Atlanta based folk rock trio Collins Drive was born of a chance encounter that would change the lives of three musicians forever. After dishearteningly trying to put a band together, folksinger-songwriter Don de Leaumont figured his time in bands was over and was ready to continue on as a solo performer. Bassist Allison Shockley found de Leaumont’s nearly-expired Craig’s List ad and reached out. The two met for drinks and Shockley told de Leaumont that she had a great drummer in mind named Mike Satterlee. The three got together soon after to jam and the energy was nothing short of electrifying
Inspired by artists such as The Band, Whiskeytown, The Allman Brothers Band, Crosby Stills Nash & Young among others, the songs on their self-titled debut album tell stories and paint pictures of Southern living - the tale of a washed up bluesman that never got his time (“Drunk on Sunday”), a Chapel Hill woman waiting in the rain for her bus home (“Cemetery Angel”) and returning to the town where you grew up (“Ghost Town”) - little slices of life put into songs that are easy to grasp on to and make an easy connection. Here, the trio answer their Essential 8+ and talk about the album, their favorite venue, their "traveling fuel," and much more.
Did you have a musical mentor? If so, who was it and how did they influence you?
Kevn Kinney of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ is definitely my muse. I’ve been a fan of Kevn and Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ since 1989 and I just always loved that he had his own voice and didn’t try to be anyone else. He uses his voice loudly and proudly and I decided to go that route myself. We just had that chance to open for him in August and it was a dream come true and getting to watch him work inspires and influences me even more now.
With "Prison Story," what was the “a-ha” moment when you knew the song was completed and perfect?
The song “Prison Story” is a song that I wrote many years ago but it just never seemed to click. When this band formed back in 2013, this was one of the first ones we did and immediately it just fell into place. Mike (Satterlee)’s subtle playing with brushes and Allison (Shockley)’s subtle bass playing and harmonies is what truly completed this song. It’s a fan favorite now and we play it at nearly every show we play.
What’s the story behind your album’s title?
Well, the story is that I kind of wanted to name have the artwork kind of confuse people. Is it called Collins Drive? Is it called Est. 2013? I’ll never tell, haha. The album artwork was inspired by a beer label that our bassist Allison saw while on vacation once.
Where do you draw inspiration from when writing?
My inspiration just comes from living in the South. There is just something about Southern living that seems to pretty much write the songs for me sometimes. I am so inspired by the stories of others and just characters that I cross paths with in life. I’m also a social voyeur so I’m always looking and listening to life for that next song.
When/where do you do your best writing?
I do my best writing on my couch in my basement with my guitar, notebook, and my handheld recorder. It’s free of distractions and it’s my sanctuary where I can just mentally unload my thoughts if they’re ready to come out.
Do you write about personal experience, the experience of others, observations, made-up stories, something else or a combination?
It’s a combination of all things really. In folk fashion, I like to sing most of our songs in the 1st person which means that from song to song I’m just taking on different characters. I also try to infuse a bit of my own story into the song so that there is a deeper connection there. I love the ambiguity of songwriting where the listener isn’t quite sure if it’s a personal song or a story.
What’s the best advice you have ever gotten from another musician?
Kevn Kinney told me once, “No matter how many people are at your show, give them the best show you can possibly give them. If there’s 10 people there, give them the same show you’d give 1,000 or 10,000 people because they took the time to come see you.” That and a quote from a Kevn Kinney song: “If you want to make a difference, you have to be different. That’s the deal.” I pretty much live by that as much as I can.
What’s the best advice to give to a musician just starting out?
Be very transparent with your significant other. If you don’t have one yet, prepare to be transparent. What I mean by that is let him/her know right away how important music is and your time to be creative. This will avoid a lot of heartache and arguments down the road. Write every idea you come up with, even if it’s just a line here or a verse there and record every musical idea you come up with, even if it’s just a crappy iPhone recording. You never know when it’ll be useful. Oh yeah, and be yourself always.
What’s your favorite food on the road?
Pepperjack Cheezits and Frozen Coca Colas. Essential traveling fuel.
Do you have any touring tips?
I havent’ been on a full fledged tour just yet so if anyone has tips for us, we’ll take them!
