Find out Why Frontrunner Drake Milligan Says the 'AGT' Live Shows Are Just as Good as the Grammys

·11 min read

"You have that great audience there in Pasadena and a camera with eight million people behind it," Drake says.

Country artist Drake Milligan says he feels like a winner already even though he still has one more performance on the Tuesday night finale of America’s Got Talent before he finds out if he will be the one to walk away with the season 17 title.

Drake, who told Parade.com that he came to AGT with the idea in mind of using the show as a stepping stone to elevate his career to the next level, feels that it has already made a difference. His rowdy “Sounds Like Something I’d Do” surged to No. 2 on the iTunes Country Songs and No. 3 on the all-genre iTunes songs chart following his audition. Likewise, his original song “Kiss Goodbye All Night,” which he performed on the Live Shows, topped at No. 1 on both the iTunes Country Songs and the all-genre iTunes songs chart.

And that isn’t all. In between his initial audition and the start of the live shows, Drake was on the road playing dates and he says he can already feel a difference.

“People are coming to shows and we’re packing these places,” Drake said. “I went to Texas to a couple of places, and they were bigger sized rooms, and they were sold out. I ended up staying there until three in the morning signing autographs and taking pictures. People are out there and they’re buying the music and they’re streaming it. It’s turning some heads at radio. It’s totally changed everything for my career.”

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And it’s just in time, because whether Drake wins AGT on Wednesday night or not, he will be releasing his debut full-length album, Dallas-Fort Worth on Thursday, Sept. 15, on which he has co-written all 14 tracks.

“It’s been a process of the last five years in Nashville,” Drake explained. “I started coming to Nashville in late 2017, so some of these songs on the record are from 2018. It’s all been a process of finding my own unique sound through songwriting.”

And Drake has learned from some of the best veteran songwriters in Nashville how to do just that.

“There’s a cycle in Nashville of you have the veteran songwriters that know how to craft a song and are so good at it and have been doing it for years every day, and then you have new blood coming in and bringing in new ideas,” he continued. “It feeds the machine a little bit in Nashville. I’m always trying to bring in new ideas and incorporate what these veteran songwriters do and what they’re good at, incorporate that into my thing. That’s always been the process of writing, at least for this record and for anything I write.”

Both judges Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel have told Drake that he could win this season’s AGT, so the 24-year-old from Texas is considered to be a frontrunner in the competition, but he isn’t taking that for granted.

“It just motivates me to get out there and do my best,” he said. “Definitely as you go further in this competition, you want to keep on raising the bar. I feel like I’ve done that from the audition to the live show. Now it’s just taking the live show and raising the bar even more for this live finale. I feel good. I feel like we’re definitely going to raise the bar.”

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In our exclusive interview, we also talked to Drake about the learning experience that America’s Got Talent has been for him, how he came up with the name Dallas-Fort Worth for his upcoming album, and who his musical influences are today.

What’s the energy like performing in front of the judges and the AGT audience? Is it a different feeling than a normal gig?

Oh, yeah. Well, I’m definitely not used to the kind of production that’s going on. With this last live round, there was a lot of production. It’s a big stage, a lot of lights, pyro. And then you have that great audience there in Pasadena and a camera with eight million people behind it.

Yeah, it’s a totally different feeling from anything I’ve done before. But it’s really kind of addictive. When we did the live audition, you come off stage and you’re like, “Wow, man, that really just happened.” I felt like we did a really good job with that last live show. It’s a confidence booster, too. You think, “I can do this on a high level.” And it just makes you want to go back and do it again.

Drake Milligan<p>Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC</p>
Drake Milligan

Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC

It sounds like it’s also been a learning experience for you.

Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s such a great opportunity. To get to do a show like we’re doing, a performance like we’re doing, you don’t get that unless you’re on the Grammys. It’s a total Grammys-worthy production that they’re putting on. It’s actually a lot of the same crew that works on that.

It’s great that your songs are doing well on the streaming sites, but radio is…

…Radio is the big one. For a country artist, radio is that make-or-break thing. I’m hoping that after AGT that’s how I get to the next level, is, hopefully, to get radio support. I’ve already had some support from them and I’m so thankful for that. I’m hoping that I’ll have continued support and be able to take this thing to the next level.

