Patrick Droney's musical career sounds almost contrived to outsiders. He won the Robert Johnson Award as a guitarist at the age of 12 and has already performed on stage with greats such as B.B. King and James Brown. Now the musician has been living in the country capital Nashville for five years and will release his first album on the major label Warner Music in May. In the interview, he talks about his stations in life, the importance of music and his roots.
Indiespect: Your newest song is called «State of the Heart». You’ve released an EP with the same title in October 2020. Is there a reason why the title track wasn’t already on the EP?
Patrick Droney: This is also the title of the album. State of the Heart was the first phase to the record. This song is thematically very important and it encapsulates the whole album. I thought this would be a really good time for it to leading the charge and opening up this next chapter.
Indiespect: You have written hundreds of songs in Nashville and had to pick five for your EP. Will you re-use some of them for record or did you write hundreds more for that?
Patrick: The album is coming out in May and it’s gonna be songs from the last five years. I wrote State of the Heart in 2017. These songs live with you and for me it’s really special to have these experiences where they have travelled with me. At a time like this I can choose songs that tell my story in a very unique way. There’s probably ten different versions of how this album could’ve been. But that’s part of it. You have just to keep writing. There will be places for all these tunes down the line. But this batch I’m really proud of.
Patrick Droney is on his way to the first full-length album.
Indiespect: Actress Lucy Hale plays a leading role in the music video. Is there a personal connection between you or how did this collaboration come about?
Patrick: Lucy and I have been friends for years. I’ve got such respect for what she does as an actress. It’s very humbling to turn up with her on the acting side. I’m really good at playing music but to be on screen with someone who is so incredible on camera and just be able to emote, was really inspiring. It helped me to arise the occasion. I’m just grateful that she helped me to tell my story. We always wanted to do something together and it felt like a really great opportunity to do so.
Indiespect: I saw that you wear your watch on the right wrist just like I do. Are you also left-handed?
Patrick: I’m left-handed, yes. But I play my guitar right-handed.
Indiespect: Was there ever a consideration to play a left-handed guitar?
Patrick: My dad is a guitar player and he is the person who got me into music as a kid. He made a decision for me that if I played left-handed I couldn’t play any of his guitars. I actually think it’s maybe part of the way I play. My dominant hand is my picking hand. So, I don’t know. But it worked out and I kind of love the ambidextrous part of that. But good eye, good catch!
«Pretty Little Liars» star Lucy Hale is part of Patrick Droney's new music video for «State of the Heart»
Indiespect: You went to the Clive Davis Institute at NYU. Did this education define your musical style ? Or what were the things you’ve learned there?
Patrick: By the time I went to college I was 18 and I’ve been playing music for about eight years. I’d done a lot of really cool things as a kid in blues music. Going to school was really my way of getting back in the living life. New York was so important to me at that time. The Clive Davis Institute was a beautiful experience because I was around people with common interests and I could really dig into the business of music. It’s about being your biggest advocate and understanding how to protect yourself, how you try to have a career that has a long duravity. It was really important from the intellectual side of things. But more than anything, it was about living in New York and how life hit me. It’s a city that really inspired me and a lot of this album. New York is the state of my heart and that time was just very special and important.
New York is the state of my heart and that time was just very special and important.
Indiespect: You have lived across the country. You were born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, used to live in New York and Los Angeles. Now you live in Nashville. In what way did those different cities influence you as an artist?
Patrick: Immensely, honestly. Growing up in Jersey, I was near Atlantic City and New York. At a young age I was able to play music at two places. Moving to New York, I was still this character and I’ve learned that you have to have a lot of tough skin to live in New York. Musically, I just translated it a certain way. Los Angeles is where racked my head down and started building the dream of how I saw this rolling out. Nashville, obviously from a songwriting perspective. The craft of songwriting here is still so revere. I’m very humbling to have moved here and to be able to meet songwriters that have helped me to understand how to use words to tell your stories. Every place is so important and makes sense at the end of the day. They’re all in the music in different ways.
Indiespect: Your music clearly has its roots in the American music like blues and soul. Do you also listen to European artists or are you fully focussed on American music?
Patrick: Quite the opposite. I’ve always had a very wide pallet. Growing up, it was actually more exciting what was happening overseas. For me, everything is valid under the sun. The Britpop and heavy synth music inspired me. A lot of this record is very synth-based, actually, versus guitar. People know me as guitar player but they don’t know how obsessed I am with synthesizers and keyboards. I’m playing all that on this record. It is a big mess of melting pot. As American as I might sound, I’m definitely all about it. I can’t wait to get overseas to play and to build a community there. Because I think that’s the point. It’s amazing that we’re even talking because the music has travelled far enough to have you on my own screen. That’s pretty brilliant.
Patrick Droney during the video interview.
Indiespect: That’s a thing that I realised when I listen to your music. Even if you are able to pull off the craziest guitar licks and solos, your music also contains beats and a lot of production. What led you to the decision to not fully focus on guitar in your music?
