Drake Milligan Might Finally Be Finding His Moment

Saving Country Music was on the record nearly a year ago saying that all that Drake Milligan needed was a spark and an opportunity, and he could be big. Sure, we love to say that about all of our favorite little independent country artists, whether it’s true or not. But with Drake Milligan, it most 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). Sure, we see folks make appearances on these primetime signing shows all the time—including some from the ranks of up-and-coming country artists—and it swells attention to them for a hot second, and then they melt right back into obscurity. Even many of the winners and runners up of these competitions struggle to parley the opportunity into something significant after the shows end.

But again, this is Drake Milligan, and he’s got the “it” factor that so many otherwise excellent singers are missing. What is “it”? It’s a combination of things that go well beyond talent: originality, intrigue, unique appeal, and very often, fortuitous timing.

Drake Milligan is not new to television-level attention. He starred as none other than a young Elvis Presley in the highly-regarded television series Sun Records that aired on CMT in 2017. Written by Hank Williams biographer Collin Escott, it was the best thing CMT had done in years, though it only lasted one season. Drake Milligan was a big part of the show’s critical acclaim and appeal.

Drake Milligan’s origin story is that he saw an Elvis impersonator in a restaurant when he was young, and then all of a sudden was obsessed, emulating Presley in talent shows and such. But soon he started taking music and entertainment more seriously, writing his own songs and developing his own style. Still, that baseline of Elvis influence and appeal remains part of his persona.

Why is that important? Because of timing. A big Elvis movie (called Elvis) directed by Baz Luhrmann is being released June 24th starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks, and is already causing a resurgence of interest in The King simply from the trailers. This comes as Sun Records celebrates its 70th Anniversary, which is also swelling attention to all things vintage Memphis.

But what makes Drake Milligan different from other amateur or up-and-coming artists featured on reality competition shows like this is he already signed to a big label. BBR Records (Broken Bow) picked Milligan up in 2021 and released an excellent self-titled EP last summer produced by the legendary Tony Brown. Of course, it went mostly ignored by the mainstream and received no radio play because it’s actually country, and good. But to studious listeners, Drake Milligan’s EP was one of the best releases of 2021.

When Drake Milligan appeared on America’s Got Talent, tantalized viewers could immediately head to Spotify and iTunes and spin or download his songs. In fact ever since, Drake Milligan has been hovering at or near the top of the iTunes charts. Though these charts are a weak long-term metric for appeal, don’t be surprised if we see Drake Milligan appear on Billboard’s Digital Song Sales chart and perhaps other metrics next week.

What makes this whole thing even more intriguing is that part of Drake Milligan’s story is how the Fort Worth, TX native previously auditioned for American Idol, was accepted, but then 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 is he now showing up on America’s Got Talent? Maybe perhaps they will allow him to feature his own original songs as opposed to competing in silly competitions involving covers, and maybe because at this point he’ll try anything to receive the attention he deserves.

Either way, with all the buzz surrounding the 23-year-old’s performance, and the renewed interest in Elvis, he could finally be finding his moment, and not too soon. With his songs and his swagger, Drake Milligan definitely deserves to be one of the artists benefiting from the resurgence of traditional country music.

As judge Simon Cowell says introducing Drake, “You have a lot of people behind us to tell you if you’re any good or not. And they know a lot more than record companies do.”

And it appears the people have spoken.

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