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WPGM Interviews: The Driver Era – Staying Authentic, Industry Expectations And ‘Summer Mixtape’

There is no question that both Rocky and Ross Lynch of The Driver Era poured their heart out when it came to writing their third studio album, Summer Mixtape. With a mixture of inspiration and genres, The Driver Era have given themselves the freedom to experiment with their style and production, and be exactly who they want to be without restrictions.

Since the very beginning of the band, there was always a sense of excitement from both Ross and Rocky. “We were eager to have a fresh start to release some of our music that we were creating at the time”, Ross explains.

At the time, we were signed to a label that didn’t share common interests when it came to music. They wanted a specific style but we weren’t in that realm. So we were excited to start a new journey.”

Bringing an artist onboard a record label means growing together, allowing the artist to make the music they want, where both sides see growth. But for The Driver Era, that wasn’t the case. “I was on the same page,” Rocky adds.

It was all pretty exciting to start the process where we actually forefronted the music, produced and wrote an album. This was a couple of years before The Driver Era and we played music to an A&R and they were saying it wasn’t music that people were releasing on radio right now. That didn’t make sense to us. If you’re a label, you want to find artists that are writing and producing. That’s a true artist”.

Whether it is taken from a specific memory, friends, family or a specific story, inspiration comes in many forms, even the music that people grow up listening to can shape the person they become today. For The Driver Era, this had a lot to do with the overall sound of Summer Mixtape.

We listened to everything growing up. We did a lot of dancing, so if you’re doing hip-hop, jazz, ballet, or tap, you have hip-hop music, and kind of more indie folk music if you’re doing contemporary, so we had a lot of that,” Rocky explains.

My uncle gave me some of his library at a young age, so it was Eminem, so I grew up on a lot of Dr Dre’s productions. I also liked Bowling For Soup, Fall Out Boy and Green Day.”

I feel like Fall Out Boy (FOB) were big for us when we were first starting out,” says Ross, with Rocky adding, “I also feel like a lot of people who are making music now, FOB are that perfect age where, like Ross said, right when we were starting out, they were what we were into. So, now you have a lot of people in their mid ’20s who started listening to them when they were a lot younger.”

When they are not in the studio writing and producing, they’re most likely on tour, and here’s what a day in the life of The Driver Era looks like. “Wake up around 9 or 10am, get coffee, try to see the city we are in as much as possible”, Ross explains.

Then eventually head to the venue, do soundcheck, maybe do interviews and/or lunch. More exploring. Usually we have a Meet and Greet, where we’ll meet 100 fans who get early access to the venue and then we’ll get ready for the show. We make sure we’re looking fly, puton some cool clothes, do vocal warmups and then play the show! Either we’ll be too tired or we’ll be going out trying to see the nightlife in the city.”

Embarking on a 60+ dates tour across the globe, Ross and Rocky are no strangers to seeing the world. It’s all about “packing whatever and hoping for the best” to which they both agreed on.

If we’re coming to Europe and the UK, we try to pack as light as possible, and pack things that you can wear over and over for a month. We’ve been here a couple of times and we feel like every time we tour Europe, especially at this time of year, we expect it to be raining and cold,” says Ross.

With all the places they get to visit on tour, all the people they meet along the way and the memories made, from the very beginning of being members of the band R5, Rocky and Ross have been in this game long enough to decide whether this industry is what they’d hoped it to be.

I didn’t have any expectations because I was so young. We got signed when I was 16,” explains Ross. “You don’t have time for expectations!” laughed Rocky.

Ross continues, “You hear stories, but I learnt more from first hand experiences of what is the reality of the industry. There’s pros and cons to it, it’s not all bad. If you work in music, it’s because you love it. A lot of people who work at labels are some of the same people that come to our shows. We share that passion.”

We don’t know what it’s like to not work in the industry”, Rocky said passionately. If they weren’t in the industry though, they’d both like to think they would be involved in playing hockey, or maybe be a “A nomad of some sorts”, Ross suggests, “Working on a farm or doing carpentry work. I might even do some of that next year. Like volunteering to build a school or something”.

