized with it. We didn’t want to have cameras going all at once. It was more intimate. I don’t think it will be of the level of a documentary.

    You have also been writing with Marcus King and he lives in your neighborhood. I love Marcus. 

    He is fantastic. We wrote a song on this record and he played on that song and also played on a few others. He sang and played on the song we wrote together.

    You mentioned your iron skillet. You did a chef collaboration with Chef Garrett for the Opry. Do you have a dream cooking collaboration?

    Massimo Bottura, the Italian chef, because he seems like the happiest person ever and he is a culinary Rockstar. I have had some really awesome opportunities to meet some very gifted chefs. Music and food preparation go hand in hand. It is about nourishing the audience. It is supposed to be enjoyable and take a lot of vulnerability to put your music out or your food on a plate. I think that’s why these cool events are coming up like Live in the Vineyard. We did Bourbon and Beyond. I got to meet chef Brooke Williamson who just won a big competition. They are very inspirational people to me. I enjoy cooking and have had to hone my skills for sure. 

    A lot of festivals are combining music and food like BottleRock and Bourbon and Beyond. I love it. I think it is super interesting to see the chefs and musicians cook together. I am happy they are doing it. I ask all the chefs who their Rockstar collaboration cooking is.

    I love that. We have a few chefs in St. Louis we have become close with Qui Tran of Nudo House and Gerard Craft of Niche Food Group. I am doing a virtual wine tasting on Thursday with my buddies Jim & Laura Regusci at Regusci Winery who have a beautiful vineyard. I am going to sing some songs with some wine tasting.  

    You grew up singing in church. How did singing in church and playing shows when you were younger prepare you for where you are today?

    I always wish I had more exposure at an early age. Church was my only outlet. My family was enthusiastic and supportive. To be where I am now, more as a soulful artist, it is difficult to draw to the past of how I got here but we pushed through and it happened organically. The support from my family continuously is unrelenting and remains that way.

    How did you originally meet Them Vibes?

    I met them when they were part of another band called HER and Kings County. I was on a cruise and Brother Love’s now wife has been my drummer for nine years. They met on this Blake Shelton Country cruise. HER and Kings County dissolved and Alex and Larry formed Them Vibes and we started writing together. Sarah and Larry didn’t date right off the bat. She didn’t know that was her future husband. It took like a year and a half for all those things to percolate. We all became friends and collaborators. Some of us ended up marrying each other. That was six years ago and the writing sessions became more frequent and it was organic because we were friends and part of a mutual admiration society so it made sense we would start writing together.

    You put on your Instagram you were recently in New Orleans. I live in New Orleans part time. Do you have any favorite spots in New Orleans?

    I am so in love with New Orleans. I don’t want to use Alanis Morissette wrong, but ironic, I have been dying my whole life to go there and it was the last major trip I took before life shut down. My last fun trip was New Orleans. We went to Gautreau’s that was delicious. Bourbon Street is dangerous in a good way. I couldn’t live in New Orleans part time. I loved the Garden District. The souvenir that I took home was a plaster wall mount of a unicorn cat that we got in the Garden District. We call him Unicat. Frankie and Johnny’s, we got crawfish the last day. Some of us had an interesting flight home because we ate crawfish and beer. We squeezed every last drop of fun out of the trip. There was a bar with a rotating bar in the middle of the room.

    The Carousel Bar in the Monteleone hotel.

    I loved it. The whole energy, and it was the week after Mardi Gras and I thought it would be a little bit sleepy but it was anything but. My favorite weekend ever. It is my husband’s favorite city. I honestly feel we got lucky because so many cases of the Coronavirus were diagnosed there because of Mardi Gras. We decided to go the week after.

    We returned from New Orleans and the tornado hit Nashville that Monday. Then I had to go to LA and had to come back early due to the lockdown. 

    Were you directly affected by the tornado?

    Extremely close. It was my neighborhood. We are so lucky we got spared but a couple blocks away houses were leveled. My favorite venue where I play often, the Basement East, that was leveled. Our close friend the sound guy who works there had to go down to the basement. Luckily nobody was hurt. It has been pretty magnificent to see everyone rally around the cause helping with repairs. A lot of these musicians that are out of work are going to the houses and helping with the demo and getting Nashville back on its feet which has been pretty cool. It has been a couple of depressing weeks. The first week people didn’t know which way was up and it was absolute disorientation all the way around. I think after that wore off, people snapped back into this level of productivity and support that is indicative of East Nashville.

    You spoke out about the gender imbalance with women in country music last year. Your new music doesn’t really have a genre. It is Bluesy, Soul, Rock; it is everything. Do you feel like there is a better situation for women in other genres of music? Is there a reason you have made a departure from traditional Country music?

    It is a multi-faceted answer. The sonic shift wasn’t necessarily made as a marketing move. It was the natural progression of where the music was going. There were definitely political frustrations when I was in Country radio because the inequality is so apparent that those that say there is not are willfully ignorant. That made me pissed off and made me look to other outlets to be creative. That being said, while I am not in Country and not releasing music to Country radio, I don’t really feel like that when I see something that is absolute bullshit it is not my war to fight. I think these are my friends and these are my peers. I’m not trying to get on Country radio but they are. I know that animal very well. I speak up to it occasionally when I see program directors saying stupid shit they shouldn’t be saying.

    Are you still playing the Opry? I know you have played the Opry dozens of times?

