Drayton Farley: Rising star sings blue collar country music

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

My dad always said that when you heard a song for the first time but it sounded familiar, it was going to be a hit. If that’s true, then Drayton Farley is bound to be a huge country star. 

My first time listening to his music was last month when I heard he was coming to town for Healing Appalachia. He has the soul of classic country, a blue collar sensibility, and a clear voice that cuts through all the noise.  The more I listened, the more surprised I was that he wasn’t already headlining festivals. 

We sat down for an interview leading up to his local concert. So please, get to know Dray ton Farley. 

RealWV: Thanks very much for coming to WV for Healing Appalachia. What made you decide to attend this recovery-focused show? 

Drayton: I’ve wanted to be there since I first heard about it a few years ago. I think it’s a truly inspiring event and great way to help bring together those in recovery communities and shed a light on the issues that our country, especially this region is continuing to face with the opioid crisis and the many other hard-hitting issues that are commonly faced here. I feel really blessed to get the opportunity to play a small role in all the effort. It’s truly an honor. 

RealWV: For folks who aren’t familiar with you, tell us a little about yourself. You’re from a coal mining town in Alabama, correct? Do you have a family? What did you do before you did music full time? 

Drayton: I’m from Bibb County, Alabama. Specifically the small neighboring towns of Woodstock and West Blocton. West Blocton was once a thriving coal mining town back in the day but there’s no industry left there anymore. I do have a family. My wife, Emily and I have two beautiful daughters together. Before I did music full time I had many several different jobs. The most notable ones were a few years spent working as a contractor for Norfolk Southern Railroad after high school and then after getting married I quit that job to work the assembly line building cars at the Mercedes-Bens factory in Vance, Alabama. 

RealWV: You seem to be a blue collar guy who sings about working people. Those themes seem to have struck a chord with “Rich Men North of Richmond”. Why do you think that’s taken off like it has? Those folks ought to listen to your song “Norfolk Blues”!

Drayton: I wish they would! I think it’s simply the blue collar message and I would be willing to bet that the blue collar class of people makes up a large majority of the country. I think there are a lot of reasons that song took off like it did and I think a large part of it was due to the controversy surrounding some of the lyrics. 

RealWV: You talk about the state of country music in several songs. It seems to be in a renaissance period in some ways. What’s wrong with country music right now? What’s right with country music right now?

Drayton: I believe the main issue is there is a lot of music being labeled as country that isn’t country music at all and that creates a really unfair playing field, especially in the mainstream world for the artists that are actually making country music. There is plenty going right for country music right now as well though and a lot of people are now discovering a whole swarm of artists that have been relatively underground until recently. It’s a great thing and I’m glad to see it happening!

RealWV: Your schedule is packed this fall. You also strike me a really grounded person. How do you stay grounded living on the road? 

Drayton: I definitely try to be. I just keep my eyes on the work and my mind on what I’m working for. 

RealWV: Listening to you, I’m struck by your precision and clarity. Where do you learn to play and sing?

Drayton: Thank you. I’ll be 28 this November and I’ve been singing for as far back as I can remember, I first started playing guitar when I was around 11 years old. So I think I’ve just spent a lot of time with it, the more you do something the more natural it becomes. 

RealWV: What do you think America doesn’t understand about rural life? 

Drayton: I believe a lot of folks simply just dismiss it as being an unsophisticated way of life for some reason. I also believe we live in a world of convenience for the most part these days and more and more people are becoming afraid to get away from that convenience.  

RealWV: You’ve released your first studio album this year and a new EP this week. What’s on the horizon for you? 

Drayton: It’s definitely been a busy year for sure. I think I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing however. Writing and making more music, playing more shows, going to new places and spending as much time as I can with my family at home and hopefully reach the point I can have my family spend more time with me on the road when I have to be gone. 

RealWV: Thanks so much for your time. We are excited to hear you play in WV this month! 

Drayton: Thank you for the opportunity, I can’t wait to be there! 

You can catch Drayton’s show at Healing Appalachia following the performance of Tyler Childers. He is expected to take the stage after midnight in the wee hours of Sunday morning. For ticket info, visit www.healingappalachia.org.

*Cover picture by Emma Delevante, taken at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN.

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