Friday, 10 July 2020 08:25

BENNETT ROAD TO BROADWAY: Henderson announces first EP

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Richmond County native Drew Henderson will release his first EP on July 17, a record paying homage to his hometown. Richmond County native Drew Henderson will release his first EP on July 17, a record paying homage to his hometown.


NASHVILLE — The buzz of the country music scene on Lower Broadway in Nashville is a lot different than the quiet back roads of Ellerbe.

But for Drew Henderson, an aspiring country music artist and songwriter whose roots are grounded in Richmond County, those country roads helped him get to where he is today.

And little did he know that a home video shot of him playing guitar and singing for his family when he was five-years-old would lead to a career in music.

On July 17, Henderson will release his first extended play record (EP), a five-track listing that pays tribute to the hometown that raised him. Titled “Bennett Road,” it honors the winding road he grew up on that snakes northwest of Ellerbe.

“I’m really excited to release this EP,” Henderson, 27, said. “It’s not easy working in Nashville, it’s super hard. People think they can record a record and blow up instantly. But I’ve had to go out, network and literally play for no money.

“It’s been a grind, and sometimes I’ve had to embrace the suck,” he added with a laugh, likening it to Jason Aldean’s hit song ‘Crazy Town’. “I get told ‘no’ 10 times before I’m told ‘yes’. This journey has been all about finding the right people to connect with, and I’m lucky to get it done in a year and a half. It’s all God's work.”

The EP took roughly a month to write, record and produce this spring, and it’s based on Henderson’s experience growing up in a rural community. He said there’s also a “love life” aspect to the record, something he laughed that most country artists include.

When naming his EP, Henderson said he wanted to “pay homage to where I grew up and the community that helped raise me.”

Henderson, the son of Alan and Cindy Henderson, believes that everything that has happened in his life since his senior year of high school has led him to this point. A high school football and baseball player for the Raiders, and a 2011 graduate from Richmond, an injury during his senior year ended his hopes of playing college ball. 

Up until that point in his life, music was just “something fun” for Henderson to enjoy. One of his first memories of liking music was that home video singing for his grandfather. Now two decades later, he’s in the thick of things in the country music capital of the world.

“My brother Alan and I were sports guys as kids, it’s what we wanted to do when we grew up,” Henderson said. “But as I got older, I realized music was something I enjoyed and something I was good at doing.

“When I was in fifth grade at Cordova Elementary School, I won a talent show by singing ‘God Bless the Broken Road’ by Rascal Flatts,” he added. “From there I was on and off with music until I got older.”

Following his high school graduation, Henderson attended East Carolina University, but returned home after three years. Not sure what he wanted to do, he spent a year working on a local farm, and it wasn’t until his dad mentioned the military that his road to Nashville began.

This was a juncture where Henderson said that a series of events started to build up to his eventual move to and success in Nashville.

Henderson enlisted in the United States Air Force in 2015, and was assigned as a fighter jet mechanic working on McDonnell Douglas Eagle F-15s. Out of the six bases worldwide that service the tactical fighter jets, Henderson was assigned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C.

An active duty mechanic, Henderson was put in one of four units on the base, and was placed in the only one that didn’t have to deploy. Again, the road leading to Nashville turned in his favor.

“It’s weird how it all happened,” Henderson shared. “Everything that has happened to me these last couple years led me here, and I haven’t had to try too hard to get to Nashville. 

“The whole time God was weaving this path for me and I didn’t even know it. My journey would make it really hard for someone to not believe in God.”

While in the Air Force, Henderson started getting more serious about his music career. He learned to play the acoustic guitar at a younger age thanks to his grandfather, Toby Beck, and his uncle, Rob Beck.

He began writing more music and playing for his fellow airmen, which he “got a lot of praise” for. As his time to re-enlist or be discharged from the Air Force neared, Henderson decided to “chase a dream.”

On Dec. 28, 2018, Henderson, then discharged, packed up and started taking classes at Belmont University in Nashville. It was the only school he applied to and began the music business degree program during the spring semester of 2019.

“When I got here I didn’t know a soul,” Henderson recalled. “The first six months I really focused on school and wrote a bunch of songs.

“One of the first people I met was Justin Anderson,” he added of the fellow aspiring country music artist. “He helped me so much early on, and I owe him a lot for helping me get to know people in the business and get my career started.”

Another friend who helped him get acclimated to his new home was Tyler Hammond, and the trio even teamed up to write one of the songs on Henderson’s EP.

When “Bennett Road” releases later this month, it will be Henderson’s first streaming music of his career. A “workhorse” who helped get him to the next level was Ben Miller, a producer and the lead guitarist in country star Rodney Adkins' band.

“Ben is a super cool dude, and he’s known as a workhouse in Nashville,” Henderson said. “We met at a writers round and right before COVID-19 hit, I contacted him to see if he wanted to write together.

“Now we’re really good friends and he played lead guitar for my record.” 

Joining Henderson and Miller in the LFT Studios recording booth, owned by Chris Condon, were session players Noel Bisesti, Eddy Dunlap and Randy Kohrs, all guys he appreciates for helping make the project a success.

With hopes that “Bennett Road” will raise his stock in Nashville and put him on a bigger map, Henderson will continue to write music, something he enjoys just as much as being an up-and-coming artist.

“My short term goal is to write as many songs as I can and get them out to my listeners,” Henderson said. “There are some future plans for writing, but COVID-19 has slowed things down.

“I’ve made some huge steps in the right direction in terms of writing with bigger-named artists. The songwriting community here is so tight-knit, it’s a lot like Richmond County.”

He also plans to continue playing live music in Midtown, which is just off Broadway in Nashville, and other local venues across North Carolina and Tennessee once the coronavirus restrictions allow him to do so.

A long-term goal for Henderson is to continue putting music out that people can relate to and enjoy. He hopes to also keep getting support from his hometown fans, saying Richmond County and its country music supporters are helping him “make it.”

“I just want to stay true to myself, and I know if I do that, I’ll continue to have success.”

Henderson wanted to thank his parents, Alan and Cindy, and his brother Alan, for always being supportive of him chasing his dream. He called them the “backbone” of his journey through life as a musician.

To his girlfriend, Lauren Jones, he appreciates her help “promoting my songs” and supporting him on a daily basis. He also praised the Air Force because it’s allowing him to attend college and pursue his dream.

“I’m very thankful for Richmond County in its entirety,” he closed. “When I play back home, people always show out. It’s my favorite place to play and I love to see all that support.”

Last modified on Saturday, 11 July 2020 15:57

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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