    Yes. That is my favorite place to play because of the community. They walk the walk to represent Nashville music, Americana music, Country new and old, people who are established, people who are releasing their first singles. I don’t think there is a platform like that that has run as long as that and done as many shows anywhere else. To be embraced by them is so invaluable. They are the reason you saw me at Bonnaroo in 2018.

    The Opry at Bonnaroo has become my favorite thing at a festival all summer. It was such an unexpected idea and it became so special.

    It is so cool. The year we played they had just extremely high caliber talent. It was an honor. People come from all over the world to Bonnaroo. To not get the long-standing tradition coming out of Nashville would be a missed opportunity.

    What is your quarantine playlist?

    We have a quarantine playlist. The first week it was more funny things like The Police “Don’t Stand Too Close to Me” and “All by Myself,” the Celine Dion version. Kenny Rogers and Bill Withers are on there. We have been adding a lot too that. We have been listening to the new Phish albums late at night on Fridays after our concerts, listened to it twice in a row. That’s my husband’s doing but I enjoyed it.

  • Nashville Strong

    Nashville is near and dear to me because it is so close to my hometown in Tennessee and so many of my close friends live in the Nashville area. In the early hours of March 3, 2020 an EF3 tornado plowed through the outskirts of Nashville leaving devastation in its path. The tornado took dozens of lives and injured almost 200 people. On March 9, I visited the city to cover a benefit for tornado victims called To Nashville With Love at Marathon Music Works. I drove thru the areas of East Nashville and it brought be to tears to see the damage so close to my friend’s homes. 

    Just two weeks after the tornado the city started to deal with a new threat called COVID-19 that ultimately shutdown the city and stopped efforts to re-build the city after the tornados. It was like a one-two punch for Music City. As weeks have passed many people have done what they do best in Tennessee with neighbors helping neighbors. There is a reason it is called the Volunteer State.

    On my way to New Orleans last week I drove back into Nashville on May 1 and I was very happy to see construction happening again with re-building efforts. I was especially overjoyed to see construction at the Basement East, one of Nashville’s most iconic music venues. 

    I have faith and I know this city will prevail and the live music will be back soon!

    If you would like to help support the Nashville community affected by the tornado, donations are still being accepted at ToNashvilleWithLove.org.

  • Robert Penn Warren Home

    I have been driving thru Guthrie Kentucky from my hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee to visit family in Ohio my whole life. I had no idea until a recent trip when I noticed a small sign on the side of the highway that Guthrie was home of the famous poet Robert Penn Warren. When I made the drive to New Orleans this week I decided to stop in Tennessee for one night and I stopped by the house of the poet on the drive. 

    Robert Penn Warren was born in Guthrie, Todd County, Kentucky, on April 24, 1905. He graduated Guthrie School at 15 and his parents felt he was too young to enter college so he attended Clarksville High School for one year before being admitted to Vanderbilt University at the age of 16. He went on to graduate school at the University of California and Yale. In October, 1928 he entered New College at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar receiving his B.Litt. in the spring of 1930.

    Warren was a poet, critic, novelist, and teacher. He taught at Vanderbilt University, Southwestern College, University of Minnesota, Yale University, and Louisiana State University. While at LSU he founded and edited, along with Cleanth Brooks and Charles W. Pipkin, the literary quarterly, The Southern Review. As a poet, he was appointed the nation’s first Poet Laureate, February 26, 1986. He published sixteen volumes of poetry and two—Promises: Poems, 1954-1956 and Now and Then: Poems, 1976-1978—won Pulitzer Prizes. Warren published ten novels. One novel, All the King’s Men, won a Pulitzer Prize. Two novels, All the King’s Men and Band of Angels were made into movies. He is the only author to have won the Pulitzer for both fiction and poetry.

    It was really cool to discover his history in the local area and see his house in Kentucky where he grew up.

  • Interview: Chris Bandi

    Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, Chris Bandi grew up being influenced by a wide range of genres from rock and pop to 90’s country. He has been writing songs since high school and began making the trek to Nashville during his college days at Ole Miss, honing his craft playing small clubs. He made his Grand Ole Opry debut on February 25.

    Chris’s breakout single “Man Enough Now” is currently on country radio and has over 80 million streams. He has also been named a “2020 Artist to Watch” by numerous country publications. His self-titled debut EP will be releasing on May 29. Fans can pre-order or pre-save the EP now here.

    I loved discovering his new music during this “stay at home” period and I encourage everyone to check it out. I can’t wait to photograph so many of these new artists when we resume live music. 

    We were able to catch up with Bandi for a quick round of questions where we talk Tiger King, favorite tour stops, and Key West memories.

    What are you doing to stay sane during this quarantine period? Any advice for others?

    I’ve been watching a ton of Netflix, I think Tiger King has single handedly kept me from going crazy! We take our dogs on walks almost every day which is rare because I’m usually out of town so often. I’ve also gotten to do a lot of fun Facebook and Instagram lives which I hadn’t really done before so that has been a great experience.

    I completely agree on Tiger King. It defined this year so far. How are you staying connected to fans during this time?

    It’s been awesome being able to hop on Instagram or Facebook and play a few songs in real time, I’m going to start doing a bit more of that! I’ve also started posting videos of myself playing songs that I love. I used to do that all the time and it’s fun being able to do it again! 

    The music industry is being hit hard by this time. Are you doing anything to support any specific charities or causes during this crisis? Is so how can others help support it as well?