Being on the road may not give them much time to take up new hobbies, but when there is time to sit back and relax, listening to music is an easy pastime. But not everything makes it on the playlist.

Sometimes I’ll hear a hit song, and not really get it,” says Ross, “but then a few years later, I might end up changing my mind and actually like it. Or sometimes when it’s overplayed, I get sick of it and then when it’s not played as much, I think that song was a bop“!

He continues, “There’s this band I’ve been playing a lot called Cores Of Change. They’re pretty up and coming. I think they’re pretty under the radar but I think they’re pretty cool“. Rocky also mentions an artist called JMSN that people should check out. “He’s kind of been around for a second but not many people know of him.”

While in the studio working on their latest album, Summer Mixtape, during the writing and recording process, some of the songs that made the tracklist did have to go through some alterations before reaching the final stage.

As Rocky explains, “I wouldn’t say challenging but ‘Keep Moving Forward’ was the one with the most alterations. We sent it to Nikka Costa, threw around some ideas and we rearranged some of what was sent over. You (Ross) were back and forth between Toronto so it was just things like that going on.”

When we decided to make it the first song, there was a lot of pressure from the business side saying it needs to be out now. That was an extra layer of stress for us” Ross confesses.

You just try and do your best and you have to remember that there is a reason that we’re independent right now and that’s because we want to do things our way. There’s pressure coming from all sides and sometimes you just have to remember that it’s about the music and we want it to be right!

Other than music being a way for Ross and Rocky to get their emotions out, playing Ice Hockey “is a good workout. It lets you get your emotions out and it’s like therapy.” For Rocky, it’s picking up a good book to read.

Maybe if you’re reading something kind of spiritual, you can kind of understand your emotions a little more. The last book I read was called ‘In Search of the Miraculous’. The overall concept is about awakening. It’s very spiritual and philosophical.”

Even with the pressures of being in the music industry, staying authentic is something important to The Driver Era.

That might be the most important thing,” Rocky asserts, “It is overlooked. A lot of people think that they need to be a certain way in order to be successful and I think everyone likes realness and everyone connects with the truth. It’s just how we operate, that’s how we like to be.”

Staying authentic in this industry “is the only way I want to do it. I get it if you’re first starting out and you are obligated to try and get followers and try to be able to sell out shows,” Ross explains. “But we’re in a place in our careers now where we can do all those things. We’ve cultivated a great fan base. We don’t have to thirst-trap any more, those days are behind us,” laughs Rocky.

One of my favorite things that I’ve heard on this tour is that sometimes the venue manager will come up to us and say our fans are all so sweet, so nice and so cool. Apparently someone brought a whole case of water bottles to give out to people in the queue. It’s really cool to see that reflected in the community that is our fan base,” he adds, before showering praise on their fans.

Our Meet and Greets are always great, honestly! Sometimes after you do four shows in a row and you have to meet so many people, because as human being, it’s not all the time that you’re constantly meeting so many people

But for the most part, it’s a really great experience to meet the people that are so involved and so excited to see us. Most of them have been following us for 10 years! And we get to have that on tour almost every day so it’s a really sweet exchange.

I also think there’s a reason why the media is mostly dominated by women. The show will probably be 80% women and that’s a beautiful thing. I think that might be why we didn’t have that emotional connection to that certain band growing up that made music“.

Rocky and Ross both agreed that some guys may “downplay it. Whereas women are more openly expressive.”

With all the relationships formed along the way, the one between Ross and Rocky will always be one that’ll last forever. “I think it’s a beautiful thing when you’ve known someone for so long because they’re very much the same person. He’ll always be Rocky,” expressed Ross.

You get to see him expand as a human and you’re always the Rocky I’ve known since you were 3. You’re also still discovering so I get to do that with you too. I love that about relationships, how you’re constantly discovering but still familiar,” he concludes.

The brothers are eager to continue looking inward to uncover more facets about themselves as people and musicians.

Listen to the Summer Mixtape by The Driver Era below and stream it everywhere else here, and you can also keep tabs on The Driver Era on Twitter and Instagram.

Words by Sarah Akomanyi

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