Ashtin Paige

Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors Share the 'Sound of Freedom' on New Album 'Strangers No More'

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors have entertained fans for years with their soulful and genuine messages about life through music, and the band is peeling back the curtain even more with its newly released ninth album, Strangers No More. 

The album offers a new era in the life of the band — one that comes after their 2019 album Dragons, various outside projects and one global pandemic. The group sneaked away to the mountains of Asheville, N.C. — far from the everyday hustle and bustle of Nashville — to create the album with 40 potential songs in their pocket. Over the course of eight days, they recorded 25 of those songs and eventually landed on 11 hand-picked tunes to share with the world on the LP. 

Strangers No More differs from its predecessor in a couple of ways — the first being the song content and sources of inspiration. Holcomb explains that Dragons was written about the palpable people, places and things in his life. Conversely, Strangers No More takes inspiration from world events and Holcomb's life, and it transforms them into themes in which any listener can find solace. 

The first example of this is the album opener: the serene and acoustic-led "Fly." With its easy-going, symbolic lyrics, the tune tells an optimistic story of self-discovery, freedom and living one's truth. For Holcomb, the impetus for writing the song came after reaching an important milestone in his life. 

"I turned 40 while I was making this record, and sort of dealing with this, 'I'm still young, but I'm not that young anymore,'" Holcomb tells Wide Open Country in an exclusive interview. "And I think that that's universal. It's a super specific song about how I feel about getting older, but I think it relates to how a lot of people feel about it." 

It was a specific event that also inspired the song's fifth track, "Troubles." With no wasted lyric, Holcomb describes the desire to "float like a bird" and "follow the river" to escape the troubles of life. While listeners will certainly insert their own life experiences into the song, the tune was written after an unthinkable tragedy: the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022. 

"I wrote that song in the wake of the Uvalde shooting and was just overwhelmed with the sadness and chaos of life," Holcomb says. "I wrote that song just for myself, but then I play it for people, and I think a lot of people relate to this idea that they want to escape the vicious cycle of bad news."

The second track and lead single "Find Your People" moves the album along with its lively, Americana-based rhythm that follows the band's classic style. In the tune, Holcomb urges listeners to find community — the kind of people who help one endure all the struggles of life. And if it sounds like Holcomb is writing from experience, it's because he is. He and his wife, fellow singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb, found their community of "salt of the earth, great people" in Nashville. 





Another way Strangers No More differs from previous projects is its diverse musical landscape, which was crafted by the band in the studio. There is plenty of Americana and country presence on the album, but the project veers into other musical avenues with tracks such as "All The Money in the World," which offers heavy soul and R&B influences. Then there's "On a Roll," which is an atmospheric, rock-influenced anthem. No matter where the band seems to lean throughout the project, the various musical influences work together to form a cohesive piece of work. 

Holcomb showcases more of his relatable songwriting on the undeniably fun "That's On You, That's On Me," which explores the "mythology" every person tells themselves in their own stories. Then there's "Dance with Everybody," a foot-stomping tune co-written with Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor. The song preaches the worthy theme of bringing people together despite differences, and the album's unifying title comes from a verse of the song. 

"It's really a fun song just about how much we've missed being in the room with our fans and playing shows over the last few years and how great it's been to get back in the room," says Holcomb. "I think the thing that happens with music is that it sort of accidentally creates community. ... Whether it's 200 people at a small club or 40,000 at a stadium, it's this idea that you're kind of in it together, and you're not strangers anymore." 

Strangers No More weaves through poetic messages of life, love and community as the album goes on, and it lands on one last peaceful note with "Free (Not Afraid to Die)." Holcomb wrote this tune after experiencing a dangerous bout with viral meningitis in 2016 that resulted in a lengthy hospital stay and more than six months of recovery. The singer says he wasn't sure if he was going to survive the experience, and he teamed up with songwriter Natalie Hemby to process those feelings. 

He lets go of the fear of death and the unknown in the chorus, singing, "I want to be free / See a new horizon / I want to be there when the Jordan's rising / I want to let go of the all ghosts I'm fighting / I want to be free, not afraid to die." 

That feeling of contentment and freedom isn't just restricted to the final song but also seems to be an overarching theme of the album, as Holcomb says the project marks a new frontier in the band's career. 

"I think this album is sort of the sound of freedom for us," Holcomb says. "We've all reached this point in our lives where we realize this is what we do, this is what we're going to do for the rest of our lives. ... I think it's going to mark an era for us where we sort of dropped all the shackles of any sort of expectations and just made the record that we wanted to make for us and for our fans. There's a lot of freedom in that."

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors will appear on tour throughout the summer with Darius Rucker.

READ MORE: 'Yellowstone' Music Supervisor Shares the Secrets Behind the Show's Kick-Ass Country Soundtrack