    We’ve been trying to support all our local businesses while everything is shut down. We’re buying gift cards and things like that and we’re really looking forward to the day we get to get out and use them.

    Quarantine item you couldn’t live without?

    Netflix and my TV. It’s been nice, my girlfriend and I have been quarantined together with our dogs so I’m very glad neither one of us has had to be alone this whole time! 

    What’s in your refrigerator right now?

    Luckily my girlfriend did a great job stocking it up before we went into lockdown! We’ve got a few HelloFresh meals, lots of beer and soda. 

    What are some of your favorite destinations when on tour and why?

    I love New York, I got to play there for the first time in March before everything shut down. I just love the energy of the city and how no matter what time it is or where you are in the city there is always something to do.

    Favorite tour memory?

    I guess it wasn’t technically part of a tour but my favorite memory so far has been playing The Grand Ole Opry. We just got to play it for the first time in February and it is something I will never forget! 

    Has a travel destination ever inspired a song? What is the story?

    Actually, yes! We used to do a residency in Key West, FL every year. We’d go down for 5-7 days and play every night at a bar called The Smokin’ Tuna. I wrote a song called “Ain’t Got a Girl” about a night down there and some wise advice. 

    Do you have a dream vacation spot after quarantine is over?

    Somewhere warm and close to a golf course! I’m not too picky!  

    Any message to Fans? 

    Stay safe, stay healthy and if you can, stay inside! We are all going to get through this and we cannot wait to see y’all as soon as we can! 

    Photo By: Matthew Berinato

  • Beam of Hope

    Last week I decided to visit downtown Cincinnati with Bryan to see the newest edition to the Cincinnati skyline designed to encourage solidarity as the region lives through the COVID-19 pandemic. The city is deserted so there was not a risk of being near anyone as we took pictures of this special exhibit.

    The partners that put together BLINK installed a light called the Beam of Hope at The Banks. The beams will light up the sky each day from dusk to dawn in front of the iconic Cincinnati buildings until the pandemic is “under control.” The scene provides a beautiful sight as a reminder of brighter days and that we are all in this together.

    The installation was created by Brave Berlin and Vincent Lighting Solutions. It was sponsored by the Carol Ann and Ralph V Haile, Jr. Foundation, and made possible by the producers of BLINK.

  • Interview: Drake White

    Drake White has been making music for a decade and has garnered four Top 40 Country hits, multiple national tours, and award-winning albums over the years. He has toured nationally with Willie Nelson, Zac Brown Band and Dierks Bentley just to name a few. His song “Making Me Look Good Again” is one of my all-time country song favorites. Drake released his latest EP Stars on Friday and it debuted #1 on the iTunes Country Chart and in the Top 10 in the All Genres chart.

    During his summer tour in August 2019, Drake collapsed on stage performing because of an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) in his brain. As he has made his way toward a full recovery, he also put the finishing touches on Whitewood Hollow, the rustic event space that Drake co-designed with his wife, Alexis White an artisan chef and event planner. 

    We caught up with Drake recently to discuss his road to recovery, his new music, Wednesday “Therapy Sessions” and off the beaten path travel destinations. Checkout our interview with Drake from his home in Whitewood Hollow.

    Hi Drake, I first met you in 2011 on a Kid Rock Cruise.

    Oh wow. What was I doing? My goodness. That trip changed my life. I remember getting off that boat and praying to God saying, “God I have to do something different” and that pushed me and the band into this diet, the Hollywood Physique Diet and I lost 25-30 pounds and transformed my mindset because we absolutely went for it on that cruise.

    Yeah that place is not the healthiest but it was a lot of fun.

    Now Bobby is my neighbor and he has chilled out in his older age and we now hang out and drink coffee. We get after it every now and then but it is nothing like how that cruise was.

    So, you are quarantining in Tennessee?

    We are in Tennessee and have about 15 acres we have deemed Whitewood Hollow with a barn and the dogs. I have got the tractors and mowers. I am just recovering and continuing to heal. In a way it is a weird blessing for me because I am just getting better and ready for when we do jump back in the deep end and get back in the swing of things doing four or five shows a week.

    You did have a large medical issue last year. I thought that this “stay at home” situation might actually help you because it gives you a little more time to not to push yourself and help with the healing process.

    You are spot on. Everybody is in quarantine now and it puts everybody on the same level and staying home. Even though nobody knows what we are going through right now. It is nuts. Having the hemorrhagic stroke on stage on August 15th and just working on my mindset, working on my body, on my left side getting it back to life, learning how to walk, learning how to play the guitar and connecting those neurotransmitters in the brain has been my full-time job. 

    This situation right now slowed down the world because the world was going so fast. You can bet your ass there was a lot of that in my mind where I was thinking I was going to get left behind. I know that’s not true, nobody at the end of the day is going to leave you behind if you focus on your work and what you are passionate about. In a weird way this has slowed the world down and given me more time to kind of observe and knock my Peloton out and keep on working and keep on grinding so I will be in a healthier state when this is all lifted and we are all together in a big sweaty venue playing shows.

    I got a Peloton the day we went into quarantine and it has saved my sanity.

    Aren’t they the best? It is part of my regimen. You get on it for 30-45 minutes, whatever you decide to do. When you finish, you are finished, you are off and feel better.

    You grew up singing in church and had a religious family. How did that prepare you for where you are now?

