Life has been fairly the whirlwind for Drake Milligan these days. He went straight from competing on America’s Bought Expertise and ending in third place to releasing his debut album simply hours after the Season 17 finale.
However this lightning-in-a-bottle second has been one thing the Mansfield, Texas, native has been making ready for since transferring to Nashville 4 years in the past. In spite of everything, as his hero, Elvis Presley sang, “You’ve received to comply with that dream wherever which will lead.”
In 2021, Milligan was formally added to the Stoney Creek Information/BBR Music Group roster and dropped his self-titled debut EP. Although the five-song set was lauded by music critics, it wasn’t fairly sufficient to launch him into industrial stardom. Issues modified when an AGT producer supplied the singer-songwriter a possibility to audition for the present’s seventeenth season.
“I launched the EP final 12 months and we’ve been out on the street. Nevertheless it’s robust on the market, and also you want one thing to interrupt the ice,” Milligan shares in a latest interview with Style of Nation. “AGT’s been one thing I’ve been watching since a little bit child and I’ve actually dreamt about being on that stage. When the chance got here alongside to audition, I went, ‘You already know what? This can be a incredible alternative.’ I used to be in a position to have my band play and sing with me, and I may carry out authentic songs.”
Milligan likens his quick-to-the-spotlight AGT run to the Ed Sullivan Present: The tv selection present served as a profession launchpad for a lot of new singers within the Fifties and Sixties, together with Presley and the Beatles.
“It was a possibility for artists to point out their stuff to the world again within the day. I see America’s Bought Expertise the identical manner. It could possibly change your life in a single day,” says the 23-year-old. This was when he knew and instructed himself, “Man, that is how we go ahead. That is how we break the ice!”
Not solely is the proverbial ice damaged, however due to the present, Milligan’s report label expedited the rollout of his long-awaited debut album, Dallas/Fort Price. Fortunately for each events, your entire LP was recorded lengthy earlier than AGT and simply ready for the opportune second to be launched.
“The timing of that is so nice for me! We had these 14 songs, and a few of them are from 2018, and a few of them are from 2020 or 2021. It’s a fruits of a variety of songs I’ve written over my time in Nashville,” he says.
Co-written solely by Milligan, Dallas/Fort Price is an idea album that aptly introduces two sides of the newcomer — Dallas, which contains a extra polished neo-tradition nation sound; and Fort Price, which proudly stays true to the style’s natural and deeply-entrenched honky-tonk roots. The thought for this sprung up from a dialog Milligan was having with the report label’s Vice President of Innovation, Radio and Streaming, Adrian Michaels.
“We had been sitting with these 14 songs and Adrian mentioned, ‘Man, your music is like Dallas and Fort Price. There are two sides of it, that’s so cool!” the singer recollects. A lightbulb lit up immediately and that’s when the proud Texan knew: Dallas/Forth Price.
“Dallas is such an enormous metropolis, and it’s at all times trying towards the longer term. I name it a little bit extra polished on the report. Half of those songs we reduce are actually type of like that. I wish to be performed on radio, I would like them a little bit extra polished. There’s possibly a little bit little bit of rock affect in there. It tries to take conventional nation and break the mildew a bit,” he explains.
“After which there’s the opposite aspect, Fort Price, which is stockyards, Billy Bob’s, holding on to its roots and simply effective with conventional. That’s an enormous a part of who I’m and the way I write and method songwriting. I simply actually attempt to maintain on to these conventional roots.”
Dallas/Fort Price is a masterful assortment of songs that pay homage to Milligan’s cornerstone influences, which embody Buck Owens, George Strait, Merle Haggard, and even Presley. As an alternative of pandering to modish pop-inflected manufacturing types, Milligan, alongside producer Brandon Hood and the legendary Tony Brown (George Strait, Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn), selected to cost full-force within the conventional nation course.
The 14-song LP is a flawless introductory venture that sparkles with tracks pushed by fiddle, metal guitar and unabashed twang, all dropped at life by a prolific workforce of musicians, which embody James Burton, Tom Bukovac, Gordon Mote and Stuart Dunkin. The songs are trendy whereas sustaining the style’s established sonic traditions — “old style in a brand new manner,” as Milligan affectionately places it.
Album opener “Sounds Like One thing I’d Do” is a rollicking anthem that drips with nation swagger, “Kiss Goodbye All Night time” hat-tips Presley with its witty “one for the cash, two for the street” lyric, and the jubilant Vince Gill and Time Jumpers-assisted “Goin Down Swingin’” does an impeccable job at transporting listeners again to the peak of Western swing music with Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys reigning on the high.
“Tipping Level,” from the Fort Price aspect of the report, is an exuberant quantity that melds Buck Owens’ “I’ve Bought a Tiger by the Tail”-esque opening supply with thick fiddle strains, uptempo romps and a stay efficiency sound.
“With a tune like ‘Tipping Level,’ it’s so totally different from a standard nation monitor. I feel it takes what guys like Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam did, and makes it recent in a brand new manner,” the artist says.
Hat-tips to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll are lots on this album, whether or not it’s within the vocal supply or instrumentation. One simple Presley-influenced monitor is the beautiful “Hearts Don’t Break Even” — layered with swelling strings and an almost-ethereal melody, Milligan wrote the monitor with Hood and Grammy-winning songwriter Liz Rose (Taylor Swift, Little Massive City, Jewel).
“To me, it’s like that Elvis, Glen Campbell type of tune. I miss these melodies a lot in trendy music. I really feel like they’re simply so cool with the strings and luxurious manufacturing,” expresses Milligan, who additionally credit Hood for his second-to-none understanding of his artistry and vocal capabilities.
