Drake White may pull many of his inspirations from the swampy, sultry southern summers depicted in his “It Feels Good” video, set in the Louisiana bayou, but for the song itself, he looked to a particular singer-producer known for his big ol’ hat.
“It was just one of those days that the dew was on the ground,” White tells Rolling Stone Country of the afternoon he wrote the song with bass player Phillip Pence and Derek George. “I remember thinking about Pharrell’s ‘Happy,’ and how upbeat it is and easy to catch on to. So I went back to growing up on the banks of the river, always out on makeshift pontoon boats and water skis, barefoot and trying to impress the girls. That’s the song — it’s not intensely deep, but I wanted it to feel good. If you can make kids, old people and middle-aged people all dance, then you got something.”
It’s hard to ignore the subtext of White returning to the scene with such a joyous, foot-stomping anthem. For a while, after being dropped from his deal at Mercury, it looked like he might never release a record. But now, happily a part of the Dot Records roster and six songs deep into an LP (tentatively due in the fall), there’s plenty of reasons to feel good. “It’s one of those tunes where you can go and not think about it too hard,” White says. “You’re going to turn it up and jam in the car or in the boat.”
For the video, White struck up a crawfish boil on the bayou right outside of New Orleans and filled it with friends, beers and lots of his fancy footwork. He doesn’t play music so much as become possessed by it, shaking, clomping and hopping up on his toes like a cowboy Michael Jackson. It’s a celebration of his country roots and, really, of being back in control.
“If somebody tells you that you can’t do something, and you’re really meant to do it,” he says, “you’ve got to bust ass to prove everybody wrong. When I got dropped, I immediately started thinking positively. It sucked; no man wants to get dropped. But I’ve got a lot of freedom now, and I think the stars are aligned for that organic sound.”
That doesn’t mean there weren’t hard times on the road to “It Feels Good.” But White just took it out on his boxing bag, not his music.
“Did I have bruised and scarred knuckles from punching on that? You bet your ass.”