    It is everything. I like to say a spiritual family because my grandfather was a preacher, my dad is a fantastic singer and so is my mom. There was always music in the household to grab onto the faith. I never lost it, but you go up and down like a roller coaster through college, but I had a grounded group of friends that were faith driven believers who loved Jesus. Alex (my wife) is a studier and she is a giver and a servant and we start every morning with that time together and it slows everything down and makes you focus on what you are really grateful for and it gets me closer to God. 

    I think there is a revival coming. You’ll hear it in the music. You’ll hear it in my happiness, in my joy, in my soul. You don’t have any choice when you have a near death experience. It is very real.

    It is a scary time for people. Even after everything you have been through the last year, you have had a really positive attitude. Can you give advice to people at home that may be struggling?

    Yes. Take time to embrace it. I think a couple nights ago, last Tuesday was the supermoon, when the moon was closest to the Earth. Alex an I went out in the front yard, it was a little cloudy and my mind goes, let’s go in and watch Ozark or whatever we were watching at the time. Then I said No, we are going to sit out here and have a glass of wine and let the conversation lead us. We went out there and threw a blanket down and watched the supermoon. Our persistence was rewarded when the clouds broke and it broke us into this conversation about being children around a fire, being children under the stars and really sitting there with our grand-dads and uncles. It was a cool conversation that lasted like two hours and we came in and went to bed and got eight hours of sleep. 

    I think my advice for people is to embrace the hard times, embrace the things we are going through. If you handle this by being calm, going to your higher power whatever you choose, whether it is the universe or God. Go try to do something new, read a book instead of watching Netflix for ten minutes. Jump on the Peloton and do that hard 60 minute or hour and a half ride you never thought you would do or go to 60 on your resistance instead of 40. Whatever it is, just crank it up a little bit, sink into it, my buddy would say “Embrace the suck.”

    I think on the other side of this, it is like when you quit drinking for a second, when you quit drinking for two weeks, you know how good that glass of wine is two weeks after not drinking one or that first beer. It is phenomenal. It is really good and that’s what I think shows, baseball games, picnics, potlucks, and camaraderie are going to feel like after this. Put yourself in that position. Meditate. Do something you wouldn’t normally do in this time and take the time to really sink in. Organize your damn closet. Do something you wouldn’t normally do.

    I want to talk about Whitewood Hollow. You and your wife built it on your property in Tennessee. What is it, the purpose and how can people take advantage in the future?

    We had a dream that we had talked about for years. We got married six years ago on June 8th. We had talked about building a barn. I had grown up around barns. I grew up working in them. I grew up getting into mischief in them. I grew up starting bands in them. They are a staple of my life. I was going to build a barn anyway to house my Bronco and my boat and tractors and stuff like that. Alex is as passionate about cooking and food and serving people as I am about music, love, and serving people. We wanted to find a way to enrich our lives and the people around us so we built this place and ended up calling it Whitewood Hollow after a visit to Cheekwood. There is a huge White Oak at the front of the property you have to go past to get to the barn. 

    We just started jotting ideas down, what we wanted and manifested it into fruition through will and determination. Alex was like, let’s put my kitchen in it, so when we have a family and start to have kids I can walk outside and go straight into the kitchen.

    The real reason we built the place and we prayed for God to protect that place and the Holy Spirit to surround it is because we want to bring people in there and have a place for community. Of course there will be weddings in it, we are going to do as many weddings as we can because they are awesome and lucrative. But we feel like this place has turned into this magical thing that we are going to be able to sit down, break bread with people, share stories, play a Bluebird type show, almost a Live at Daryl’s House type situation. We have booked it for photo shoots and corporate events. I have played multiple shows inside.  I’m doing Wednesday Night Therapy every Wednesday Night in the barn. 

    It is a magical place and it has exceeded our expectations. I love to build and have always been a builder at heart. I had a general contractor, I didn’t swing hammers everyday but we put a lot of work on it and put a lot of time and thought into how the building is turned, which way the sun is coming up, how it is going to be heated and cooled, and how it feels when you walk in, you can tell there’s Poplar on the ceilings and walls and huge cathedral ceilings. It feels kind of spiritual, it definitely has a spirit to it. We have had a couple events there and they have been just magical. We are going to feed that good time spirit and continue to love on people and serve people through it.

    So, people can reserve time for basically events of all kinds there.

    Whitewoodhollow.com has everything you need to know about reserving it. Whatever you want to do. Alex is like kindergarten teacher superhuman, she is way more organized than I am. You can turnkey it. I am going to get ordained. It sounds silly but my grandfather was a preacher and I love that spirit. I feel like marriage is the greatest thing I ever done. It is the hardest thing but I just feel really close to that covenant. I am going to get ordained so I can perform ceremonies. I just started a record label called Rev White Records. It is going to be a church in a sense. 

    You can rent it out for a yoga studio. You can rent it out to get married. You can rent it out to have a party. We just had the guys from King and Country come in and give their grandfather an 80th birthday party. It is multi-functional and all laid out on the website and it has been a blessing. We can’t wait to jump into it.

    I know your wife loves to cook and she is a wonderful cook. What is your favorite item she makes?

