New Orleans proved to be about a lot more than beads, beignets and mud bugs when “Dance With Ya” singer Drew Baldridge and his team hosted a weekend of fun and music in The Big Easy.
If you’ve never been to New Orleans, the city oozes Southern charm and hospitality, and although his roots are midwestern, Drew was equally charming and hospitable welcoming industry folks to a NOLA style social hour. Guests sipped on cold beer and cocktails and devoured steaming platters of crawfish, andouille sausage, potatoes and corn while Drew bounced from table to table, meeting and chatting with everyone. With an endless supply of energy and a warm smile, he shared stories of growing up in tiny Patoka, Ill. where his graduating class of 22 students meant reaching to neighboring schools for prom dates. “Yeah, one of my classmates was my cousin, so…” Drew laughed.
Drew proved to be a bit of a Pied Piper leading the party crowd on a parade through the French Quarter where a squad of dancing buskers enticed him and a few members of the group to join them in the Wobble. Continuing on to the oldest bar in the United Stages, the candlelit Lafitte, Drew’s bass player hijacked the piano bar for a few songs before the plug was pulled on the evening’s festivities…but not before stopping in for traditional beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde.
The highlight of the weekend was the next afternoon at the city’s House of Blues when Drew took the stage with Nashville songwriting buddies JT Harding, Josh Leo and Tim Nichols. After bellies were warm with crunchy shrimp and tender roast beef po’ boys, crispy fried chicken, spicy jambalaya and creamy, bourbon-glazed bread pudding, and ears were warm from a traditional Dixieland trio, the writers performed an intimate round of their country smashes like “Sangria,” “Cowboys and Angels” and “Live Like You Were Dying,” along with cuts from Drew’s upcoming album, including the title track “Dirt On Us.” Sitting still for that long proved to be too much for the dynamic Drew, so he abandoned his chair and guitar and moved to the main stage where he his four-piece band cut loose with an explosive set of songs from his upcoming album. Even the audience couldn’t stay still and eventually they, too, spilled from their seats to join in on the party. And heck, while they were up, might as well give Drew a standing ovation, right?
You might expect that the young country star would be spent after such a busy weekend and high-octane show, but when he sat down for a quick Q&A from the balcony of the House of Blues, he seemed to be ready to go another round.
SLN: “Wow, blown away! That was an industry crowd and they’re notoriously tough. Does that make you nervous?”
DREW: “It can be a tough crowd, but I’m really lucky that we had a great group of industry people here that wanted to have fun.”
SLN: “There’s a lot of chemistry on that stage. How do y’all keep that level of energy up?”
DREW: “We’ve been out on the road a lot, I’ve had the same band for three years now and we’re all from southern Illinois. I always say, every time we play acoustic, ‘You’ve got to see my band.’ They’ve worked just as hard as I have to make this dream happen and we’ve worked really hard to make the best live show we possibly can, so any time I can bring my band in, it makes me so much more confident. It makes me have more fun, I know my guys can knock it out of the park. After we got done here I got to go up into the green room and say, ‘Guys, I’m proud of you. We’re doing this.’ I’m lucky to have my band and I’m lucky we got to be here in New Orleans to play for all these industry people. It was fun.”
SLN: “Between you and your band, there wasn’t an inch of stage that wasn’t danced on. Are you a natural born dancer??”
DREW: “I started off in talent shows dancing, not singing. In second grade, I did Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” I had the red jacket, the white glove and had a couple of friends dress up like zombies and we did the whole dance. It moved from “Thriller” to The Blues Brothers to “Greased Lightening” to “Men In Black.” I didn’t sing ever, I just danced at them. My mom would help me choreograph little dance moves. I know it sounds cheesy, but that’s what I took into the show. I want my show to be choreographed.”
SLN: “Everyone looks like they’re having fun. It looks spontaneous and it really fits the music.”
DREW: When you watch the show, you see my guys dance behind me, they slide here, they step there. It’s like watching the Temptations. That’s how I always saw my show, having moves included, and if you listen to the album, it’s very groovy, it’s very influenced that and it allows my show to do that. It’s a lot of fun to be up there with those guys.”
SLN: “Speaking of the album, what can you tell us about the sound?”
DREW: “I call it ‘funk-try’ – it’s got a little funk in the country. The lyric is very small town. I grew up in a small town and it’s small town with a groove to it, but it’s a country album. There’s songs that are true to me, true to who I am, how I grew up, where I grew up. You listen to the album and it says a lot about me and I think for a first album, you want it to tell who you are. I think in this album, we really did that.”
Baldridge’s Dirt On Us drops June 10.