Patrick Droney Remembers How B.B. King, James Brown, His Dad And Others Helped Him On His Journey

“My earliest memories are of my dad playing guitar in the kitchen or the basement,” Patrick Droney tells American Songwriter. “He was a guitar player back in the ‘70s. After that, he became a doctor, but he’s still such a ‘guitar guy.’ I would just watch him do his thing. He put it in my hands when I was around 6 years old and I haven’t put it down since.”

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For Droney, coming to the guitar as a 6-year-old was the start of a life-long journey. See, it didn’t take long for his natural talent and his unwavering passion for music to start taking him places—before he was even old enough to vote in the United States, he was sharing stages with the likes of B.B. King, James Brown, Taj Mahal and more. Then, after roving around for a bit, he settled in Nashville as a young adult and began pursuing his career on a whole new level… which led him to this moment now. On Friday, May 21, Droney released State of the Heart, his debut full-length album. 

“Right now, this could be considered ‘the beginning,’” Droney said. “I’m 28—it’s been a long journey to even get to this ‘beginning,’ but it’s the beginning. And I’m here, but I’m standing on the shoulders of these incredible, incredible artists who were just kind and gave me a chance.”

Droney’s right that he’s received a lot of amazing help on the journey—the first person whose shoulder he stood on was his ‘guitar guy’ dad. “He would show me great guitar players like B.B. King, Stevie Ray and all the other classics,” Droney said. “But he would show me great songwriters as well, like Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell and the Eagles. He taught me from the start that a great guitar player is one thing, but great guitar with a great song is another thing. I’m really grateful for that.”

As simple as that foundation is, it’s still an important guide for Droney’s work. As evidenced by the rocking tracks and meaningful moments throughout State of the Heart, he is highly adept at combining elements of hard hitting pop-rock with the intimacy and tenderhearted observation of classic songwriting. In many ways, the songs he writes also have a sturdy, lived-in quality… which makes sense considering the philosophy he’s adhered to since his early days.

“Songwriting is really just a mirror to living,” he said. “One of the best pieces of advice my first publisher gave me was: you have to live to write. I think there’s a misconception that because you’re young—even a kid—that you don’t have anything to say. Anything you have to say is valid at any point in your life. I encourage kids of any age to start writing their stories. Eventually, it’ll become one big book.”

Even at 28, Droney’s “book” is getting pretty big. Starting to write songs when he was around 12, by the time he was in his mid-teen years he was gigging with the aforementioned acts—King, Brown and Mahal—as well as Elvis Costello, Macy Gray, The Roots and more. Now, he looks back with appreciation for the generosity of those artists to give him a chance and even let some of their wisdom rub off onto him. 

“Even at the time, when I was so young, I had a reverence for it,” Droney said. “I grew up adoring these artists—B.B. King was my absolute hero. So, when I was able to be in the proximity of these heroes… it was incredible. For those guys, it wasn’t a business, it wasn’t an industry—it was real life. And it was a hard life. This was their music, they crafted it with their blood, sweat and tears. That stuck with me. I never really fell into the pomp and circumstance of it. I was just like ‘I have to honor these guys.’ Even from a stage perspective, to have to show up and play and really be confident and hold my own (even though these were cats you can’t really hold your own with). It was just the true honor of my life.”

But even though Droney was writing his own songs and making a name for himself as a guitarist, he still wasn’t quite satisfied. He was looking for something more profound, more meaningful out of his music. 

“At that point, I was really one of the young, gun-slinging guitar players who played blues,” he explained. “But there was a specific point where I realized I wanted to tell stories and really lean into that side of the songwriting. I knew that it was going to be a longer path, but I also knew that what I just was destined for was something a little deeper, as far as songwriting goes. The 12-bar blues wasn’t quite enough for me to tell the stories I wanted to tell. I knew that it was going to take living life—I was going to have to really live it.”

That’s when that whole “roving” part of his biography happened. First, he went to New York, where he studied music at the Clive Davis Institute and began getting serious about perfecting his craft. After that, he made his way out to Los Angeles, where he signed a publishing deal with Lance Freed, who eventually brought Droney somewhere that would change his life forever: Nashville. 

“Lance’s dad was the guy who literally coined the term ‘rock’n’roll,’ and Lance was one of those ‘great songs’ guys,” Droney said. “He gave me time and space to just work on my craft. Eventually, he brought Nashville into my periphery, he said ‘Let’s take a trip down to Nashville and put you in with some songwriters and just try to collaborate.’ L.A. is really great, but the co-writing world is a different beast. Nashville is truly a community and songwriters are still at the top of the food chain here. So when I came on my first trip, I realized ‘Oh my gosh, this is a town connected by music, by stories, by craft and by a reverence for that craft.’ So it was pretty immediate after that first trip that I wanted to come here and be a part of the essence. It’s been five years since I moved here and it’s been a flash, but so much of my writing has been influenced by the level of craft in this town.”

In terms of the narrative, this essentially gets you up to speed on how Droney got here… but let’s look into exactly where “here” is. Once he got set up in Nashville, he started writing what would eventually become State of the Heart. “All these songs have kind of found each other over time, but they add up to this picture that tells a story,” he said. “And ‘State Of The Heart’ is a theme, song and idea. We live in so many various states of heart, but we’re all the same in the experience of the human condition. This is kind of my way of trying to understand my time here and what it might mean. I’m mining these different corners of the human experience and filtering it out to the world.”

And so far from the singles alone, Droney’s new chapter is already resonating with audiences. “The amount of feedback I’ve gotten shows me that I’m not alone,” he said. “At it’s best, that’s what songwriting can do—people can articulate their stories through music. So, as a songwriter, you have a responsibility to be as honest as possible with your story. That’s really been the crux of this record. It’s such a joy and privilege and pleasure to be here at this point after all this time and have the opportunity to do that.”

As you might’ve noticed, one of Droney’s best qualities is a rare one: having genuine reverence. Whether it’s for his heroes of the past like King or just the opportunity he has as a performer to share his stories, Droney shows an earnest appreciation for everything and everyone who’s supported him along the way. Now that State of the Heart is coming out, he’s looking forward to continuing his journey upwards and sharing the fruits of that labor with his supporters every step of the way.

“I’m buzzing,” he said. “I’m excited to get back on the road, I’m excited to take these songs and experience them in a different form. I’m so close to this album—as you should be—but I know that I put my all into this. And the people I love, all the collaborators, they all put a piece of their hearts into this. So, I have a lot of gratitude. But also, this is just the beginning—I’m still asking myself ‘How can I keep growing as a songwriter and a singer and a person?’ Nothing is taken for granted even for a second.”

Patrick Droney’s debut album State of the Heart is out now and available everywhere. Watch the music video for the single “Talk About That” below:

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