Singer-songwriter Sterling Drake has a deep passion for country and roots music. With his upbringing on his family’s ranch in southern Florida, time spent in the northern Rockies of Western Montana, and performances at rodeos and honky-tonks throughout North America, Drake strives to deliver a traditional sound to a contemporary audience.
In advance of his performance on Thursday, April 6, opening up for The Wilder Blue at The Virginian Saloon, Sterling Drake joined us live in the KHOL studios.
The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on Thursday, April 6.
JACK CATLIN/KHOL: You’ve spent a considerable amount of time in a lot of different places. Can you touch on two or three of those distinct places that informed your music? How much your physical surroundings influence your creative output?
STERLING DRAKE: I think everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve enjoyed learning the music of the land. My grandfather had roots in Appalachia, so going to Tennessee in more recent years has been great to be surrounded by that community and bluegrass music and traditional country out of Nashville. But I’d say western Montana to me, I think it’s a beautiful place. There’s a lot of great culture in Western music, old cowboy tunes, and everything from that to more contemporary music, which I think has lacked a voice in recent generations. And I could say the same about Wyoming here as well. There’s so much beautiful culture and rich history.
Texas has done a good job of elevating its musicians throughout the years. I think everybody, if you’re from Texas, knows the Texas music catalog, and I’d say the same about the south, southeast, like Nashville and Tennessee. But for some reason, it seems that we’ve lacked a voice here in Montana and Wyoming for that music. So, I feel really called to be here and be a part of this emerging scene that is starting to grow here.
KHOL: So, you performed across North America and various ranch rodeos and honky-tonks. What have you learned from all that time on the road?
DRAKE: Oh man, I’ve enjoyed traveling long before I was really performing. I’ve kind of enjoyed working different ranch outfits, and there are other jobs like that, too. So, I kind of had it bred into me prior to really performing. But one thing I enjoy about traveling and maybe now as a musician is playing the roads less traveled, I think as the scene is built, there’s kind of becomes a route that people stick to and they want to, as a younger artist, work their way up and play those certain venues that their idols are playing. But for me, I like to take a left turn and find the places that are not really being represented as much because those people are so appreciative of that music. A bit of time in West Texas, and parts of Montana, that maybe are lesser played.
Those are the salt of the earth people, and I think the people I want my music to be for more than anybody. We were just talking about Highway 200, the song we played earlier. It’s about a certain part of Montana, and the local bar out there, they play it all the time, and that makes me happier than anything. I’m glad to play on the big stages, but traveling I get to see people that don’t get to see live music as often, so they are a lot more appreciative.
Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Sterling Drake.