Outsider A-Side: Drake Milligan Pays Homage to Honky-Tonk Roots With New Self-Titled EP

by Matthew Wilson

Texas native Drake Milligan moved to Music City with country music dreams in 2017. You might recognize Drake’s name from his 2018 American Idol audition. He copped a golden ticket to Hollywood. But he turned down the offer so he could further develop as a singer/songwriter.

With his new self-titled EP, Milligan, 23, is making his grand debut in Nashville. The Texan combines old-school honky-tonk with a modern edge, somewhere between the sounds of Midland and his idol, George Strait. But Milligan is humble enough to admit he’s not ready to wear the country music crown just yet. However, he is ready to entertain audiences with new tunes “She” and “Over Drinkin’ Under Thinkin’,” among others.

Drake talked with Outsider about following in his idol’s bootprints and staying true to himself as an artist with his new five-track EP, Drake Milligan.

Musical Roots

Drake Milligan: “When I’m writing songs, it’s mostly trying to put together influences. Inspirations from George Strait to Elvis to Dwight Yoakam to even some standard [Frank] Sinatra and stuff like that. For me, it’s just trying to combine all those influences and make something new.”

Blue Suede Shoes

Drake Milligan: “I played [Elvis Presley] on Sun Records. It was on CMT in 2017. I’ve been an Elvis fan since I was a kid, a huge Elvis fan. That was kinda my gig in high school, traveling as an Elvis tribute artist. It was a fun gig, got to learn great songs, and get on stage and perform for people. Right out of high school, I had the opportunity to audition for [Sun Records]. And it all happened pretty fast. And in a couple of weeks, I was on a TV set. It was wild. We had a great crew and it was a special time.” 

Growing Up Outlaw

Drake Milligan: “Early on, my first kind of love as far as music goes was probably my dad’s records. Growing up, the Alan Jackson stuff was really popular in my house. And George Jones. My mom was listening to Waylon Jennings, all of the Outlaw stuff [like] Jessi Colter. That was my first love of music. I remember my dad had a 15 No. 1s Merle Haggard CD that I just loved. Those were the things that gravitated me toward music and made me want to play the guitar and sing.”

New Kid on the Block

Drake Milligan: “I knew there was a lot of work ahead of me [when moving to Nashville]. Singing in the studio was something I had to learn about. I had never really sung with headphones on. I finally learned how to control my voice and ended up a better singer because of it. So I just put my nose to the grindstone and went at it every day. Tried to develop myself as much as possible. And even going back and trying to learn country music. And trying to learn about the guys who came before me. All the guys who played on my favorite records, all the guys who wrote my favorite songs. The names you don’t see. I just tried to surround myself with that as much as I could.”

Strait for Success

Drake Milligan: “I’m definitely influenced heavily by [George Strait]. Obviously, there’s only going to be one. That life has been lived. And no one is going to come close to what he did. He’s the best for a reason. He had great songs, great career. I just hope I can pay homage to some of that. There’s no getting around it.”