Michigan native Drew Hale isn’t your typical mainstream country artist, he’s rather rough around the edges and well, people are loving it. He has taken the stage with artists such as Tim Mcgraw and Dierks Bentley. Hale has something special that you can’t quite put your finger on, his vocals are beautiful and his style is a grounded representation of country and Americana. Passion is never lacking with Hale, as his vocals flow so passionately with each song he performs. His latest album titled Roots and Wings is a great baseline for who Hale is as an artist. It’s pretty outstanding. If you haven’t heard of Drew Hale, you’re missing something magical.
1. Where are you answering these questions from & what are you wearing?
“I’m sitting at my desk in our new studio/office/rehearsal space in Traverse City, MI. Today I’m wearing what we call the ‘Uncle Justin Uniform’ (Justin Van Rheenen is my drummer/manager and my kids have called him Uncle Justin their entire lives), which basically consists of khaki shorts, flip-flops, a t-shirt, hoodie, and ball cap. I’m sporting my Batman T, paired with a charcoal heather UpNorth Redneck Hoodie, and my signature Detroit Tigers hat. And boxers, in case you were wondering.”
2. What’s your official title and favorite thing about what you do?
“If you ask Justin and John (my bass player), I’m ‘the talent’…which basically means I’m pretty much not allowed to do anything other than sing and play guitar but officially I’m the CEO of Drew Hale Music, LLC and the lead singer/guitarist/songwriter for Drew Hale Band. I absolutely love being on the road with my guys, and my wife. I think it’s my favorite thing about being a full-time musician. There is nothing quite like the road to bring a group together and make you have to think on your feet and learn to work together. And these guys are the best friends I could ever ask for. Getting to play music with guys you really connect with makes this life a whole lot easier, and a lot more fun.”
3. What are 3 things you CANNOT live without?
“First…my family. None of the success we’ve experienced, or the awards we’ve won, or the achievements we’ve worked for mean a thing without them. On this journey, family has to come first for me and it’s a value that we all share collectively as a band.
Second…a guitar. I actually begin to get antsy when I haven’t played in awhile, and I’m told that my friends can tell when it’s been awhile since I’ve played or written a song. When we travel, I will often try to find a music store or a guitar shop and just try a bunch of things out. That always helps me feel more settled and get the guitar bug out of my system when mine are locked away in the trailer.
Third…Imposable Thumbs, for obvious reasons.”
4. What’s the first concert you’ve ever attended?
“I think the first concert I ever went to was a band called Petra in the early 90’s. They were a Christian hard rock band, and I pretty much idolized their guitar player growing up.”
5. How long have you been playing music?
“I’ve been playing music as long as I can remember. There’s a photo somewhere of me with a ukulele around age three pretending to be Elvis. It’s been a part of me my entire life and I began playing music in a little more seriously in jr high. I started playing bass in the school band and learned to read music there. Then I took up the guitar around age 11 or 12 and started my first band. From there I pretty much played wherever I could-church, coffee shops, street corners….and later on bars, casinos, restaurants…whoever would pay me to play music.”
6. What’s the hardest life lesson you’ve learned?
“I think the hardest lesson I ever learned has to do with the subjectivity of creativity. You take a risk every time you create something because a part of you is put on display, and not everyone is going to get it. Especially in this day and age where everyone is a critic, and every opinion whether good or bad gets put on display on social media for all to see. And it’s usually brutal. People tend to say things online that they would NEVER say in person. Sort of a cowards confidence and I had to learn to pretty much stay off of social media when I put something out, or when someone writes an article about me or the band. I had to learn to grow a little tougher skin when it comes to criticism and opinions because they are just that… someone’s opinion. You have to decide early on that YOU decide your worth, not other people.”
7. Do you have a favorite restaurant or hang out spot?
“In a little town north of Traverse City called Suttons Bay, there’s a place called Hop Lot Brewing Co. They’re a local microbrewery, and they do their own smoked meats and BBQ, and I would spend pretty much all my time out there if I could. They were one of the first places I played in town. They’ve supported me ever since the beginning, before any of the success. And they take SUCH good care of me and my family. They’re just good people, and they put out an incredible product.”
8. If you could duet with any female artist, who would you pick and why?
“There is a long list of female artists that I respect, and would love to duet with. But I’d have to say, at the top of my list would probably be Pink. First of all, her songwriting is so real and raw, and that is hard to find in this age of watered down pop. Secondly, her voice…damn. And the way she carries herself with so much passion and confidence: It’s inspiring to say the least. Thirdly, she’s pretty much my wife’s favorite artist, and I’m pretty sure I’d get lifetime brownie points for that, especially if she ever got to meet her.”
9. Who is your favorite country singer from the 90s?
“I’ve been a Garth fanboy since ‘Ropin’ the Wind.’ He’s who I aspire to as an artist, songwriter, and performer.”
10. Besides music, do you have any other talents or hobbies?
“I’m actually really into photography and videography. I’ve done a few short films, and interview style documentaries, and I own a side photography business that I run in the slow seasons. I just love telling peoples stories. I think that photography and film capture the essence of a person’s story in a different capacity than songs can, and I love the challenge of really communicating an idea through a different medium.”
11. Do you have a favorite place to perform?
“Aside from smaller local Michigan places like Hop Lot, my favorite place to perform is in my hometown of El Paso, TX at a dance hall called ‘Little Bit Of Texas.’ We did a tour of the southwest last fall, and that was one of our stops. It was one of the most fun and memorable shows I’ve ever played. Watching almost 1,000 people pack a dance floor singing and dancing to songs I wrote was a pretty surreal experience.”
12. What’s one gift you will never forget?
“Before I left El Paso to move to Northern Michigan nine years ago, a group of my friends got together and bought me a Taylor acoustic guitar. It was the first quality guitar I had ever owned for myself and didn’t have to borrow from a friend. It was thoughtful and selfless and I will ALWAYS remember how I felt when they surprised me with it. It was more than just an instrument, it was a statement of love. So I treasure that guitar, and will keep it forever.”
13. What current event has your eyes and ears? What are you doing about it?
“For me, the causes of foster care and adoption are at the center of my heart. My wife and I have been licensed foster parents for almost 5 years now, and have adopted 3 boys from the foster system. There is such a shortage of loving foster homes and an overabundance of kids floating around in the system in need of a family. Our foster journey is over for the moment, as we gear up to focus all of our attention on our family and growing this music business together. But we are still committed to raising awareness for foster care and adoption. We also speak at events as often as we can helping to promote the cause, and encourage others to get involved like we did.”
14. How do you think songwriters play a vital role in music today?
“Songwriters are the essence of the music industry in my opinion. I believe we give voice to the heart cry of our nation and our world because we are the ones writing the living history of our generation. Nothing speaks directly to the heart like music does, so the vitality of the collective heart of ‘the people’ is reflected in the songs we write, and the songs that connect with people. I believe that we have the responsibility to say something with our music. And that isn’t always popular.
People want to listen to songs that make them feel good…and that’s ok because everyone needs encouragement and a pick-me-up from time to time. But we cannot write the fun stuff to the exclusion of the hard stuff. If we water down our message, we lose the opportunity to be the voice of change, of healing, of unification to our world.”
15. What’s one superpower you wish you had?
“I would pick the ability to fly. How freaking cool would that be! It would save so much on gas, and honestly be a great way to exit an awkward conversation. Imagine someone bringing up something you really don’t want to hear, and just crossing your arms while slowly rising into the air away from them with a blank expression…sold.”
16. You’re making your favorite sandwich… what’s on it?
“Fresh baked multi-grain bread, crunchy peanut butter, and banana slices with a Big glass of milk. Heaven.”
17. Name one artist of any genre besides country that you are a fan of and tell us why?
“James Taylor is one of my life-long heroes. Not only has he written some of the rawest and real material and told some of the most vivid stories ever known to modern music, but he’s had a career that has lasted 40+ years and continues to expand and blossom. He never stops writing, he never stops growing, he never stops chasing the dream. And I respect the hell of out that.”
18. What makes you laugh out loud?
“My kids. Every day. I have a five-year-old, and twin four-year-olds. They are goofy, and sweet, and crazy, and total hams. They spend most of their time naked (and who could blame them), they tell the very best stories, and they always know just how to break a serious moment with a nose boop, or a burp. They’re about my favorite people to be around.”
19. Fill in the blank: My life is …..
“…basically driving, lugging around equipment, taking directions from my wife and Justin, yelling ‘get off your brother,’ and worrying if I’m good enough to really make it in the industry. But I wouldn’t trade where we’re at for anything. This season of life is full of adventure and risk and growing closer to some of the best people I know.”
20. Fill in the blank: Country music inspires me because …
“…there is no better medium for storytelling. Country music is and has always been the heartbeat of the working class. And just like the dedicated, hardworking people it represents is constantly growing and changing and shifting to become whatever is needed for the season it’s in. Country will never die because it continues to adapt to its environment. It’s a fighter to its core. And that’s what drives me to be part of it”