Saving Country Music was on the record almost a year ago saying all Drake Milligan needed was a spark and an opportunity, and that he could be great. Of course, we like to say that about all of our favorite little indie country artists, whether it’s true or not. But with Drake Milligan, it certainly is. He’s got the voice, he’s got the songs, and according to the ladies, he’s not too hard on the eyes, which as we all know certainly doesn’t hurt.
Earlier this week, Drake Milligan made an appearance on America’s Got Talent, and blew everyone away (see below). Of course, we see people making appearances on these signature prime-time shows all the time — including some of the up-and-coming country artist ranks — and it draws attention to them for a hot second, and then they fade into darkness. Even many of the winners and runners-up of these competitions struggle to negotiate the opportunity for something big after the shows end.
But again, it’s Drake Milligan, and he’s got the “it” factor that so many great singers lack. What is it? It’s a combination of things that goes far beyond talent: originality, intrigue, unique appeal and, very often, fortuitous timing.
Drake Milligan is not new to television’s attention. He starred as none other than a young Elvis Presley in the much-loved TV series Sun Records which aired on CMT in 2017. Written by Hank Williams biographer Collin Escott, it was the best thing CMT had done in years, even though it only lasted one season. Drake Milligan has been a big part of the show’s accolades and appeal.
Drake Milligan’s origin story is that he saw an Elvis impersonator in a restaurant when he was young, then all of a sudden was obsessed, impersonating Presley on talent shows and such. But soon he began to take music and entertainment more seriously, writing his own songs and developing his own style. Yet this base of Elvis influence and appeal is still part of his personality.
Why is this important? Because of the timing. A great Elvis movie (called Elvis) directed by Baz Luhrmann premieres June 24 starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks, and is already sparking renewed interest in The King simply from the trailers. It comes as Sun Records celebrates its 70th anniversary, which also draws attention to all things vintage in Memphis.
But what sets Drake Milligan apart from other amateur or up-and-coming artists featured on reality TV shows like this is that he’s already signed to a major label. BBR Records (Broken Bow) picked up Milligan in 2021 and last summer released an excellent self-titled EP produced by the legendary Tony Brown. Of course, it was ignored by the general public and didn’t get airplay because it’s actually country, and good stuff. But for studious listeners, Drake Milligan’s EP was one of the best releases of 2021.
When Drake Milligan appeared on America’s Got Talent, thrilled viewers could immediately head to Spotify and iTunes and spin or download his songs. In fact, since then, Drake Milligan has been at or near the top of the iTunes charts. While these charts are a weak long-term metric for appeal, don’t be surprised if we see Drake Milligan pop up on Billboard’s Digital Song Sales chart and possibly other metrics next week.
What makes this all even more intriguing is that part of the Drake Milligan story is how the Fort Worth, TX native once auditioned for american idol, was accepted, but later dropped out because he didn’t believe the show would be the best career move, and instead moved to Nashville to put songwriting first. So why does it now appear on America’s Got Talent? Maybe they’ll allow him to present his own original songs instead of participating in silly competitions involving cover songs, and maybe because at this point he’ll try anything to get the attention he’s got. he deserves.
Either way, with all the buzz surrounding the 23-year-old’s performance and renewed interest in Elvis, he might finally find his moment, and not too soon. With his songs and his swagger, Drake Milligan surely deserves to be among the artists benefiting from the revival of traditional country music.
As Judge Simon Cowell said when introducing Drake, “You have a lot of people behind us to tell you if you are good or not. And they know a lot more than the record labels.
And it seems that the people have spoken.