What are your “must have” albums for the road?
Essential road trip music ALWAYS includes The Grateful Dead, Crosby Stills & Nash, Whiskeytown, The Allman Brothers Band, and the Black Crowes. Then I like to wake myself up with some good ol’ heavy metal like Savage Master, Graveyard, Sabaton, and Iron Maiden just to name a few. Variety is the spice of life!
How do you kill the long hours in the van?
I’ve yet to tour w/ this band in a van but we’re hoping to change that next year by hitting the road to do some out of town shows!
What’s the most frustrating thing about being on the road?
NOT being on the road yet!
What do you love most about being on the road?
When I was on the road as a solo artist, I think I just loved meeting all of the people in the different places. I love conversations with strangers and being on the road you either have to converse or you have to be a total recluse. I am just so fascinated by people in general. Everyone has a story.
What has been your biggest struggle so far?
Getting people to turn their ears to our album and give us some press. I appreciate you doing this for us. It’s a huge help.
What has been your biggest success?
I think, as a band, it was when we got to open for Mike Glabicki of Rusted Root in late September and then open for Kevn Kinney a week or so later. It’s not every day you get to open for one of your heroes but to do so for two artists you really admire is something truly special and unforgettable. At the Kevn Kinney show, someone came up to me at the end of the night and told me that our song “Lady of the Lake” was the best song he heard all night. That, to me, is a huge success.
What’s your favorite venue and why?
My favorite venue to play is Red Light Café here in Atlanta. That place is pretty much our home base and they have been so amazing to us. When nobody would take a chance on us, they welcomed us with open arms and now we’re headliners at the venue whenever we play. It’s a really magical place and we always have amazing shows there.
What’s your dream venue and why?
I don’t know about the rest of the band buy my personal dream venue would probably be Red Rocks in Colorado. I would absolutely LOVE to hear Collins Drive’s music played in that gorgeous venue. I’d also love to play the Fox Theater here in Atlanta mainly because I’ve seen so many amazing shows there. The Allman Brothers, The Black Crowes, CSN, Skid Row (haha). It’s an amazing venue.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
Before he passed away, it was always a dream of mine to have Gregg Allman do one of my songs. Of course I would love to collaborate with Kevn Kinney. That would be a dream come true.
Which song of yours gets the best crowd response?
Currently “Lady of the Lake” is the song that gets the most response from the crowd. We haven’t recorded it yet but every time we play it people ask, “Is it on this CD?” When I tell them no they get bummed, haha. Trust me, it’ll be on the next one.
What song are you tired of playing and why?
Honestly, I don’t really get tired of playing any of them. We currently have about 20 songs so we like to change up our set list from show to show. Most gigs we’re only playing for about 55 minutes or 30 if we’re an opening act so that leaves us a lot of room to change things up from show to show so not to get bored.
Is drinking at gigs a positive or a negative?
None of us are big drinkers at all. Mike (Satterlee; drums) and myself don’t drink at all and our bassist Allison may have one or two beers so it’s never been an issue at all.
Favorite thing to do on a day off?
I’m a workaholic so even on days off from playing I’m doing some sort of band business (posting links in Facebook groups, etc).
Do you have a favorite gift from a fan?
I played a songwriters in the round in South Carolina back in 2005 or so and these two young folk who were working the bar came up to me after the show and gave me a homemade keychain award that said, “Good Job Award” on it made with a label maker. They said I was the best they’d seen and that really meant a lot to me. I keep it in my studio hanging up as a reminder.
Have you met any of your heroes? If so, how did it go?
I’ve been extremely lucky. I’ve met Gregg Allman, Graham Nash, Kevn Kinney, Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), and Alice Cooper to name a few and they were all very kind, warm, and sweet people. There are still some more I would love to meet some day.
Is there a current release that you cannot stop listening to?
King Crimson’s Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind. I also can’t stop listening to Marissa Nadler’s latest one called Strangers. It’s gorgeously haunting.
Song (of yours) you wish you would have released as a single and why?
I hope to eventually release “Ghost Town” as a single mainly because I think it would make an awesome video.
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