Drake Jensen: Well on his way to finding you
Story: Lenny Stoute
Faced with a landscape of rocky crags and vast expanses of ocean, with nary a cowpoke in sight, for generations the people of Cape Breton have turned to country music. Why this is so likely has a lot to do with the type of music they first heard on the radio or that was available in local record stores. Country singer Drake Jensen grew up in Glace Bay, Cape Breton, a location defined by coal mining, fishing and music all around.
“ Growing up I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t music in the house. I was used to singing along with my parents’ record player and of course, most of what they would play would be country. The Celtic music was all around too but country music was the real popular music of the time”.
Growing up in The Glace, Jensen got into classic guitar at 12 and by 15, like any self-respecting teenager, was playing in a rock band, more keyboards than guitar. But as happened with the classical phase, Drake found he didn’t like it much and drifted back to his country roots.
The next phase was all about gigging around wherever they’d let him plug in, honing song writing skills and bettering his vocal chops in the service of bringing original interpretations to existing material. He’d hit on the notion of being an interpretive singer as a way of getting attention and it proved to indeed be the way forward.
In 2001 Jensen released his take on an Anne Murray hit.” A Little Bit Of Good News” and scored his first taste of lower-case stardom as the tune scored airplay throughout the Maritimes
“ I feel to be able to interpret someone else’s song and bring new meaning to it is a mark of artistry. It’s not so much making the songs your own, it’s more about bringing another perspective to it”.
But Jensen was unable to capitalize on the breakthrough. Even as he was hearing his voice on the radio, his personal and financial life had hit rock bottom. Drake Jensen turned out the lights, went musically silent and didn’t know how he would ever get back again.
“I don’t think people realise how much it costs just to record a single, never mind an album and I didn’t want to put out anything that wasn’t quality.
“I am grateful to God I was lucky enough to find that one person who lifted me up, got me on my feet and encouraged me to get back to making music again”.
By 2008, a significant number of the pieces needed to get Jensen back in the game had fallen into place and he began plotting the debut album. Jensen set about sifting through 100 songs looking for material that was both airplay-likely and would accurately reflect what he was all about.
“ The initial plan was to source the best songs available but (Producer) Kim Copeland was adamant that I write some songs for the album. She was like; “You’ve got to have a couple of songs on there. This has to happen”. In the end I had three, two co-writes and one I did by myself.
“ It was my dream to record this album in Nashville, and last December I found myself doing just that. I got so much out of the experience; I went in thinking it might be all factory attitude; “ let’s sit down and get this done” but it was relaxed, supportive and all about the individual songs.
“ At one point I met with Mike McGuire (Shenandoah), a big idol of mine, and when he told me he loved my version of his song (“Wash Me Away”) that was so amazing to hear
“ It was all very encouraging, exciting and humbling. That me, some guy from Glace Bay could be sitting in a room writing with Mike McGuire and (major songwriter) Jan Buckingham, that made me feel like I was on the right track”
On My Way To Finding You offers 11 meaty meditations on this thing called ‘love’, leaning for the most part on its healing and redemptive powers, although nowhere is there any evidence Mr. Jensen doesn’t like a good party
“ The idea of love is at the core of the album. It’s about how love makes you fully yourself. The centrepiece for me is a song I wrote called "All You Need". It’s autobiographical but I didn't want it to be so much about me. It concerns a deep and life-changing experience but for the song to work I had to make it relatable to everyone. It’s a tale of being down in the dark depths and finding that one person who can lift you up. It’s about being lifted up and being given a new chance”.
This is one deep Drake and he worries about his message getting across. Further complicating matters is his agreement that the message is still evolving, still coming into focus.
“ I wrote songs on this album that would be easy for others to cover. For one thing, they’re not gender specific. For another, they’re open-ended in a way that allows a listener to being their level of interpretation to a song. My message has to be open to interpretation by anybody”.
That’s somewhat reflected in the album title, On My Way To Finding You. Along the way Jensen’s music evolves by changing it up just a little. His vocals are now more varied, a more emotive thing than it was back in 2001. He's doing things with his rich baritone, easing down that road stretching from Ferlin Husky through to Vince Gill and Keith Urban, trod by country singers with more than a little crooner in their mix.
The album officially drops Aug.22 but the first single “Wash Me Away” has already logged airplay on 100 radio stations worldwide and the album scored a rave review from influential country critic Robert Oermann in Music Row magazine.
In keeping with his one day at a time approach, Jensen won’t be doing the traditional support tour, at least not just yet. Instead, he’s leaning on breaking the songs on the radio and playing a few select Ottawa area dates in September, including one at the prestigious Elmdale House.
“ This album says, I have a lot to say but I’ll tell you who I am first. I feel I have the ability and the gifts to revolutionize country music but this will unfurl over time”.
Get a taste of On My Way To Finding You at http://www.drakejensen.ca/