Life yields experiences that shape our outlook. Love, loss, hope, purpose and existence are pertinent topics that catapult some into deep soul-searching. Sometimes, on that journey, these vulnerable reflections are penned down in journals. And sometimes, if one is musically talented, they are detailed in poetic lyrics, melodies and emotionally-driven guitar riffs. The latter is exactly what Nashville-based triple threat Patrick Droney has done on his highly anticipated and aptly titled debut album, State of the Heart.
Droney has been enamored over by his dedicated fan base and beyond for the esteemed musicianship he displays, which became widely known on his debut self-titled EP. Released in 2019, the six-song encompassed elements of the blues, soul, rock, and pop, fleshing out his influences that range from B.B. King to James Brown—all of whom he’s shared the stage with.
Two years later, Droney’s full-length album shows lyrical growth, sonic progression and an artistic depth only few can boast of. Synth and larger-than-life atmospheres bring the tales of his grand yet tenderly delivered stories to life—stories that are very personal to the modern-day poet.
“The older I get and the longer I’ve been doing this, the more I’ve learned to really lean into this responsibility as a songwriter to tell the truth and best articulate the experiences I’ve had in my life and in my human condition, as authentically as I can,” Droney tells Sounds Like Nashville. “I think the more specific you get in songwriting, the more universal it becomes. It’s a funny thing.”
Droney doesn’t treat the talent and platform he’s been gifted lightly. He isn’t parading in-your-face messages about his beliefs, nor does he coerce fans into adopting similar life approaches as him. Instead, he lets his music do the talking and healing. In a beautiful world sometimes ridden with segregation, loneliness and unending animosity, Droney possesses a steadfast resoluteness in his purpose: to connect with every listener that drops the needle (or presses play) on his record.
“If I get one message that [my music] has helped somebody feel less alone or made sense of their story, I feel completely valid in my process,” says the celebrated guitarist, who has been chasing this dream down for the last 16 to 17 years.
Over the course of his career, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania native has stayed in the three primary music meccas: Los Angeles, New York and now, Nashville. The former two cities were “very formative toward the music from an experience standpoint” Droney says, whilst Nashville helped hone his songwriting craft and musicianship to the second to none standard it is today.
From being an established independent act to inking a record deal in 2019, the Warner Records recording artist has had to go through the wheel of emotions on his roller-coaster ride of life, just like everybody else. “It’s been a true journey to the state of the heart,” Droney notes.
This “true journey” is immaculately chronicled on his debut studio album, State of the Heart. Drawing from personal events that he’s lived through, felt, or believed in, Droney’s LP recounts the simple yet profound experience of what it is to simply be human. It isn’t a “woe is me” project, nor does it celebrate life’s triumphant moments from top to bottom. Instead, State of the Heart was crafted with unrestrained vulnerability and sheer candor, both of which helped Droney discern the finalized album tracklist of 15 songs, from the “hundreds and hundreds of songs” he had written over the last five years.
“To me, it’s a really beautiful process of songs raising their hands and lasting through the years. ‘Yours In The Morning’ is a song that’s been around since 2017. Same with ‘State of the Heart.’ When I wrote it, I knew that it was the title track of the eventual album. It was just going to happen,” Droney recalls. “But then, you know, a song like “Glitter” was one that I wrote right before the pandemic happened. It’s like these songs find you, and I feel like this collection was picked for me.”
“Glitter” is a heart-rending piano ballad about loss, with the glistening object serving as a metaphorically representing anguish. “See, grief’s just like glitter / it’s hard to brush away,” Droney notes on the chorus, before bringing attention to “the mess it makes.”
This inspiration came to him after a heart-to-heart with his mother. As they conversed, his mom, who works as a therapist and grief counselor, recollected an art therapy project she had done with a patient.
“The glitter fell on the floor when they were having the session and [my mom] told this girl, ‘Grief is just like glitter, it sticks to you,’” he remembers. Being the ace songwriter that Droney is, a lightbulb of ideas lit up in a trice, leading him to pen the track with co-writer Wayne Hector.
“‘Glitter’ just has helped me so much as a metaphor. And what it has done for other people has been probably the most singular defining moment as a songwriter for me,” Droney reflects.
