Drake Jensen’s Outlaw Ways
Story: Lenny Stoute
Drake Jensen ‘s had quite the career year. Since dropping his debut album "On My Way To Finding You" and coming out as Canada’s only openly gay country act in 2011, dude’s become a talking point in both the gay and Country communities. On account of his pairing with bullying.org Jensen’s become a figure in that community as well.
Musically, he scored a Coup de Chapeau, a Montreal award which recognises emerging artists, enjoyed a slew of positive reviews for the album, played a sold-out gig at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, recorded a single, “”Little Toy Trains” to benefit the Make A Wish Foundation, saw airplay on both sides of the border for “All You Need”, performed a well-received Country Stage showcase at this Year’s East Coast Music Week and made his Nashville debut at the Commodore Grill.
Jensen likes Nashville, working and recording there as often as he can with Music City luminaries such as Beau Fuller, Jan Buckingham and Kim Copeland. Along the way he’s done tons of interviews with media outlets from Indiana to Ireland, charted on the European Country Music Association with “Wash Me Away” now 14 weeks on the chart and counting, released a clutch of high quality, intriguing videos and is just about to drop his latest single “Pancho And Lefty”.
You’d think he’d be happy and he is. Happy but also perplexed and pissed at the resistance he’s having to deal with from within the Canadian Country music establishment. So much so that the big man’s sounding poised to become another Cannuck who had to flee South to blow up large.
But back to “Pancho And Lefty”, a Townes van Zandt buddy/road trip tune given the Drake Jensen vocal treatment and boasting a searing guitar solo. Dude’s very excited about it and rightly so, as it heralds a new, more country-rockin’ direction, which he says, typifies the sound of the upcoming “Outlaw” album.
“It’s going to be quite different; you’ll be able to hear just how far I’ve come as a singer and songwriter in the last year. It was interesting to me to see how the overall sound influenced the composition of the songs."
“I was going to call the album “Be” after a track that’s on it which I co-wrote; I’m not looking to be a hero but hoping to be a voice of something positive for somebody. Which is why it’s so frustrating trying to get my voice heard."
“ After "On My Way"…I guess I became a force for speaking out against bias and anti-bullying. so both in the music and as a public figure it’s been a positive year. I just wish it could be more so.”
This Year’s CCMA show happens in Saskatoon and for the second year Drake Jensen will not be playing a Showcase spot. "I went through the whole process last year and n the end, I was told they’d forgotten to mail me the confirming documents, that was their story. No apology, no accountability.”
This year, again Drake didn’t make the cut and as usual, there was no hard explanation because there’s no accountability factor built in. While Jensen and his support team have become very adroit at making lemonade when handed lemons, the CCMA situation still leaves a bitter taste in his mouth.
“It takes a toll on you dealing with this kind of ongoing bias. There’s rarely anything specific you can take issue with; it’s like a fog; nothing is ever said directly, it’s all allusion and behind your back but the end result is the same as if it were blatant."
“I look at their line-up and I see artists who have accomplished a lot less than I and it’s disheartening. Not that I haven’t had support in Canada, I’ve had a lot of airplay in Canada and much thanks to the DJs who’ve supported me but I don’t feel totally accepted by the Canadian Country music community at large.”
For the foreseeable future Drake Jensen’s now training his sights on America, itself a product of Team Jensen’s way with making lemonade.
“(Songwriter) Jan Buckingham said to me,” You’ve created a different kind of template. Now you have to create a different way of getting it out.”
“We’ve sent out dozens of emails to agencies and such and never got much of a response. Until now and the deal we have just signed has been worth the wait”.
Late yesterday Jensen went public on the deal via this Facebook posting: “So its official...we begin working with the amazing Karpel Group of NYC. What a privilege it is to work with a publicity firm that has handled the likes of Madonna, Katie Perry, Dixie Chicks, and the list goes on...I'm honoured they believe in my music...thanks guys!!"
While he’s way excited about that situation, he’s still very much invested in the mystery of why he can’t get a showcase at the CCMA hoedown. Jensen smiles, leans back in his chair at the Detroit Eatery and ticks off the probable causes.
“Maybe it’s because I’m not country enough. Maybe it’s because I’m too ugly. Or I can’t dance. Or I’ve never been found naked on a Texas highway. Or maybe it’s my hat. Or my guitar. Maybe my choice of friends. It’s got to be something. Wait, maybe it’s because I’m gay. Nah, that can’t be it. Right? Right?"