Season 4, Episode 4
Wright Thompson + Drew Holcomb
Wright Thompson (photo by Thomas McCallum)
Americana songwriter Drew Holcomb was on the road, and needed a little light reading. He picked up a copy of Garden and Gun magazine, after noticing that the theme of the issue was “highways and roads.” Inside was a story by journalist and author Wright Thompson about the death of his uncle, and it hit Drew hard.
“I found myself in an airport, reading this article and sobbing,” Drew says, smiling ruefully.
In the story, Wright describes a drive to visit his uncle one last time at the family farm in Greenwood, Mississippi. He sits by his uncle’s bed holding his hand and weeping, and then heads home. By the time he gets back, his uncle has passed.
Drew comes from a large family – he is one of 38 grandkids – and says that he was raised by his aunts and uncles. His great uncle, a World War II veteran, was particularly central to his childhood. Drew fondly remembers shooting gourds and tomatoes with a .22 at his uncle’s remote mountain home.
“When I was reading this thing, I remembered very clearly the first time I drove that road after he passed away, and thinking, this road is never going to be the same,” Drew says.
Drew Holcomb (photo by Ashtin Paige)
When Wright heard that Drew planned to write a song in response to his story, he was surprised and a little anxious. He had been a fan of Drew’s for a long time, not just of his songwriting but also his band's roof-raising live show.
“I was flattered, obviously,” Wright says, “But also nervous, because obviously it’s deeply personal.”
The song Drew wrote is called “Slower than the Highway,” a plaintive, earthy song about love and loss. When Wright heard Drew play it live, it was his turn to get emotional.
“Half a bar in, and I’m like, Oh, no…” Wright says. “I’m trying to be cool in front of the fucking country music singer, and now I’m going to cry, on Zoom?”
The two artists talked admiringly of each others’ craft and work. Both were fascinated by the capacities and limitations of the art forms.
“The thing that Drew wrote is more universal than the thing I wrote, which makes me crazy,” Wright laughs, “So now I hate him.”
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