    She experiments with me. I love her lasagna. She really puts a lot of time in the cheeses, she puts a lot of time in that. She uses local beef. Everything is local. We have a circle friends around White’s Creek where the farm is located. When you are eating one of these meals from Milk and Honey or Whitewood Hollow, the meat and vegetables usually come from a guy right down the road from local farms. There are five farms on our road. When you eat a fresh tomato that was raised down the road that was watered by the water that comes from the side of the mountain it is just a different taste, a different explosion of nutrients you get and Alex really breathes into that. Her lasagna is one of my favorites. Her briskets are also amazing. We teamed up with Traeger grills and she is smoking like 25 Boston Butts right now for nine hours. She is crushing it. She is taking orders and delivering 15 meals. She is just putting her bandana around her face and delivering these people her home cooked meals.

    I want to talk a little bit about the new music. You have this EP coming out April 24th. You have been in recovery. What has been your process to write and put together these songs while you have had to stay home and go through therapy and recovery?

    We are doing a lot of Zoom calls right now. Literally the new music was me sitting in the hospital bed and calling Jaren Josten. We recorded that new music in May. The songs took on a whole new meaning after my injury. All my songs have a new meaning with my fight, with this battle, with this choice to be a victor not a victim mentality and go for it. I want to use this story to be vulnerable and share the story of the brain injury and share that my left hand isn’t working. 

    So many blessings have come out of it but the music has just deepened the meaning of the words. I have always had that relentless optimistic spirit. I literally started working while I was in the hospital, as early as September 1st right when I was able to get cognitively back where I could think. I had to get back to my music. Because the music is what fuels everything in my life. It is like these organic meals, the nutrients. It is not a choice, it is what I wake up thinking about, go to bed thinking about. I have been blessed to make my vocation my passion. I just started calling Jaren to get to work.

    We are playing shows again. We played a show at the end of February in San Antonio. The fans are literally going to see how music heals. My booking agent asked if I was prepared to go out there less than 100%. I thought about that statement and I made a speech about it. My answer is Hell Yeah. I have got to go out there because I want my fans to see a redemptive story, see a fight, see how they helped me through healing and how music truly heals and how they are going to help me play guitar and jump around like Eddie Vedder again. 

    I want them to see that I am going to put my new 100% out on the stage every day. This is not a linear thing that is constantly going up. That does not define success for me anymore. What defines success to me is getting your ass out there and speaking your truth and being vulnerable in the eyes of 1000s of people and helping them. What fulfills me is helping them get to the next day, from serving them a good meal to playing them a great song that invokes feeling and helps them through a cancer treatment or a dog passing away or a parent going through cancer. If you can help someone through that it is super fulfilling to me. That is what this injury put me in the face of. When I die and go up to the pearly gates, I want to hear well done. Through Alex’s help and a lot of training and meditation, it has got me ready to be stronger for my fans, for my future kids. I just started working from the hospital bed and now I am continuing to grind in and seek new innovation. I have a muse for the rest of my life.

    “Making Me Look Again” is one of my favorite songs of the last 18 months. What is your favorite song to play on the new EP?

     “Mix ‘Em with Whiskey” hands down.

    I heard that on your Wednesday session a few weeks ago, you played that and it was the first time I heard it. That’s a great song.

    I love whiskey. I love the craftsmanship in it. I love that it is called spirits. The song is a party. The song is about camaraderie and about craftsmanship and having fun with everybody. Whiskey can be a crutch or it can be a comrade to get you through something. It could also be a party, which that is what it is most of the time for people. You go in and have a drink with somebody and have a good conversation. We have been playing it live and before the second chorus people are singing along. 

    You have toured all over the world. Are there any hidden gems you have come across in your travels?

    For an Alabama guy growing up going to the river in the land of milk and honey in Appalachia, I have always had a nomadic spirit. When I saw The Lord of The Rings I said I was going to New Zealand where it was filmed. I went to New Zealand and stayed for five months. I ended up living there on an avocado orchard going and hitchhiking around the whole South Island by myself with a backpack. When I got back, I got a record deal and a publishing deal. I think everything flowed out of the freedom of that trip. 

    The hidden gem for me would be the Middle East. We went to Bahrain last year for a USO type tour. There is almost a fear associated with that part of the world but it was an amazing place. Go to a place in the world where people may not believe what you believe, where people do not speak the same language and get in that uncomfortable place. Travelling into places that are against the grain is important. Go there instead of somewhere familiar.

    Charleston is phenomenal. Panama City Beach is amazing. Savannah, I got engaged in Savannah, Georgia. But spend a little bit of time in Christchurch in New Zealand, but then go to the smallest sheep herding community way off the beaten path and spend some time with people and you will find yourself breaking bread with these people, spending the night with these people, really learning the culture. That is my tip on travel. 

    As far as specific places, New Zealand is still one of my favorites but that Middle East blew my mind how culturally diverse it was. Stay in the big city for a day but then go where nobody else wants to go and walk up into a bar somewhere and make connections with people.

    I totally agree. I tell people to travel outside their comfort zone to travel to places where they don’t feel comfortable and it will change you. There are wonderful people everywhere in the world. 

    That is great. I always say in my shows, you know what, there are more good people than bad out there. I have travelled the world. I consider myself to be a world traveler. I never waited more than 15 minutes in New Zealand for a ride when I was hitchhiking. Even in Bahrain, the Iraqi people came into Bahrain to party at night and they were so nice to us. It is about how far are you willing to go.

    In the quarantine, we are really uncomfortable right now. Imagine what is going to happen after this, when we really appreciate sitting around having that meal with your family, setting around listening to music, all the shows are going to be sold out, all the baseball games are going to be sold out, all the pizza is going to be sold off the block. The economy is going to recover. People are going to be healthy. It’s going to be awesome.

