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Exclusive: Drake Milligan on Why Beyoncé, Post Malone and Neo-Traditionalists are All Making it an “Exciting Time for Country Music”

March 6, 2024 4:38 pm GMT

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To coincide with the release of his new Jukebox Songs EP and his hotly anticipated performance at C2C Festival 2024, Drake Milligan sat down with Holler to discuss the creation of the project, his upcoming tour with Cody Johnson - and why he welcomes Beyoncé, Post Malone and Lana Del Rey into country with open arms.

Beyoncé's announcement that she'll be releasing her first ever country album, Rennaissance Act II, continued a trend of mainstream Pop, Hip Hop and R&B artists dipping their toes into the muddy Tennessee water of Music City, with both Post Malone and Lana Del Rey confirming plans to drop full-length debut country projects this year.

Particularly in the aftermath of Beyoncé's chart-topping single, ‘TEXAS HOLD ‘EM’, a slew of traditional-leaning country fans have spoken out against this influx of ‘non-country’ artists into the genre, deeming it to be an affront. Given Drake Milligan's positioning at the crest of the new wave of neo-traditional artists, many are framing his brand of steel-drenched, honky-tonk as comparatively ‘pure’ country.

Refreshingly, Drake doesn't view the different strands of pop-country, classic country, folk country and Hip Hop-infused country that have emerged in recent years as opposing sub-genres jostling for chart supremacy. Rather, the Arlington, Texas native sees each as one spoke on the wheel propelling country music further than its ever been.

The fact that popstars are keen to get involved is a huge positive for the genre, Drake outlines, “I think it's awesome. The more people that are listening to country, the better. It's an exciting time for country music, because it's so open - it's so open to so many sounds, so many types of songs and so many types of artists”.

He goes on to emphasise, “I think that's healthy, having that wide span is what's going to keep country being a huge genre, and keep people relating to it. On the one hand, you have really traditional artists, and I think having totally non-traditional artists in the genre at the same time is healthy for it too. So yeah, I think it's cool”.

As well as championing the infusion of other genres into country music, Drake Milligan is eager to heap praise on his fellow neo-traditionalists, such as Jake Worthington, Zach Top and Randall King. They appeal to the quickly burgeoning fanbase that feels nostalgic for the playful, twangy, George Strait-inspired country music of the ‘90s, which has enjoyed a resurgence among younger listeners.

Drake dismisses any sense of rivalry between this fast-emerging crop of artists, recalling how he went golfing with Zach Top just the other week. He emphasises that continuing the neo-traditional legacy is a collaborative effort, “We're all friends. We all realise that it's going to take more than just one person to really kind of turn the tide and make that traditional sound come back in a big way. It's going to take a bunch of people doing it - and doing it well. There's just a lot of really talented people out there. You've got Randall, Zach and Jake. I mean, these guys are the real deal. It's cool to see, as a fan of that kind of music”.

With the release of Jukebox Songs and an impending sophomore record, it's safe to say Drake Milligan has consolidated his position at the forefront of this neo-traditionalist revival.

After coming third on Season 17 of America's Got Talent, Drake has amassed a listenership that incorporates both classic country aficionados and pop-leaning mainstream listeners. With the up-and-coming singer-songwriter honing his electrifying stage presence and signature, baritone-fuelled sound, his fanbase looks set to explode in 2024.

In addition, Drake Milligan discussed his upcoming tour with Cody Johnson, his C2C Festival 2024 set, his recent return to the America's Got Talent stage and more:

On the inspiration behind his new Jukebox Songs EP:

“I love the music I was influenced by and what I always listened to, which most of the time is traditional country. I'm always inspired by songwriters like Merle Haggard. It's no different on this EP - what I'm going for is that traditional sound, but in a new way”.

On ‘I Got a Problem’:

“I knew I loved that song when I first heard it. I just thought it was catchy, and I thought, ‘Man, this sounds like a hit for whoever cuts it’. But it wasn't until I sat down with my guitar and started playing it, and kind of found my own way of doing it that I went, ‘Oh man, this fits’. This project is the first one I didn't co-write on. I co-wrote all 14 songs on my first record and ‘I Got a Problem’ was the first outside song I ever cut. I just immediately gravitated towards and it felt like something I would write”.

On embracing outside writes:

“Nashville has got such a great songwriting community, and there are so many great writers with so many great songs every day here, I would love to be a part of that and be one of those guys that cuts the outside stuff. I think it's important for the town”.

On his upcoming album:

“I'm always working and looking. I've had a little bit of time off here in Nashville before going on the road. We're writing songs, so I'm trying to stay active in that. I'm definitely in that mindset”.

On his upcoming UK tour and C2C Festival appearance:

“Last year was the first time I'd ever been overseas, and I really loved it. I was so shocked to get the response that we got...It's just going to be so cool to then go back and see everybody again, and see how they're reacting to the new music. I'm excited”.

On America's Got Talent:

America's Got Talent was the perfect opportunity for somebody like me - I had all the pieces, I just didn't know how to really glue them together. It was a great springboard for me, to immediately get a good fanbase and be able to work on that. Back in the day, there would be shows that people like Elvis and The Beatles used as a platform to bounce off of. In some way, I think today's talent shows are a modern-day form of that, for new artists to get discovered by the world overnight”

On touring with Cody Johnson:

“I'm so excited. I've been watching Cody since I was in high school. It's been cool to watch his career take off and be part of that as a fan. I respect him and how he handles his career, and his live shows are great. I'm gonna be taking a lot of notes! I'm gonna be sitting there side-stage, watching a guy at the top of his game do his thing”.

On his favourite song to perform:

“I like the covers we do. We'll slip in some fun covers every now and then, and we do a Buck Owens medley. We may slip in a song like ‘Wichita Lineman’ or some of those older songs that I've just loved forever. That's always fun. I like finding my own spin on songs I love. We do a good cover of a ‘Devil Woman’ by Marty Robbins too”.

For more on Drake Milligan, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
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