Drake Jensen-When you Wish upon a Train

Cover, Nov 4, 2011

Story: Lenny Stoute

“Right now the most important thing to me is getting 10,000 hits”. Nope, it’s not a drug dealer doing inventory, a masochist looking to break into the Guinness Book of Records or a record promoter flogging a dead horse single. It’s country interpreter Drake Jensen laying down the bottom line for expectations of his current single Little Toy Trains.

Jensen’s the much buzzed about new vocal interpreter on the Country scene whose debut album On My Way To Finding You continues to enjoy airplay. The Ottawa valley crooner has made a big impression not only with the voice but also with a consuming sense of mission.

The mission? In two words, preaching love, in all its scintillating manifestations. Love as sword to cut through the negativity, love as shield against the naysayers, love as universal balm. It’s the subtext to the debut album’s title and bound to be the engine driving album number two.

The hard-hustling Jensen is currently at work on that much-anticipated follow-up but still found time and inspiration to switch on the Little Toy Trains project.

“I have always had a soft spot for kids. I was bullied as a child and it was a long time before I was able to quit hiding and be the person I always was".

“ When the opportunity came to get involved with the Make a Wish program, I jumped right in. I’m very aware of how much the granting of a child's actual wish can mean to their well-being. I chose Little Toy Trains because it’s a song that was a big part of my childhood Christmas memories”.

The tune was cut as a fund-raising vehicle for Make-A-Wish Foundation and has just been released to lead off a campaign which concludes Dec.16. Until then, the push is on to log those 10,000 downloads on the single, as that’s how many it takes for a child with life threatening medical conditions to have a wish come true.

Jensen will continue to represent for the cause with an appearance in the Make-A-Wish event at The Shops at Don Mills in Toronto, Ontario on Thursday, November 17 (4:30 – 6:30pm).

The hook here is that the Make-A-Wish folk are hoping to enter the Guinness World Records for building the largest human star.  Jensen will perform Little Toy Trains and a tune from debut album On My Way To Finding You as the star is being formed. A YouTube moment for sure, so if you happen to be close by and feel like a ‘starring’ role, drop by and get involved.

Folks in the Ottawa area get their chance to get in on the Little Toy Trains campaign December 16th. That’s when Drake presents a cheque for the take from the downloads to the Make-A-Wish at Foundation at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre.

The evening will feature another rising talent Tia McGraff, singing tunes from her current Christmas album and joining Drake for a duet or two.

Penned by Roger Miller, Little Toy Trains was a huge crossover hit for Glen Campbell in the Seventies, which has since gone below the radar. Jensen’s version, only the fourth ever recorded, derives more from Miller’s original but dropped down in tempo and sung virtually as a lullaby, thereby making it his own.

The applause will hardly have stopped ringing in his ears before Jensen’s back at work on the follow-up album. Much is expected of it, more than the usual which surrounds any sophomore collection. The expectations are threefold; those of the fans base, those of the industry and those of the artist himself.

On the eve of the release of debut album On My Way To Finding You, Jensen told Cashbox Canada: “ 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 bring their level of interpretation to a song. My message has to be open to interpretation by anybody

“ This album says, I have a lot to say but I’ll tell you who I am first”.

Turns out that people were interested in enough in this new talent to give the music a try and having done so, are cueing up for more.“ The reviews were strong enough for me to feel confident about the way I handled the album, the feel of it. On this one, I’ll be taking even more of a producer’s control because I’m very sure about the sound I want from each and every song.

“I’m not the kind of artist who goes into the studio and see what develops. I’m in there because I know exactly what I want and am getting better at learning how to get it”.

The big knock against self-producing is that an artist can get too close to the material, causing forest and trees to blur together. Jensen’s aware and claims to have it sussed thusly.

“ I’m stubborn and sure of myself but what saves me is that I can leave room for the opinions of someone whose experience I trust. Part of that confidence level has to do with the team I’m building around me. My manager and I feel we’re getting together all the parts for the team I need to help get to the next level”.

The man with the work ethic that makes a beaver look like a slacker allows that even though he has half the songs written, work on building the Jensen brand continues on all fronts.

“ The promotion that will come from the Little Toy Trains project is a by-product because that song would have gotten airplay anyway. Its focus is and always has been raising funds for the cause.

“ I’ll be back down Nashville in January to finish the song writing and production So far, so good and I remain a singer blessed with an amazing opportunity to do ground-breaking things, things with positive effects far beyond the music world. But you’ll just have to wait for the album, it’s all on there”.

Meanwhile, let’s all get up and download until Little Toy Trains becomes The Little Engine That Did. It’s all at the link below.