Patrick: For me, as a young guitar player it was great to shred and play. But it became more and more important to tell a story. That was going to happen through songs, lyrics and singing. And as a guitar player, how can I make my guitar sing and actually connect with people versus just showing off? It’s been a long journey to try and find that balance. What I’m so proud of this album, it does honour the parts of me, like my guitar playing. There are solos on this record, really important solos. But they’re wrapped up in a digestible pallet that people can hopefully connect to the emotion of what the songs are about. The production for me has always been like how can this connect the most directly to my listener and not make it self-serving to just play guitar.
The production for me has always been like how can this connect the most directly to my listener
and not make it self-serving to just play guitar.
Indiespect: Almost exactly 30 years ago Leo Fender died. You are working with Fender for quite a while now. What makes this brand special for you?
Patrick: Fender has been my go-to brand since I was about six. My dad’s first guitar was a Strat that he gave me. It’s been my best friend. The Fender Stratocaster has just been my best friend my whole life. To be able to spend time these last five years in working with Fender as a brand… They’re really artist focussed and our opinions matter to them. Just to be a part of their sphere has been very special. I always represent them in my music because the Stratocaster is such a big part of who I am.
Patrick Droney with his best friend: the Fender Stratocaster.
Indiespect: You won the Robert Johnson Award when you were 12 years old. In interviews you told stories that you played with legends like B.B. King and James Brown. It sounds almost unbelievable from the outside. Have you been starstruck at some point or does it feel so natural to you to play music that you find these people just interesting as musicians?
Patrick: Interesting is the right word. When you look at life like that, it’s an interesting moment. It takes the pressure off. For me, it’s like growing up and being around my heroes. By the way, I’m just one of many kids that B.B. King gave a stage to. Those guys wanted to pass the torch. They believed in the next generation and I was just really lucky to have a second to be a part of that. In that formative time to be able to be around cracks like that did change the perspective as far as starstruck goes. We’re all just people. I respect people who have done great music, but I think it’s never good to think that anybody is above anybody or on a different scale.
We’re all just people. I respect people who have done great music, but I think it’s never good
to think that anybody is above anybody or on a different scale.
Indiespect: Was it the same feeling when you could play a session for Universal music during your time at the NYU?
Patrick: Yeah! It’s all about these moments and being prepared for life to happen to you and grab the moment when it happens to you. We all struggle with having anxiety or being afraid but when you trust that you are supposed to be there, things really happen. I think it’s all about being present and I’m glad these moments have shown up for me and here we are today. It’s fun to talk about and think about it.
Patrick Droney lives in Nashville for five years now.
Indiespect: For indie artists in Switzerland or Europe it’s really hard to get in touch with a major label or get a deal with them. How did you get those connections?
Patrick: It goes back to the idea of «making it» for me doesn’t exist. You just do it, you make your music, you work hard and have patience. It’s not about getting to the hill and sign with a major label. That’s really not the point. Have you built your music to a place where you have people believing in you and you want to partner with them to tell your story better. My first major label deal is with Warner. Universal was a publishing deal. That was amazing as a songwriter to have some validation. Working with Warner Records has been a dream because we are all focused on the same goal which is to serve this music the best way possible. But that took eighteen years for me to get to that spot. To where this feels so easy or like this is happening. There’s a world behind me to get to the beginning.
Indiespect: I hope you don't get me wrong. It wasn’t meant the way that it was too easy for you.
Patrick: No, I know. My advice to bands like that would be: focus on your music. Focus on what you have and on your fans. Let that be the catalyst and let the other stuff happen.
Focus on what you have and on your fans. Let that be the catalyst and let the other stuff happen.
Indiespect: Have you ever thought of another way of living than doing music?
Patrick: Great question! And, no. I don't even remember picking music and I never stopped playing. All of a sudden, here we are. There’s pressure in that but it also eases me because this is the only thing that I wanna be doing. If I wasn’t doing this I would somehow be a part of this because I believe in the power of music. Tell stories and connect people with each other. I’m just glad to be on the side of the stage. But if I wasn’t on this side I would be on another side of it.
Indiespect: You had a collaboration with the Norwegian artist Kygo. His music is quite different to yours. What styles would you also love to explore in the future?
Patrick: A really wide open pallet. The Kygo collaboration was a great example of how a great song will translate in any genre. For me, it’s more about inspiring collaborators, whatever genre they might be in. I’m up for the task. I’m excited to explore this a little more after this album. Sky is the limit.
Patrick Drowney already collaborated with artists like Kygo.
Indiespect: Are there already plans for you to come overseas when COVID will finally be over?
Patrick: It’s hard to be planning that specifically but one hundred percent we will be there when we can. Right now, this year has given me an opportunity to set a foundation and to build a base. We’re talking today and I really appreciate it. Because it’s helping spread the word of this music overseas. Coming to Switzerland is a dream of mine. My dad was there when he was in his twenties and we were talking about going there together. I can’t wait to go and play shows and see you guys.
Indiespect: One last question. You’re living in Nashville and that's the capital of country music. That music isn’t typically the root for your sound. But what is your connection to that genre, now that you live in this city?
Patrick: The connection is pretty deep. The songwriting community here is so close and I feel blessed to be part of that. I do write music for other people and I do collaborate in different genres. country is one of them. But for me, it helps in the craft of songwriting and telling stories. There is country music in what I’m doing in the sense of storytelling. There is no better storytelling in a lyrical sense than what at its best country music can be. Nashville has been an imperative part of my story.