“My favourite Elvis music is from the late ‘50s, early ‘60s. Particularly the Elvis Is Again report, ‘It’s Now or By no means,’ ‘Give up,’ and all these large, lush sounds. He had been listening to among the operatic stuff and a variety of Spanish music and was influenced by that,” shares the Presley aficionado. “His voice had type of matured to an enormous fullness and he may hit these excessive endings. So I undoubtedly tried to carry a little bit of that into this report.”
A former Elvis tribute artist, Milligan has mastered the strikes, vocal supply and stage presence of the worldwide music and popular culture icon. However unbeknownst to many, after appearing as Presley on CMT’s Solar Information in 2017, Milligan had grown weary of dwelling within the shadow of the late star. In reality, when he first moved to Nashville in 2018, he desperately wished to “don’t have anything to do with him.”
“After I first got here to Nashville, I used to be actually operating from it. I used to be operating from something Elvis. I didn’t wish to be often known as the Elvis man,” he reveals. “It was actually Tony Brown who helped me and instructed me, ‘Man, it’s essential to incorporate that. It’s a part of you, and you bought to carry that to what you do.’” That’s when the rising artist determined to embrace his Elvis-influenced artistry and meld it along with his distinctive storytelling model.
“It’s simply combining these influencers, similar to what Elvis did again within the day. He mixed his distinctive set of influencers too. I discover myself after all stealing among the strikes from Elvis, or a few of his showmanship. But in addition, I attempt to take one thing from George Strait or Garth Brooks and incorporate these influences and make them my very own.”
Stamping a tune as his personal is precisely what Milligan does on the jaunty and infectious singalong earworm, “Dangerous Day to BeaA Beer.” As he proudly quips within the refrain, “Life is nice proper now, it’s solely getting higher / And if I had my manner, I’d be buzzing out right here without end / All my 12 ounce buddies are about to vanish / It’s an excellent day to be me, it’s a foul day to be a beer.”
The thought of personifying a bottle of beer sprung at Milligan’s fishing journey along with his buddy one morning. Out of the blue, his buddy jested, “It’s an excellent day to be me, however it’s a foul day to be a beer.” Instantly, the meticulous songwriter whipped out his cellphone observe down the humorous one-liner.
“That was the primary time I heard any person say that! After all, we wished to go for it and make it completely enjoyable and tongue-in-cheek,” the singer shares with a chuckle. “Once we reduce it, we simply wished to rock out and have enjoyable with it. It’s really easy to go ‘Chattahoochee’ with it and make an Alan Jackson monitor, however we wished to have enjoyable with it and go a little bit left discipline with it.”
Like a well-rounded report, Dallas/Fort Price isn’t devoid of heartfelt love ballads. “She,” “Don’t Look Down” and future wedding ceremony commonplace “Dance of A Lifetime” all prominently show Milligan’s velvety baritone and knack for delivering charming romantic odes, just like Keith Whitley and Vern Gosdin, whom he affectionately calls “among the biggest singers in nation music.”
When unpacking this glorious debut album, one could be remiss to not highlight “Lengthy Haul,” an indeniable standout monitor on the LP that includes Burton. Combining honest lyricism with a rockabilly, fast-paced practice track-like rhythm, the uptempo quantity options windblown metal accents, scorching fiddle strains, and virtuosic guitarwork that culminates in a sound that harkens again to the hit catalog of Presley, Carl Perkins, Dwight Yoakam and Bakersfield sound pioneer Buck Owens & the Buckaroos.
Lyrically, “Lengthy Haul” additionally faucets right into a wellspring of nation imagery that describes the persona’s unwavering devotion to a love curiosity whom he’ll journey to the ends of the earth for. It’s a well-textured ode that’s replete with romantic allusions, little doubt. But, Milligan sees it as greater than a fictional love story. To him, the tune represents his private dedication to nation music. He’s in it for the highs and lows and twists and turns — he’s in it lengthy haul.
“I noticed now after singing it stay that it’s type of my love tune to nation music in a manner. It’s a tune that I feel, in a deeper manner, is my manner of claiming, ‘I’m on this for the lengthy haul. I’ll comply with this factor until the top and go in every single place and journey’,” the singer displays.
When requested what his hopes are for this report, Milligan pauses for a short second to replicate. He then lights up with a smile and enthusiastically teams them into two classes: one for the prevailing nation music followers, and one for the non-country followers he’s garnered from AGT.
For the previous, he hopes the LP remind them of the timeless conventional nation data embedded within the style’s DNA. And for the latter, he’s hoping it serves as an introductory gateway to this beloved storytelling format.
“The most effective feedback I’ve had from my time on AGT is individuals reaching out to say, ‘I’m not a rustic music fan, or ‘I didn’t know I used to be a rustic music fan.’ AGT reaches so many individuals that aren’t essentially the common nation fanbase. Folks all around the world watch AGT,” muses Milligan.
“I feel some individuals don’t understand how wonderful nation music is, the historical past of nation music and the way nice these previous nation data are. I hope that individuals take heed to this report and go, “Wow, I really like this monitor! What is that this? Western swing? I’ve by no means heard something like this! The place is that this coming from? Oh, Bob Wills!’ I’d love for individuals to dive into nation music by way of this report and have this be their introduction.”
It’s protected to say, the torch for conventional nation is protected within the arms of burgeoning next-generation nation star, Drake Milligan.
These Nation Artists Are Conserving Conventional Nation Alive: