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Introducing: Drew Cole

posted October 22, 2016, 10:04 pm by Carlita | Filed Under Introducing | comment Leave a Comment


Reading through New York based musician Drew Cole’s compelling bio, one might mistake it for a copy of a screenplay for the latest Academy Award nominated film. Experiencing personal trauma and tragedy at an early age, Drew sought comfort in music and moved with an aunt to a historical Upper West Side neighborhood enclave that greats like Nat King Cole, Roberta Flack, Duke Ellington and John Lennon also called home. His aunt, who would become an influential figure in his life, provided Drew proximity to cultural institutions like Lincoln Center and its impeccable vinyl record library, as well as access to his first guitar and piano. Those instruments opened up a new world and led to memorable moments throughout his storied career, facing addiction and adversity along the way.

We recently corresponded with Drew, who recently released several projects this year including his latest EP, ‘It’s All About Me’ on Bandcamp, to ask some random questions about his fascinating life.

Here’s what he had to say below:

How quickly did you learn how to play the guitar? What songs did you practice playing?

Drew:

I was about 15 and I’m still learning how to play the guitar. A dear friend Susan Lempert who left this earth way to soon taught me Dylan’s “Baby Let Me Follow You Down”. It was summertime and we were on a tenement roof on the upper west side of Manhattan. Goffin & King’s ” Up on the roof” came next.

If you could go back in time and attend any show or legendary fest, what would it be?

I’m old enough to have seen many iconic bands live over the years, including Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Smoky Robinson, Led Zeppelin, Earth Wind and Fire, The Allman Brothers, The Who and so many more. One band that I wished I had seen back then is Steely Dan who incredibly enough sold millions of records in the 70s without playing live. Fagan and Becker for me are right up there with the best writing teams and musicians in the world for any era.

Where did you meet John Lennon and what did you talk about when you met him?

The first time I met JL was by accident. I was on my way home from Central Park with my girlfriend who is now my wife and we literally ran into him. Julian was running happily alongside of John and I don’t know why but I blurted out “Who Loves You John?” and he looked me right in the eye and as quick as can be he replied “Me mommy loves me.” It was like we wrote a little song together like a call/response.

The other time was with my friend Elliot who was an independently wealthy art collector and well-travelled in certain circles. Elliot studied Chinese medicine and Acupuncture and apparently that was his connection to John. Elliot was on this macrobiotic diet kick and he invited me to lunch at this restaurant on upper Broadway where they featured that kind of food and so I went along with a pack of Marlboros in my jacket pocket for the free meal which I really didn’t care for at all.

So John just comes walking in the door and sits down at the table. He was really thin but looked very fit and healthy and bigger than life. Elliot introduced me and John could tell that I was nervous and he smiled and said “It’s ok…It’s ok. I understand” and settled me down. There was no talk of music…It was all about family and John said something about just having spoken on the phone to his aunt who brought him up. I told John that I too was raised by an aunt after my mom died when I was nine. So we had a moment. The rest of the lunch was a blur with John chain smoking crappy French cigarettes and much talk about Yoko and Sean and happiness. He was murdered a year later.

The night he was killed I was picking up my wife at a restaurant where she worked waiting tables called Hisaes. It’s on the south side of 72nd street and across the street from The Dakota. I got out of the cab in front of The Dakota entrance. Apparently John had been so gravely wounded that the NYPD didn’t wait for an ambulance and had already put him in a police car and rushed him to Roosevelt hospital not far away on 59th Street. When I exited the cab, I asked the shaken and distraught doorman what happened and he told me the news.

I fell into complete despair and disbelief… It was incredibly surreal like being stuck in a nightmare and you’re saying to yourself this is not real this could not possibly be happening. I crossed the street in a daze and entered the restaurant and told my wife what had happened. The news went around the room and in a minute the entire place which had just seconds before been filled with conversation and laughter went quiet. We left NY two weeks later and flew out to LA to visit my brother Allan for Christmas. I didn’t return for eight years.

What are your best or funniest memories recording with each of the artists: John McVie,Dion DiMucci, Kirk Whalum, Everette Harp, Tommy Shaw and Rick Latham?

    Drew on working with John McVie:

My association with Fleetwood Mac was really thru John McVie. John and I (he’s on the mend now) used to go to the Beverly Hills Gun Club together sometimes with their producer Richard Dashut and Kenny Gradney, the bass player for Little Feet who John played golf with. He was way into sailing and had a huge boat which he talked a lot about. I also spent time with John in Puerto Vallarta where he was on his way to pick up his boat and take it through the Panama Canal.

