Interview: Drake White Pours His Soul Into New Album ‘The Optimystic’
Drake White has never been a good speller.
“If you ask me, spelling slows down creativity,” White says with a laugh during an interview with Taste of Country.
But on the day that the accomplished singer-songwriter came up with the unique spelling of the word that would ultimately become the title of his second studio album, The Optimystic, the Alabama native knew that he had something special.
“It's one thing to be optimistic, but when you are placed within the mystery of not knowing if you are going to be able to sing or do what you love again, then you can truly wear the badge of optimism,” says White, who used his Wednesday Night Therapy online events to "try out" many of the songs that have now found a home on The Optimystic.
The Optimystic is an album that came to be during some of White’s darkest days as he rehabilitated from a debilitating hemorrhagic stroke that he suffered in the Summer of 2019 while he was undergoing treatment for an arteriovenous malformation.
“Being an optimist is not about just getting in a happy place,” says White, who is currently working on a book about his experience. “Some people need to mourn. I had to mourn. I mourned for a long time.”
Nevertheless, White pushed through, and ended up creating a magical piece of work that had him writing alongside songwriters including Chris DeStefano, Allison Veltz Cruz, Phil O’Donnell, Eric Paslay and Randy Montana.
And as always, White wrote from the deepest realms of the heart. Take for example “Legends Never Die,” an album cut that serves as a tribute to the country artist’s dear uncle.
“My uncle Ron is like a second dad to me,” White says of the 82-year-old Vietnam veteran. “He loves telling stories and he loves being around the fire and he loves whiskey. And he literally raised me, which was a pretty big feat.”
The album also includes a stunning rendition of “Amazing Grace,” in which White is joined by the sounds of his family singing in his grandfather’s church many years ago.
“My grandfather died when I was 16 years old,” says White, who filled his early life with the sounds of Merle Haggard, Ray Charles and Stevie Ray Vaughan. “He's the one who taught me how to fish and taught me how to hunt and taught how to open a door for a woman. He had a small church, and I ran across these tapes of my family singing in that church on Easter Sunday back in like 1988, and I thought, ‘My God, these are gold.’”
White has certainly leaned on music as he continues to recuperate both physically and mentally from some of the most challenging years of his life.
“I feel really good,” says White, who is currently out on the road with Whiskey Myers and will soon begin an overseas run of shows. “Every day, it's like watching trees grow in terms of my nerves and such. My hand is not quite back, but I’m kind of beating around on the guitar with it. I’m going to be just fine.”