    You are doing an online concert series on Wednesday nights called “Therapy Sessions.” You started out trying to help your musician friends and raising money. Why has that been important to you and how can people help?

    Wednesday Night Therapy started a long time ago in the foothills of Appalachia where I was born in North Alabama. Wednesday Night Therapy was started where my Uncle Ron lived, the Vietnam Vet. A group of my college friends would gather around that fire on Wednesday night and we would congratulate each other for making it through another week, a spirit pick me up, and it turned into overindulging a lot. It was one of those things where I got to sing some songs and tell some stories and that became the therapy in it. It gave us something mid-week to look forward to. I feel we are drawn toward community. I know we are. 

    Wednesday Night Therapy was reborn to give those fans something to grasp onto. When you think of Drake White and the culture we have built, it is really that sitting around the fire with your favorite flannel on and listening to stories of years ago, listening to songs, listening to jokes, learning the craftsmanship of telling that story and playing that guitar. 

    We do it at the barn and we do different covers. We do different setlists every Wednesday and we will continue doing this in and out of quarantine because of the opportunity we have now with social media to connect with fans. I will say the fire was the world’s first social media. Gathering around the fire, hunters and gatherers telling stories around the fire, that was the first social media. That was the first place people told the stories of the day. That is what we are doing. The donations have been amazing because I have been able to pay my band, pay my mortgage quite frankly because this comes on top of a six-month hiatus because of the injury. Through the merch sales and the innovation of my team, we have been able to sustain through this crazy time through the generosity of our fans. It is a big community. It is our fifth Wednesday in a row we have done it and we hope to do it 50, 100, 200 more times.

  • Cincinnati Music Hall

    On Friday the weather was beautiful so I decided to take a drive down to Washington Park in downtown Cincinnati. The tulips in the park are in bloom so I ventured out to take some photos. It is easy to social distance because the downtown streets are empty but I still wore my mask as a precaution. The tulips did not disappoint and it was great to get out of the house for some fresh air and a walk in the park.

    Washington Park is also home to Cincinnati Music Hall. Built in 1878 as a classical music performance hall, the building was designed by architect Samuel Hannaford and is considered one of the last and best examples of the Victorian Gothic Revival Style. It was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior in 1975.

    Another fun fact is that many people have reported seeing ghosts at Music Hall and it has been selected as one of The Travel Channel’s Most Terrifying Places in America. 

  • Interview: Chef Curtis Stone

    Chef Curtis Stone is an Australian celebrity chef and owner of LA based restaurants Maude and Gwen. Maude was awarded a Michelin Star in 2019. Curtis is also a New York Times bestselling author of cookbooks and stars on numerous cooking television shows including Top Chef Masters, Top Chef Junior, and Master Chef Australia.

    We were able to catch up with Chef Stone last week to discuss his restaurant’s transition to carry out during the pandemic, Australian travel destinations, fond food memories and the upcoming season of his latest PBS television show.

    The last year has brought its challenges for your home country of Australia. Prior to COVID-19 Australia was ravaged by un-relenting fires.  Can you tell me about your #Commit2One pledge work with the Drought Angels?  

    About five years ago, I started my #Commit2One initiative. I was getting approached constantly about donating a cooking experience here, a restaurant gift certificate there, and I just wasn’t sure if it was having an impact.  I decided to choose one nonprofit to partner with each year so I can track the time and resources I was devoting to them and really see the difference I was making.  I’ve worked the National Young Farmers Coalition, Chrysalis (an LA-based organization working to provide second chances and job opportunities for formerly incarcerated and homeless men & women), AdoptTogether, and Share Our Strength.  The Australian wildfires were raging at the beginning of the year and I learned about Drought Angels, a female-founded organization based in Queensland who assist farmers during unforgiving natural disasters.

    Of course, we need to discuss the impacts that Coronavirus has had on your restaurants.  Your restaurants have transitioned to carryout in LA. How has the @gwenla pop-up market and grocery delivery service been received by the community? 

    The heartbeat of Gwen is the butcher shop.  You literally are at the butcher counter when you enter the restaurant, so we already had that retail component which allowed us to transition rather quickly.  The day before the lockdown started in LA, I was with my wife, Lindsay, and some of her girlfriends who were talking about their fear of getting food and supplies during a potential quarantine.  I went to Gwen the next day and said, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” It’s been our model for the last few weeks and have evolved into grocery delivery service as well. It really has been a team effort, the staff brought it to life. It’s their baby, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. The feedback and words of gratitude from the community keep us going, keep us fighting.

    Are there any causes that you are supporting during the pandemic? How can others help?

    I’m still continuing my work with Drought Angels.  Farmers need our help now more than ever.  I just heard that someone made a $500 donation to their website which is super generous during these times.

    You’ve had the opportunity to work and learn in some of the most amazing kitchens in the world (Australia, London, LA) however you credit your mum and grannie as teaching you everything you know about food and cooking.  It is so great how families come together with food.  What are you best memories learning in the kitchen with them?  Any family kitchen secrets to share? 

    My first and perhaps favorite memory in the kitchen was with my grannie, Maude.  She was from Yorkshire and made the best fudge. It’s probably where I developed my sweet tooth. I think the secret to cooking and sharing time in the kitchen is to have fun.  If it’s not fun, the food isn’t going to taste good.