If you do win, part of the deal is that you headline the show in Las Vegas. I noticed that you have some dates to promote your album release because you have that little tour planned. Will doing the Vegas show be a good thing, or is it going to put a crimp in what your plans are for your album release?

I’m not sure how that all works. I’m sure we’ll be able to work around stuff. I don’t think you immediately go to Vegas and start playing or start preparing for shows. I think we’ll be able to work around it. I definitely want to focus on traveling and playing my shows, for sure.

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Tell me about the new album. It’s called Dallas/Fort Worth, which is an unusual title. Where does that come from?

Well, I’m from Fort Worth. I grew up just south of Fort Worth. We had cut these 14 songs, we had kind of been ready to go with an EP in March 2020. Then when COVID hit, we pulled everything back. Luckily, I had a label that let me go back in the studio when it was safe to do so and cut even more songs. So, we had these 14 songs cut and no real idea of what to do with them. We’d get songs that would come along that I’d write and we’re like, “Man, we have to cut this.”

They’re all so different. I was sitting there listening to the 14 songs with Adrian Michaels at Stoney Creek Records, my label, and he goes, “Man, your music’s like Dallas and Fort Worth, you have these two different sides.” That’s when the lightbulb kind of went off and I went, “Oh, man! We could totally take this record and split it right down the middle, seven tracks.”

They’re two totally different cities. Dallas is a big city, it’s looking towards the future, kind of polished up boots. It’s all under that Texas flag, but it’s such a big city and looking towards the future, which I feel like half these songs are. It’s me trying to bring country music, the music that I love, the traditional country music that I love, to a new place and trying to incorporate some different influences, maybe some rock influences, and trying to polish up the tracks a little more. So, half this album is that; it’s more polished.

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And then the other side is Fort Worth. Fort Worth is a city that’s really holding onto its traditional roots. I like to say they have a little more dust on their boots. Half this record is like that, it’s me trying to hold onto the traditional roots and the traditional country music that I love. It’s steel guitars, it’s fiddles. We’ve got a western swing song on there. It’s a really cool way to showcase these songs kind of bottom up and let people dive in and see two sides of me. There are no two songs the same on this record. There’s a lot of different sides of me on this record.

A couple of the songs on it have already been released. Do you have the next single ready?

Well, I believe “Sounds Like Something I'd Do” is going to be our single. I believe so. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say that, but I did.

You did that on America’s Got Talent, right?

Yes, and it got a great response. It’s just a great tempo song, so I believe that’s going to be our single.

We saw on AGT that Elvis was an influence when you were a kid, but who now are some of your influences?

Well, I find myself digging back. For me, we’re at this place where you can go on Spotify and every song ever is there. I find myself more and more just going back and digging back into catalogs. Lately, I’ve been digging into Roger Miller’s catalog and digging way back and going through and finding artists I never knew about, or artists that may have influenced an artist I love. I’m a big fan of obviously the ‘90s country—George Strait, Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, and some of these huge country singers of the ‘90s. Finding out their influences, and then going back and finding out who influenced them. I find myself going back more than anything.

You dropped out of American Idol, but now you’re back on a reality show. What made this the right time to come back on television and showcase your music?

When I did Idol, I had done virtually no work songwriting, I’d done no work in the studio, I’d done no work as an artist performing. I needed the time; I needed the five years of being in Nashville and putting together a band, playing shows, and writing tons and tons of songs, and working in the studio. I needed that experience to go on a big show that millions of people are going to watch. You’ve got to know who you are, and you’ve got to have something to say. Now I feel like it’s time and I have something to say. AGT was the perfect opportunity for that. I’ve gotten to have my band on stage with me and sing original songs the whole time. It’s really an opportunity unlike anything else.

We did see that your band was with you on AGT. So, it’s not just you solo? You consider yourself a band because you use the same guys all the time?

Yeah, it’s my band; it’s my crew. Really, for me, they’re such a big part of the show and they’re such a big part of what I do now in putting on a show that it’s like Elvis and his band. They were such a big part of what he did. Especially from the early days it was Elvis and the Blue Moon Boys. It’s a sound and it’s a part of the live show. And they’re great guys. For me, it’s been great having them here during the process of AGT because it’s a lot of waiting around and they make it a lot more fun.

America’s Got Talent’s season 17 finale will take place over two nights: Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC will be the performances; then on Wednesday at 9 p.m., following a night of entertainment, the winner will be revealed.

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