Americana singer-songwriter Drew Holcomb looks forward to a return to Common Grounds on Saturday night, the Waco venue that he and his band the Neighbors have called home in recent visits, but it’s not as enticing as what follows later this fall: a two-week tour with Willie Nelson.
“It’s definitely the highlight of the year,” Holcomb said in a recent phone interview while driving in western Wisconsin between shows. “It’s one of those long journeys. I told my booking agent just go and see (about getting booked). Willie’s on the top of my dream list.”
That comes as no surprise from someone who also prizes songwriting and who has largely crafted a career on his and not Nashville’s terms.
Holcomb, a Memphis native who’s based in Nashville, has built a strong fan base over more than a decade with his songs, helped to a large degree by his music’s exposure on television shows.
He and the Neighbors visit Waco this weekend as part of their tour supporting their latest album, “Souvenir,” which debuted on several Top 10 charts on its release in March, including Amazon’s Digital Albums (No. 1), iTunes’s Singer/Songwriter (No. 1) and Billboard’s Independent Albums (No. 3).
That response is mirrored in their tour.
“I really enjoy seeing new songs come to life,” he said. “We have more songs than we can get to in a night ... and we have this great kid from England, (opening act) Lewis Watson. I’m thinking Waco will love him.”
The English singer-songwriter Watson has built up a head of steam for his second American tour thanks to his successful “Holy Loowis” YouTube channel, on which he releases many of his music videos. His tour with Holcomb features him in acoustic mode, reworking many of the songs on his hit “midnight.”
Holcomb, in addition to his album and tour, heads a successful music festival in Memphis, the Moon River Festival, and the Magnolia Record Club, a club for vinyl record fans. Cultivating fans from more than the traditional pools of record buyers and radio listeners is paying off for Holcomb. “I’ve never had a ton of success with commercial radio,” he admitted.
Television, however, is another matter where Holcomb songs have cropped up on such series as “House,” “Parenthood,” ‘Pretty Little Liars,” “Criminal Minds” and “How I Met Your Mother.” He and his band also have appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and provided the music for TNT’s Emmy Award-winning “NBA Forever” commercial.
Having a fan base introduced to his music through television shapes it in certain ways, he said.
“In VIP events before the show, I bet 40 to 50 percent heard us on TV shows or (online) feeds,” he said. “It’s a different audience, too, when some are fans of ‘Parenthood’ and some fans of ‘How I Met Your Mother.’ “
Television listeners also tend to be older and a little more settled with house mortgages and children, but that’s okay: that’s where Holcomb finds himself, married to fellow singer-songwriter Ellie, with whom he raises two kids. As Holcomb and the Neighbors find themselves singing about life from an older, more mature perspective than they did, say, 10 years ago, they’re performing before audiences who have grown older, too.
Age brings a greater appreciate of life’s joys, which these days include Willie Nelson and eager audiences. “I’ve always loved playing Waco. It’s one of our favorite places,” he said.