In the not-too-distant past, when Drew Holcomb (and most other Nashville musicians) were kept off the road thanks to COVID-19, the popular singer-songwriter sat down with another grounded musician — Old Crow’s Ketch Secor. Medicine Show — to write a song.
Holcomb and Secor have known each other for years, as their children go to the same school in East Nashville. They started talking about what they missed from concerts and live audiences. For Holcomb, it was the feeling of “all in this together.”
“You look around the room and it’s alien everywhere,” he explains to The Tennessean. “You don’t know everyone’s story.”
This lit a spark under the two music makers and within hours they wrote Dance With Everybody.
“When the band hits, by the end of the night, the strangers won’t stop,” Holcomb belts out over a constantly pounding drum. “I want to dance with everyone who walked out that door.”
The festive, stomp-and-holler single was released on Friday and is the first glimpse of a new round of recordings made by Holcomb and his longtime band, The Neighbors.
It also includes Utah band The National Parks, who will join Holcomb and the Neighbors on a month-long tour starting in September. But just before that run, Holcomb has another job to tackle: he’s organizing his own music festival.
The Moon River Music Festival returns to Chattanooga’s Coolidge Park on September 10th and 11th. Holcomb and The Neighbors will perform alongside headliners Leon Bridges and The National, plus Band of Horses, Local Natives and Zach Bryan among the 23 acts.
Holcomb founded the festival in 2014 and was originally held in his hometown of Memphis.
“I just loved the idea of an artist-curated festival. I played a lot of festivals the first year leading up to (Moon River), and a lot of them hadn’t gone well. I think part of that was because the artists had just throw up their few Instagram posts, and then shut up and play. But when a particular artist takes it upon themselves to really take ownership and promote it to their fans, it’s like a homecoming or pilgrimage of a kind of…And then I wanted to see a lot of my friends and groups that are always ships in the night.”
Moon River was an instant success—one that quickly outgrew its country, as well as Holcomb’s abilities. He immediately remembers when the dealers ran out of change and with banks closed on Sundays, his wife and bandmate Ellie Holcomb had to drive to a nearby casino for the $1 and $5 stacks.
“We were a little over our skis,” he recalls. “My manager and I were promoting it together, and we were booking bands with lines of credit based on our houses. And it was like, ‘What are we doing? This is crazy!”
After leaving in 2017, they were approached by concert producers (and Bonnaroo co-founders) AC Entertainment. It was their idea to bring Moon River east to Chattanooga and let Holcomb remain part of the creative process while “taking a lot of risk and work.”
“I had no business signing contracts with porta potty companies,” he adds with a laugh.
Tickets for the first Moon River in Chattanooga sold out in less than a day, and subsequent events in 2019 and 2021 were also sold out. Tickets for this year’s festival are still available.
“Dance With Everybody” was recorded as part of a “burst” of recording sessions earlier this spring, when Holcomb and his band cut eight tracks. They are set to register 14 more between now and the tournament. It’s not known exactly what form this set of songs will take, but the band plans to release “a lot of new music next year.”
And in case you’re wondering, the guy who sings “I wanna dance with everybody” can put his money where his mouth is.
“I like to dance – are you kidding me?”
He’s busted a move more than once for his music videos, including 2019’s “Family” and 2014’s “Here We Go.” The latter, which featured Holcomb in a banana suit, had a fan following surprising in Don Henley. When Holcomb opened on tour for the Eagles member, he was told not to expect to see him. However, at the first sound check, Holcomb turned around and it was Henley, who told him he was a fan of his moves.
“I’m thinking, ‘This is one of the weirdest moments of my life,'” Holcomb says. “I’m having a conversation with Don Henley about me dancing in a banana suit.”
Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors officially hit the road on September 14th. Learn more at drewholcomb.com