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Seeing Drake White live is far from an ordinary concert experience. Equal parts warrior leader, holy-fire reverend, and gypsy Appalachian mountain man, he fronts his band with a mix of Muscle Shoals groove and honky-tonk grease. The goal? To continue building an inspired community with his voice, country-soul spirit, and relentless optimism, fusing everything he does — from the shows he plays with The Big Fire (his blue-collar band of road warriors), to the events he hosts at Whitewood Hollow, the rustic event space he hand-designed with his wife, Alex, in rural Tennessee — with the big-tent spirit of a revival.
"There's a Huckleberry Finn-type freedom to everything we do," Drake says in his rich Alabama drawl. "Whether I'm onstage, in the recording studio, or outdoors, it's all about absorbing inspiration and giving it back. Alex and I are builders. We're weaving that spirit into our mission of building community, building culture, living good lives, and serving people — whether that means serving our maker or our audience or our guests at Whitewood Hollow."
From his childhood days singing with the First Baptist Church youth choir in Alabama to his emergence as one of country music's most acclaimed innovators — with four Top 40 hits, multiple nationwide tours, and a dedicated cult following all under his belt — Drake has happily blurred the boundaries between music and every other moment of his life. After all, music doesn't begin or end when he's onstage or in the studio. It's informed by everything he does, whether he's paddling a river, building a barn, starting a fire, or spending time with his wife. A lover of nature and a boundless traveler, he's as happy camping in Montana as he is tilling the earth at his home in Tennessee. All of it helps fuel his larger mission to be present and to live fully in the moment.
That mission has been strengthened not only by Drake's milestones, but also his setbacks. Halfway through a show in August 2019, he collapsed onstage, the result of a hemorrhagic stroke caused by a life-threatening tangle of arteries and veins in his brain. Shows were cancelled and plans put on hold as Drake underwent months of intensive physiotherapy — as well as a series of operations — to repair his Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM). Step by step, he regained the use of his left side. Throughout it all, Drake reminded himself to make the absolute most of every waking moment, both onstage and off.
"There was a revival in my heart and my soul," he says of his recovery. "I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude towards my maker, my life, and the simple things. A paradigm shift happened. I stopped worrying about the things I couldn't control. I kept writing music and running with that Huckleberry Finn mentality I've always had. I kept on swimming, kept on rafting, and kept on rocking. People are going to hear that in my new music. They're going to see it in my shows. The excitement never left me; it's just greater now. I walk onstage these days and feel so thankful to be there — to be able to do what I love to do."
That sense of gratitude is also evident in Whitewood Hollow, the rustic event space that Drake and Alex White built in an oak-covered, hand-designed barn. Tucked into the Tennessee hills outside of Nashville, the space officially opened its doors in February 2020, marking the culmination of a six-year dream that began as a pencil-sketched drawing on a napkin. Whitewood Hollow is more than just an event space; it's also an opportunity for Drake and Alex (an artisan chef, event planner, and pioneering businesswoman in the vein of Rachel Ray) to formally unite their creative forces. Furthermore, the barn represents another chance for Drake to continue his life's mission of encouraging community and serving others.
"It's a culture thing; it's what I grew up with," he says of Whitewood Hollow's rootsy charm and service-oriented purpose. "I grew up with lots of barns. It represents hard work. It represents comfort for me. I've had some of the greatest moments of my life in a barn." In Whitewood Hollow, he's co-created the sort of place where people from all walks of life can come together, break bread, enjoy each other's company, and share their stories.
All of it, however, leads back to playing music. The grandson of a preacher, Drake grew up in the Baptist church, watching his grandfather bring the congregation together during every service. Years later, he plays a similar role as the frontman of Drake White and The Big Fire, leading his band and his audience toward a shared sense of rafter-shaking rapture. It's a mutual revival for everybody involved.
"Music is my true love," he says. "Even when I lost the use of my left hand, I never stopped writing and making new music. Now I have a catalog slammed full of new songs that my fans need to hear, and I'm excited to watch these seeds that I've planted start to bear fruit. My fans are my army, and I'm built to serve them. When they come to my show, that's what I am: I'm a servant to the people who came here to have an experience."