By Mark Weber For the Advance
Popular country singer Drew Gregory heads to Stettler Aug. 5th for Entertainment in the Park.
The songs of this award-winning artist have been described as being infused with a ‘down-home realism, a gritty honesty and vibrant sense of rootedness’ that comes from years spent working the land as a farmer.
“When it was really kicking into everyone being in lockdown, we usually are slowing things down in April for seeding out at the farm here,” he explained during a recent chat. “So we were seeding, and my wife is a nurse so she was still working. So we kept going.”
But moving into June and July, he of course has been greatly missing hitting the stage and connecting with fans.
“I’m definitely missing the ‘live’ music now. We’ve had a couple of these ‘in the park’ or a ‘back yard’ shows where people can be socially distanced, but it’s not the same thing,” he said. “But it helps us all with going through it together – and technology has helped; we’ve been able to do some stuff online so it’s helping to make it work.”
Usually over the summer he also tackles the writing side of things, and this season in particular he’s been able to “ramp that up,” even further, he said. “I’ve been doing tonnes of writing and making a plan to hit the studio,” he said.
For Gregory, inspiration often flows from a song title or a melody that he quickly writes down when they surface.
“You can take that into a more structured co-writing (session) later on,” he said. Through the pandemic, he essentially set aside Monday as a writing day.
“When you are on the tractor for long periods of time, you come up with some good song titles, too,” he added with a laugh. “Most of my songs lately have been co-written, so I had been going down to Nashville a few times a year before all of this, but now everyone has been really open to the Skype sessions and Zoom calls and stuff like that,” he said.
“We’ve gotten some good tunes out of it.”
Growing up in the community of Standard, Gregory was exposed to music through local radio as well as from his dad’s classic rock vinyl collection.
“It was a very, very musical home, but not so instrument-wise,” he said of his growing up years. “My sister was in the church choir for a bit, but other than that we weren’t into it in any professional kind of way,” he added. “But music was always, always on and we were always singing along to the radio,” he recalled.
“We’d have the Friday night record parties and dance parties.
“It started as a love very early. And with no one in the family playing an instrument, I didn’t really think of picking up a guitar until I was probably 15 years old or so. After that, it was all about getting home from school and playing until I went to bed,” he explained. “I never had to be told to go to a lesson or to practice! I just absolutely loved it.
“Once I got that guitar in my hand, it just felt like something I needed to do. And I also started playing at a lot of high school parties and that’s where my love for performing came along – having everybody singing along while you player was quite a thrill,” he said.
“I ended up heading down to Nashville, this would have been in 2009, for the first time and I really mark that as the kick-off of my actual career. That was when I wanted to take it more seriously and get into writing songs a lot more and performing a whole lot more,” he said, adding that’s also when he got his band together.
And it’s been remarkable journey ever since.
His latest disc, Good Place to Start, was released in 2018.
“It’s all pretty true-to-life stuff and I think that makes the music stronger and people react to it more wholeheartedly because they know I am singing about my own life and my own experiences, who likes the simple things in life, who likes to have a good time, just like the people listening to the music,” he explained.
Working with producer and multiple CCMA award winner Jason Barry over his last two projects, the veteran producer has proved to be an exceptional collaborator who understands the vision Gregory has in mind for his music.
“He wanted me to really dig deep and really figure who I was and who I wanted to be as an artist. We worked together on my last album and that was first time I really sat down with someone before we started recording to go through songs and try to really figure out what I was going for,” he said.
“I’ve always been drawn to the stuff where it sounds like someone just had to write it – they had to ‘get it out’,” he said. “Those are the songs that hit me a little more.”
In the meantime, evidence of Gregory’s status as a country artist on the rise are the accolades that he has thus far garnered in his career.
Most recently, he was named the Alberta Country Music Association (ACMA) Male Artist of the Year in 2015 and took home the 2016 ACMA Award for Album of the Year for his previous release, I Was There.
Also, in 2016 he was named the Male Artist of the Year at the YYC (Calgary) Music Awards.
“For me, the thing I do all of this music for is to get me back on the stage and playing,” he said. “That’s what I love. I can’t wait until the next time we get out on the road.”