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Just getting started: Drake White returns home to perform at Sand Mountain Amphitheater

ALBERTVILLE — If you’ve never listened to Drake White’s music, you have absolutely been missing out.

His voice is downright guttural and his lyrics are equal parts clever and powerful. His sound is a unique blend of country, rock, reggae, blues and funk; each song succeeds in making the listener feel, way down deep in their bones. His concerts buzz with an energy that can only be described as electric. 

And that electricity is coming to North Alabama this weekend.

White, Blackberry Smoke and Read Southall Band will be performing at the Bourbon, Brews and BBQ Festival at Sand Mountain Amphitheater in Albertville on June 24. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are available online

Coming home

White will essentially be performing for a home crowd this weekend; he was born and raised in Hokes Bluff, where he sang with his dad and grandfather in church and played guitar as a teenager. White went to Gadsden State and graduated from Auburn University with a degree in building science. It was while playing the college bar circuit at Auburn when the “performing bug” bit him. 

White took a job at a construction company after he graduated. When he was laid off during the recession after 2008, he took his severance money and spent six months in New Zealand, where he was able to focus solely on his music. \

He went to Nashville as a professional musician, with several recording and publishing offers on the table. In 2011, he was a part of the Willie Nelson Throwdown Tour. White released his first single, “The Simple Life,” in 2013, followed by several more singles, albums, EPs and tours. 

Then, in the blink of an eye, everything changed.

Lucky to be alive

Months after being diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation (AVM), White suffered a brain hemorrhage on stage in 2019. The stroke ultimately affected mobility on his left side, and he wasn’t sure if he would ever walk, sing or play guitar. 

Throughout an arduous recovery, he learned to walk again, but still has issues with his left foot and lingering numbness in his left hand. Although it has affected his ability to play guitar, White feels as though he is “just getting started” in his music career.

With the recent release of his album “The Optimystic,” White has poured his heart and soul into personal songs, drawing inspiration from his health crisis and ongoing recuperation for a glass-half-full feel. He continues to tell his story in hopes of helping, encouraging and inspiring others through his music.

“What we’ve been through and what we came through is such a cool thing and it’s been a really, really hard thing,” he said. “We’ve been telling this story out on tour the last couple years; it’s just a different thing when you have something like that happen. It’s a really cool spiritual thing, a cool thing that happened musically, and physically just getting through that with me and my family.”

White is looking forward to coming “home” to perform in front of family and friends at Sand Mountain Amphitheater this weekend, particularly since he attributes the hard work he has put into his recovery to his North Alabama upbringing and the “tenacity and resilience” of the “tough” people he is surrounded by. 

“I couldn’t be happier with this new record out,” he said. “Being alive, being able to walk on stage and to do what I can do; it’s really powerful. And we intend to keep that rocking for a long time, particularly when we’re in Albertville.”

Just getting started

After the hemorrhage, White endured six brain surgeries and countless hours of therapy,  capped off with a global pandemic, which ultimately turned into a major blessing. The many changes and challenges forced him to recognize what was truly important; and reinforced that he was right where he needed to be.

“It had a way of putting us at maybe rock bottom, but that was exactly where we needed to be,” he said. “We don’t need anything else. All we need is each other, we need God, we need to stick to our praying, and we need to come out here and realize that we’re talented people and our time is now.

“I literally feel like I just started and this is a new age; that we’re on our way to ACMs, CMAs, Grammy’s, and packing out Madison Square Garden. I think that’s what we’re going to do because why would God have brought me through this if He didn’t have massive things ahead of me?”

While his live shows are a bit different now, White insists they are still full of energy, foot-stomping fun and, most of all, heart. 

“It’s a big show, it’s a better show than before,” he said. “Because of the life we’ve lived through and the energy we have now. And just, like, ‘Man, we’re up here doing this.’ I don’t complain about anything, this is what we’re doing and it’s what we’ll be doing when the good Lord comes back.”

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