The prolific songwriter continues to tackle life’s pertinent questions head-on on the stellar soul-stirring track, “River,” which opens with a poignant and sympathizable sentiment: “It’s been a hard year.”
“It was really important to write that song that day because I think I needed a moment in this album to reflect upon what’s happening right now,” recalls the singer, who ended up co-writing and recording the powerful song all on the final day of his two-week studio time in Berry Hill, Tennessee. A true album standout, the stunning soul-pop offering features gospel-like harmonies from Alyssa Bonagura and Konrad Synder, as well as Droney’s impeccable guitar solo on the bridge.
“If time is a river running / Well, let’s be stones underwater next to each other / And stay in the moment / Don’t try to hold it, the tides gonna pull you,” he tenderly cautions, sailing on a smooth production style reminiscent of Amos Lee and John Mayer cuts.
Adds Droney, “It was the culmination of such a difficult year for everybody, but filled with so much hope, and time feeling like this everlasting thing. It’s not necessarily a pandemic song, but it was inspired by all that emotion, and [the sentiment] of, ‘we will get through this together.’”
The singer’s docility to such pertinent blink-or-you’ll-miss-it moments of inspiration is credited to his astute belief that “songs are like fossils” — a brilliant metaphor only perceptive, philosophical songsmiths like Droney could construe.
“I always feel like they find me and I find them,” he shares. “There’s a reverence in that process because if you’re open to seeing them, they’ll appear.”
Elsewhere on State of the Heart, Droney embraces an evolved, bolder, more rock-leaning sound. Like a true visionary, he refuses to let himself be curtailed up by genre lines and familiar production styles.
Lead single “The Wire” is a rip-roaring pop-rock live-in-the-moment tune, warm saxophone riffs are layered on “Nowhere Town,” and the synth beat-driven “When The Lights Go Out” highlights the striking bond between love and memory loss over an electrifying production. In the song, Droney notes that “The mind can be tragic, and time makes you forget,” rendering a timely reminder of memory’s painful fragility.
Another exceptional cut on Droney’s debut LP is “Talk About That,” a pensive song where the call for empathy, openness, and human camaraderie is front and center.
Back in 2017, Droney had turned up to his writing session with co-writer Luke Foley frustrated by the tumultuous happenings of the world. “It just felt like the easiest way for us to get through this is just to be honest and to talk about it,” the singer recalls. Thence began the writing process for a stirring tune that underscores a certain quandary that Droney hopes to resolve: “Why is it so hard to say that life can be a lot and everyone’s afraid?”
“What ended up happening was each line of that song in those verses are moments that I can connect to,” he explains, “[like] the train to New York is me going to see my grandpa, divorce, loss, and all these things.”
“The more we can show up for each other authentically and realize we are all in this together, I think it’s an easier path to something positive and good.”
As the listening journey draws to a close, fans are offered a moment to slow down and enjoy the final ride with Droney on album closer, “On Your Way Home.” The tender acoustic-leaning track features his raw vocals recorded at 5 A.M. on New Year’s Eve as he penned the song, offering a befitting “quiet moment to punctuate” the “loud and ambitious” record.
Drawing from such first-hand experiences can be daunting to those in the public eye. After all, it does take a great deal of courage to tear pages from one’s diary and share it with a world of over 7 billion people. However, for Droney, he sees profound beauty in vulnerability and the impact it can have on those apart from himself.
In fact, it is precisely this outward-looking and altruistic attitude that the singer-songwriter adopts when measuring success. While the glitz, glamor, sky-high sales figures, followers and Number One plagues are welcome additions, Droney is looking to fulfill a greater, outside-of-self purpose with his music.
“At the end of the day, the metrics that I look to define success is the connection,” he posits. The 28-year-old is well aware of the ever-changing landscape of the music business and commercial definitions of success. But, he is steadfast in his vocational purpose: to offer songs that provide solace and hope for everyone.
“What will never go away is the purpose you find when you make somebody feel like you’re in this together with them,” Droney says.
“I am very proud of the sense that I’ve made of my own story through these songs, and how people have already told me it’s helping them make sense of theirs. That’s my only metric for success, and that’s what I lean on.”