    You clearly try to connect the professional kitchen and the home kitchens and have even developed your Kitchen Solutions kitchenware for home cooks.  What kitchen tools are essential for a home-cook just starting out or maybe a person who is now home for the first time in years because of quarantine? 

    Any chef will tell you a sharp knife is your best friend and they’re not wrong. But until you get the hang of cooking meat by touch and feel, I think having a thermometer is equally as important.  There are few things in the kitchen worse than a beautiful and expensive piece of meat that’s been overcooked and is dry.

    I believe you have at least six cookbooks published. How do you remain creative and keep the content fresh?  How has the time you’ve spent judging and critiquing other’s cuisine provided you a spark for your own creations? 

    Travel has always been an inspiration for me.  There is always something to learn from cuisines around the world, either by discovering new ingredients or learning a different technique.  Surrounding yourself with talented people also keeps the creative spark alive. I know you won’t believe me but judging other people’s food when the cameras are rolling can be just as stressful as having your own food critiqued. You want to be honest, but you don’t want to break hearts or crush someone’s dream.  It’s also a moment to be reflective of your own cooking and an opportunity to learn.

    I loved watching Top Chef Junior. It was amazing see how advanced some of the kids were in the kitchen. You also have two children. What is your advice for parents who have kids who may want to try cooking at home? 

    Start in the garden.  When kids know where their food comes from and the work it takes to get it to the table, they have a deeper appreciation for it. We’re all spending more time cooped up at home these days and getting some dirt under your nails is a good way to just get outdoors. I also have a rule to try everything.  It’s fine if the boys don’t like something but they should give every food a shot and if it’s not for them, encourage them to try it again later.  My oldest son, Hudson, loves everything and really explores ingredients.  He had his first oyster at Maude a few weeks ago.  I can’t say he was a fan, but I was a proud papa for him diving in.

    What is an item you can’t live without in quarantine? 


    What is your guilty pleasure dish? 

    There are so many if I’m being honest. But to nail it down, I love tacos and anything with chocolate.

    For people who may want to visit Australia, what are “not to miss” activities or destinations? 

    You know there are the iconic places like Sydney Harbour and its Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef, but I’ve been fortunate enough to spend some time with Aboriginal people during the course of the last two years and it’s really affected me. They are true stewards of the land in Australia and have been living on the continent for the last 50,000 years. Their deep respect for their environment and how they culturally commune with and respect nature is incredibly humbling. As current events unfold, it gives me a greater appreciation for the indigenous people and their traditions. We all could learn from their outlook and sense of responsibility to their ancestors and our planet.

    Is there a specific trip or destination that has influenced your cooking or a special dish that you prepare? 

    I was traveling in Western Australia in the Margaret River region and trapped marron, an Australian shellfish, with my mate, Chef Tony Howell.  I took the experience back to my restaurant Maude and created a dish using marron, seaweed, dukkah, and local indigenous ingredients like saltbush.

    What is your dream vacation post quarantine? 

    I’ve been working on the second season of Field Trip with Curtis Stone for PBS, where I’m visiting different destinations around the globe to soak the culture, cuisine, and wine of the region to bring back to the restaurants.  There are a few spots we’ve talked about going to when we’re able including Chile, Japan, Brazil, and parts of Africa. I’d also love to revisit the places where we’ve already traveled and filmed to check in on the purveyors and new mates I met.  

    A lot of music festivals are combining music and cooking with celebrity chefs- who would be your dream rock star cooking collaboration?  

    My restaurant Gwen was featured in the VIP section of Coachella the last few years. I get this question a lot and I’ve answered The Beatles in the past, but my wife Lindsay would freak if I got to cook for Beyoncé.

    Photo by: Paul Donegan

  • Interview: Andy Frasco

    Andy Frasco is one of the hardest working musicians in the business. He has spent most of the year for over a decade on the road performing for fans with his high energy shows. He is not even slowing down in quarantine as he entertains fans from home with DJ sessions and lip sync videos with many of his musician friends joining in the fun.

    Andy released his newest LP today Keep On Keeping OnThe album has some serious tones as Andy openly discusses mental health issues. He has been open about his struggles with addiction and depression and the toll that the road has taken on him.  “We’re going through a mental health crisis right now,” says Andy Frasco. “Loneliness, depression, suicide, it’s all on the rise. When you’re struggling in the moment, it can feel like you’re the only one, but that’s just not the truth. I wanted to make a record to remind you that you’re not alone.” After hitting a breaking point last year, Andy started writing poetry and those poems have been transformed into anthems. This record is the perfect sound to provide some uplifting songs while we are all staying at home. With this pop funk collection, you can definitely tell that Frasco loves the music and we are so happy he is continuing to find his happiness.

    I first met Andy years ago on The Rock Boat and was happy to catch up with him at home in Denver last week to discuss the new album, mental health and his podcast for our interview.

    I want to talk about the new album, Keep On Keeping On, it is definitely fitting for the current times. Obviously, you didn’t plan on this pandemic situation happening when you were recording but one of the things you talk about is mental health and your struggles. How are you staying healthy and do you have advice for people during this “stay at home” time?

    I am not forcing anything right now. We are in a position right now where it is ok to think about ourselves. Granted, I am in a situation where I don’t have a nine to five. I lost all my gigs until August. I think it’s important to focus on living for today and not tomorrow, not thinking about if you are going to lose your job or not thinking about what happened yesterday. It’s going to keep your mentality rockin’.

