Outsider A-Side: Drayton Farley Talks About New Music, Tough Gigs, & Big Moments

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo Credit: Erik Poston courtesy of Drayton Farley)

Drayton Farley released his first EPs in 2018. Hargrove and Sweet Southern Sadness contained a total of ten songs penned, performed, and recorded by the young Alabama native. However, it would be three years later, in January of 2021 when Farley would truly make his mark on the country music world. A Hard Up Life, his first full-length record took fans of heartfelt country by storm. These days, Drayton is opening for some of the biggest acts in the genre including Willie Nelson and his star continues to rise.

Recently, Outsider caught up with Drayton Farley to talk about rising to prominence during the pandemic, his musical “aha” moment, and what lies ahead for the up-and-coming country singer-songwriter.

Writing Songs on the Assembly Line

Drayton Farley: Hargrove and Sweet Southern Sadness were originally two EPs that I put out starting in 2018. Hargrove was four songs. Sweet Southern Sadness was six songs. I was still working a full-time job back then. I didn’t stop working until August of 2021.

I was working on an assembly line building SUVs and vans. The nature of assembly production was once you’re trained up you’re pretty much a robot. You’re not doing a whole lot of thinking and you’re building the same three cars over and over all day. You play a small role. For example, I used to install the gas pedals, center consoles, and carpet. If you know how to do the job and do it well, you can truly just kick your autopilot on and not even think. It leaves you a whole lot of time to get lost in your head.

I’d hum out new melodies, write new verses and lines, and get a whole bunch of ideas. I had a bunch of free mental time on that job. With A Hard Up Life, those songs and a lot of the content of that album was kind of brought in directly from that job. I wrote “Blue Collar” one night at work.

New Music Is Coming

Drayton Farley: I never stop writing. It’s a curse. I’ve never been one to really sit down and intentionally write. I can’t really do that, I try but usually I get stuck a verse or two in and it’ll seem like it’s going nowhere. I think I write best in my head kind of throughout the day. But, I never really stop, I think I’ll always be writing.

I do have a new album that I’ll be going into the studio later this year to record. It’ll be my first studio album.  Everything I’ve done so far has pretty much been solo acoustic and I recorded it myself. So, I’m excited for this one.

I think just naturally, with this being a studio album and having other instruments involved, it’ll be a much lighter mood with the drums and stuff. Lyrically, this one has a lot more content that is along the lines of “Dear, Haven” but it’s not all good mood music.

There are some sad songs on there, a whole lot of self-reflective songs, and kind of personal songs. “Pitchin’ Fits,” was the first song that I had written where I was telling my own personal experience but trying to do it in a way that other people could resonate with. I think this next album is going to fall into that way more than A Hard Up Life did. I’m really proud of these new songs. I think they’re some of the best songs I’ve written so far.

“Dear, Haven”

Tough Gigs and Perseverance

Drayton Farley: I was booking any show that I could book around my work schedule. We worked six days a week. For two weeks, we’d work the morning shift then we’d work the night shift for two weeks and repeat. It wasn’t easy to book any kind of show. The only shows I could book were Fridays after work or Saturdays here and there if I was off.

About the only places I could really get in at were breweries, bars, and restaurants.  Most of those shows were horrible. You’re playing for tips to the five or six people in the room, hoping maybe they’ll help cover the gas it took to get there.

It was definitely opening for bigger bands like Mike and the Moonpies that really opened my eyes. I realized that if I wanted to take any more steps down this road I would have to branch out and get out of this state and play somewhere else. We just don’t have the market here. So, that’s what I did.

After that, I went up to Lexington and did a show with Arlo McKinley, Tommy Prine, and Frontier Folk Nebraska. So, I got to meet all those guys that night. I was talking to Arlo and his team and they had a tour coming up. He was coming around Alabama and they offered four shows opening for him – two Mississippi dates, a Bama date, and a Georgia date – and I jumped on those.

Opening for Zach Bryan

Drayton Farley: Just after those shows with Arlo, Zach Bryan started announcing shows. He had just gotten out of the Navy and was starting to play more often. He announced the Birmingham date and I sent an email but they already had an opener. Then, he announced the Tennessee show and they already had an opener for that. A few days later, they came back and Birmingham had sold out super quick. So, they had booked another Alabama date for the night before in Huntsville and they reached out and offered me the opening slot for that. I got to open for Zach. I think after that was when I realized “This is happening.”

Drayton Farley’s Reaction to Landing Shows with Willie Nelson

Drayton Farley: I’m really good with holding in excitement. Obviously, I was really excited about it but I don’t think I jumped up and down so to speak. I always try to keep composure. But, it was a moment that made me realize that I’m really doing this. These kinds of opportunities don’t come to people unless they’re truly doing what they can to make these things happen. When that came through I was absolutely in the clouds about it. I still am. I haven’t played those. I just opened for Willie at his ranch last weekend and that was absolutely surreal.

Listen to Drayton Farley

If you haven’t checked out Drayton Farley’s debut album, A Hard Up Life, you’re missing out on some great music. Give it a listen today. “American Dream” “Pitchin’ Fits” and “Late Night Break Hits” are all stellar songs, but there isn’t a bad cut on the record.