Americana Highways brings you this premiere of Sterling Drake’s song, “Highway 200,” from an upcoming EP set to be released later this year. The track, produced by Sterling Drake along with Chris Weisbecker, features Gabe Tonon on bass guitar, Ryan Stigmon on dobro and pedal steel guitar, as well as Weisbecker on drums, and Drake on acoustic guitar and lead vocals.
Keeping history alive, Sterling Drake serves up his own slice of Americana with this song that presents a vivid account of the life of a Montana ranch hand. Front and center, Drake sounds right at home amongst the crew of phenomenal musicians he has assembled to bring his words to life. Wise beyond his years, Drake is a modern-day poet who not only sings songs, but lives them as well.
We chatted with Sterling Drake briefly. The premiere appears just beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: Your new single, “Highway 200,” captures the life of a Montana ranch hand. It’s a life that has long been romanticized through literature and film, but your song sheds that romanticism for a more exact depiction of what it is like to be a ranch hand. This is not something that you just sing about, but something that you live yourself. How did you originally get into cattle ranching?
Sterling: Well at 26, there is a lot in the way of ranching that I have yet to experience and plenty more to learn. It turns out chasing a music career makes it hard to stay on the payroll for more than a season or two at a time… I was first introduced to cattle through my grandfather and father. Papa bought into herd of Brahman (and later Cracker cattle) in south Florida in the 60s. Regardless, you don’t have to spend much time on a cow outfit to realize the Hollywood imagery of the West doesn’t quite paint an accurate picture.
AH: You are an artist that not only appreciates the history of country music – you are someone that actively steps in and carries tradition forward. There is a long history of singing cowboys and songs of the West detailing their plights and acts of heroism. Talk a little bit about your relationship with country and western music. What was one of your earliest memories of the genre, and who were some of the artists that have inspired you along the way?
Sterling: My earliest moment of country music was Papa singin’ “Good Hearted Woman” to grandma in the kitchen. I had a flair bit of folk education through my family, but I’d be remiss if I said country was my first musical outlet. I picked up the drums in the third grade and I tried my hand at songwriting as early as I could remember. As a teenager, I played any instrument in just about any band that would have me, often playing in hardcore and punk bands. I learned how to play drums to Dave Grohl in his early Nirvana records. I guess I came around to country music as I got older and it became inevitable home for my songwriting.
AH: I know you have done quite a few collaborations with fellow artists over the years. You released your debut album Roll the Dice this past year, and the record was co-produced by you and Mary Meyer of Sister Sadie. What is it like to collaborate with others when producing your own songs?
Sterling: Working with my girlfriend, Mary Meyer, was surprisingly a very organic process for the both of us. We’re blessed to be able to share our passion for music together. She is a heck of a writer, picker, and producer with an acute sense for music.
AH: You are a musician, songwriter, and producer. I feel that all three of these roles come from different wells within us. Which one do you find comes to you most naturally? And, which one has been more of a challenge?
Sterling: I’d say that songwriting is the most natural role for myself. I’ve been creating music most of my life and I’ve tried to put it down on more than one occasion. Developing my musicianship has definitely been more of a discipline. I never thought of myself as much of a guitar player until recent years. Same goes for working with horses or livestock. Neither passion was directly obvious from the position I was in at a young age. Both took focused effort and direction to manifest. Maybe someone will find that encouraging. Follow your passion no matter how far-fetched it may seem!
AH: Speaking of collaboration, if you had to choose one artist to collaborate with in the future, who would you choose and why?
Sterling: This is a hard one… I’ve been blessed to have so many musicians and artists in my life. I sure would love to sit down and pick one with Texas legend Red Steagall sometime. And, since we’re shootin’ for the stars, I’d say writing one with ol’ Willie Nelson or George Strait would sure be great. Recently, I’ve been working with Mary on some tunes of her own, that’s been a privilege.
Thanks for talking with us!
Find more a out Sterling Drake here: https://sterlingdrakemusic.com