    One of the singles you put out was “None of Those Things.” I love that song and it is more relevant now than ever because we are seeing none of the stuff you have really matters.

    It is funny like we are still surviving and not spending any money. 

    Your fancy car doesn’t matter right now.

    Yeah it is parked in the garage. You can’t use it. That is the beauty of this quarantine. You can see the downside with the people dying and it is horrible. But the upside, we are having a change of mind status and we don’t need all these things to live. All we need is companionship, love, and staying present.

    You have been staying busy. I have been keeping up with your videos online which started with you lip syncing classic songs from your “Naked in the Kitchen” sessions to enlisting all your friends to sing Whitney Houston and Pointer Sisters songs. How did you come up with this idea?

    I was stoned at 2 AM and I started texting all my friends to lip sync so we Zoomed a lip sync party. It was just so fun to watch all my friends just scream Shania Twain. I said I am going to do that. We are going to make a video with all of us in it. I started making it and the response is great and I have kept going with it.

    I was just talking to Maggie Rose the other day in another interview and she said she had to do her Andy Frasco video after she was finished talking to me.

    Yes, I am posting that tonight. We are doing “Man! I Feel Like a Woman.”

    How did you organize all the video? Did you just text your friends?

    It is the first time all my musician friends aren’t doing anything and we can talk for 40 minutes and get to know each other.

    I feel like this year started really shitty when Kobe passed away and that was the beginning of a lot of really bad stuff. I know you are a big Kobe fan, you wear the Lakers jersey every time I see you. You were really upset when you did the podcast tribute to him. Have you had time to reflect and what is the biggest thing Kobe imparted upon you?

    I think work ethic. Kobe never gave up. He was the first one in the gym and the last person in the gym. He taught me to never give up. I am proud that I am working as much as I work and doing 250 shows a year for 13+ years and making all these videos, just staying busy. I know Kobe would want that. 

    I have been digging deeper into your podcast. The thing that impresses me the most about the interviews is that you are talking to people musician to musician. Do you ever get nervous for it? How do you prep for it? Do you just talk to them like they are your friends?

    I talk to them as if I am just a peer. We tour. I am doing the same thing they are doing. Maybe they are doing it on a bigger level, maybe they are doing it on a smaller level. At the end of the day, we are just trying to make music our living and it is hard. I want the listener to see the other side of music when the lights are off and the artists have to deal with themselves again.

    I feel like you ask the tough questions I would wonder but never ask. I was impressed with that as you get personal and they are always open and honest and you make them feel comfortable.

    I appreciate that. Howard Stern is an idol.

    He is the best. I dread the day he’s not going to be in the car with me driving. Howard can make someone seem more human than they are with their persona. 

    A lot of times you talk about being sad and struggles on the road. What does it mean to be happy to you?

    I think being happy is being present. I keep on saying that but I realize it more and more. With this quarantine you could go real down the deep end if you don’t stay present. It is hard to stay happy thinking about our jobs and our emotions and stuff. It really is hard. Just staying present, trying to see what makes you happy right now, not what is going to make you happy tomorrow and live by those laws.

    When I saw you perform, you always seem energetic and happy on stage. It shocked me when I heard you talk about the depression and the flip side to it because I feel like with your music you are the most joyful person.

    That is the problem I have with social media too. Everyone just shows the one side of people, like the happiness side. We don’t show the darkness at all. It gives the illusion that everyone is happy right now when they are not.

    Part of the proceeds from your merchandise is going to help Backline. I love that charity. Can you tell us about that charity and why you chose to support it?

    Backline was created because Neil Casal and Jeff Austin passed away. I believe in this organization. We don’t know who is sad and who’s not and who is going through shit because we have to be turned on all the time. Like you said, you have always seen me as happy because we are always turning it on. It is really important to give the resources to musicians to get therapy and get focused on themselves. Maybe it is time to start helping all the musicians and crews. 

    I think it is coming to light right now more than ever that there is this huge group of people that make the music and shows happen behind the scenes. They are gig workers who don’t have health insurance and can’t just go to the therapist when things get rough. Providing resources for them is very important.

    I agree 100%.

    Every Thursday you are doing a live stream. I call it a mix of quirky songs and DJ set.

    Yeah! Have you watched it yet?

    I have. I actually really enjoy the DJ part of it. I think you are playing really fun songs. I love you are playing the most upbeat tracks.

    I am trying to pump them up. I am trying a little wedding DJ vibe, not the hip shit, not I heard this from a Vinyl in 1971 track. I don’t want to dance to that. It didn’t even make the record.

    Please keep playing the upbeat tunes.

    I was worried because, last night I DJed for an hour and a half. I was like WTF Frasco, you need to calm down.

    Have you found any quirky or hidden gem locations on tour you have stopped into?

    I have a few cities that I love and keep thinking about. One is in Europe, Utrecht, Netherlands next to Amsterdam. It is local Amsterdam. It is where tourists go but keep the Amsterdam vibe. I also love Savannah, Georgia. I love Bend, Oregon. That is a fun town.

    I met you guys for the first time on The Rock Boat. Have you done other cruises over the year?

    Yes, Jam Cruise. It is so fun to be in that setting with other bands and fans.

    Do you have a message for fans?

    Keep on Keeping On, that is so cheesy. I think stay focused on today. Don’t focus on tomorrow. Who knows when we are going to be out of this? If we can just improve the people we are today then we are doing our part to be better people.