When we got back, John joined me in the studio for “Lauren Bacall Beside You” which eventually made it into The Robert Forester (Jackie Brown) film ‘The Banker’. Her rep contacted me and said she was really touched that someone would write a song about her. That was pretty sweet. At that time the band liked to literally blow stuff up in between sessions. We were at the A&M soundstage one time and they were in the parking lot blowing up early remote controlled helicopters with ash cans and cherry bombs. Crazy shit.

    Drew on working with Tommy Shaw:

Tommy Shaw of Styx is genuinely one of the nicest people you could ever meet and lived a few streets from me back in 1989 and 1990. We were introduced by my good friend actor Bill Weeden and over time I got to know Tommy very well. One memory that stands out for me is that he came over to my place one day and we sat at my upright and banged out a song called “Keeping Me Alive. I was just finishing a publishing deal with Gill Music who represented me in LA and this was post-Styx and Tommy was about to form Damn Yankees with Jack Blades and Ted Nugent. Tommy had a steel guitar with him and I remember him being really excited about it like a little kid really…And then saying “when I strum it the songs write themselves.” It did in his hands anyway.

    Drew on working with Dion DiMucci:

I met Dion DiMucci (“The Wanderer”, “Run Around Sue”, “Ruby Baby” etc.) back in the early nineties when I was in a church basement one day (I’m not religious) playing a piano I really loved the sound of. He was walking down the hall, heard the music, opened the door and walked in. He was wearing a black NY Yankees baseball cap and was dressed all in black which is his custom. I was playing a Beatles ballad and he sat down, listened and when I was done and without introducing himself, he raved about what I had just played. I thanked him and he introduced himself and that’s when I got it. It’s bloody Dion for Christ sake. After that day, we became really good friends and he played a huge role in getting me back into the studio.

    Drew on working with Kirk Whalum:

I was very fortunate to have met Kirk when I did because it was before his career took off and he was available. I played live with him all over LA and the recording sessions were made possible by my publisher Irwin Pincus of Gill Music who paId for everything. The best time I ever had with Kirk was at the Blue Note in NY.

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    Drew on working with Rick Latham:

My favorite drummer that is not Cozy Powell is Rick Latham. When I met Rick, his very well-known and now world famous book “Advanced Funk Studies” either had not come out yet or was just about to be published. He was playing with Lester Abrams at the time and I met him when he answered an ad in a local music paper. The first time I played with him, it was an OMG moment. He was nothing less than spectacular. Rick is one of the funniest people you’ll meet and my favorite memories of him were at my home on Laurel where he would visit and just the two of us would write and record experimental music and beats using my eight track. Rick is having the time of his life now and is living the dream in Italy.

What would someone be surprised to know about you?

I’m bi-polar and I have PTSD after witnessing my mother’s murder at nine years of age. I was physically abused by my father who committed the murder. I was rescued by an aunt who raised me. I had a drug habit for 15 years but have been clean now for over two decades.

Describe a WTF moment where you couldn’t believe you were somewhere doing something.

I was introduced to Bob Dylan by my friend Evan Braun whose dad David was Bob’s lawyer for many years. He also handled George Harrison, John Lennon, Roy Orbison, Neil Diamond and many more. I met him on two occasions, all backstage at different venues. So I was standing with Bob in his trailer and beside me were Cesar Rojas from Los Lobos, Tom Petty, heartbreaker guitar player Mike Campbell, and Carole King. My wife was with me and it was a truly exciting 30 minutes or so until Bob got pretty lit on Courvoisier and ended up hitting on my wife. Not cool Bob.

If you could time travel and give advice to your 16-year-old self, what would you say?

Don’t shoot dope. Don’t spend your time trying to please people or let their expectations of you define who you are. This life is an illusion and we will never really understand what is happening around us and why. The older I get, the more I realize my perception is faulty. But that’s all fine. Through science we have learned that our planet is not in the center of the universe and we humans are not considered special in any way by that universe. Yes, we live on this beautiful blue dot that orbits our sun but we now know that our scientists have identified thousands of these goldilocks planets in our galaxy and others. The other thing is something that Dion once said to me, “If you learn to laugh at yourself, you will never be without humor.”

What are your plans for the rest of 2016 and into 2017?

The music business has changed so much over the years, my intention is to change with it and adapt. Thankfully I’m in a position where I can give my music away free of charge which seems to be one of the popular business models that has been used for a while now. I will also be releasing a backlog of music that has been sitting on a hard drive for a long time and am also in the process of working with different music supervisors for song placements in various films and TV shows for Showtime, HBO, Sundance, etc. David Levy, a young writer producer friend of mine from Austin, just played drums on and mixed and mastered six of my new songs and we will continue to work together for the near term.

Visit Drew’s site for more discography info!

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