Tomorrow, Drew Kennedy releases his sixth album, Wide Listener. In a catalog of fantastic albums, it’s his finest work to date. Drew is the smartest guy I know in the music business. He was educated at a prestigious east coast private liberal arts university, is well read and a published author. To complement his book smarts, he’s traveled this country enough times to stretch to the moon and appreciates a pinch of snuff and a cold domesticated beer as much as the next blue collar guy. He’s quick with a joke and at ease onstage but just as likable and affable away from the spotlight.
He moved to Texas from Virginia to pursue the Texas Music promisedland he’d dreamt about from afar. Inspired by old Townes and Steve Earle records like so many before him. He did things the way our Nashville caste system required. Hustled booking agent and band members. Played opening gigs in the most desirable venues. Scored a record deal and major distribution for his second record.
Yet, things never fully clicked until DK eschewed the traditional Texas way of doing things and asserted his own newfound Texan-ness to do things his own way. And that is why he is the last true outlaw. The fact that he’d disagree with that label asserts it’s inherent truth. While other artists and bands strove to copy the other successful acts that were road pavers, Drew decided to build his own roads.
He is a one man operation. Manager. Booking agent. Producer. Author. Bus Driver. Tour Manager. Travel Agent. Sound Engineer. Caterer. Radio Promoter. Any number of other titles…oh, and singer/songwriter too. You see, playing the game by the rules established by others helped Drew realize he could be more successful by creating his own rulebook. After cutting ties with all of his music business personnel, Drew began to flourish. By the time he traded in his Chevy passenger van for a Toyota Prius, he wasn’t just marching to the beat of his own drummer…he was his own drummer as he honestly joked that he’d given himself a raise by doing so. And the funny thing is Drew was finding more success than he ever had previously. No, he wasn’t on CMT (He went digital). He wasn’t at LJT (He played Kerrville instead). He wasn’t at Steamboat (He created his own skiing/songwriter festival). He’s not playing Midnight Rodeo (He’s at somebody’s house or a venue he found off the beaten path).
Drew carries no overhead. Just about every dime that comes into his coffers is profit. While many of the most successful bands in this scene struggle for peanuts after all the bills are paid, Drew’s sitting back comfortably. It’s the smartest business model I’ve seen in the modern music business. Bob Lefsetz may even shed a tear if he ever finds out about it.
Drew Kennedy faced a mountain of generic Texas Music duplication and broke the mold. There’s a reason that a decade into this adventure his career is still on the uptick. Many artists have faded or fallen by the wayside, but DK just plugs along gaining a few more fans and a little bit more success each year.
He’s a bearded, tattooed English major driving a Prius to a bar near you to play folk songs. He’s never written a song about a truck, a river or being white trash. In today’s country and Texas environment that’s absolutely unheard of. He’s universally respected among his peers and is able to successfully tour beyond the borders of our state.
I’ve said enough. He’ll be embarrassed when he reads this. Drew Kennedy is a case study in how to make it on your own terms without compromise. Webster’s uses the term “nonconformist” to define the word outlaw. That’s supremely apt. Drew has refused to conform to the Texas Music norms and created a healthy career beyond what the college kid stuck in a Virginia dorm listening to old Guy Clark records could’ve ever imagined.
Just as Guy and Townes were never as big as Willie and Jerry Jeff…Drew isn’t as big as Randy Rogers or Josh Abbott. But something tells me his words might receive a little more reverence in future generations.
-Football is back! Dove hunting is here too. Now, if we can just get some of the weather that comes with those fine activities, we’ll be set.
-The Rangers have me concerned as of late. I’m hoping it’s just a bump in the road, but for a team that’s played so many games over the past few years, the concern is alarming.
-1310 The Ticket continues to be the best radio product on-air. Month after month, year after year. If you’re a displaced Kidd Kraddick listener, give The Musers a chance. Yes, it’s a sports station, but so much more.
–After using AdvoCare products for many years, my wife and I finally became distributors. If you’re seeing the commercials during football games and have questions, hit me up.
-I don’t think any of us would’ve been as offended by Miley at the VMAs if it had actually been cool, relevant or musical.
-Subways can be frightening places, but I really wish we had highspeed rail that traveled from Dallas to San Antonio with a few stops along the way. You could tweet and Facebook all you want while leaving the driving to someone else and getting to your destination without having to set tires on I35.
–This month’s recommended album: Owen Temple-Stories They Tell. While best known the past couple years as the alter-ego of Gary Floater, Temple proves that he still knows his way around a straight song too. In the early days of the Texas Music renaissance, he was grouped in with the frat rock of Pat Green and Cory Morrow, but the past decade has found him finding a detailed, striking, sly and witty writing voice that evokes some of Robert Earl Keen’s finest work. This latest effort continues that trend. Also, pick up Wide Listener!
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain