Country crooner and Montana to Nashville artist Sterling Drake released his Highway 200 EP pressed on colored vinyl by Soul Step Records this month. Sterling, known for his deep country and western roots on his family’s ranch in Florida, connects his love of music to influences from his parents and grandparents. Drake grew up listening to Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Roger Miller, all of whom played a formative role in his music career.
If you’re new to Sterling Drake’s music, travel back to the era of outlaw country with Highway 200. Today’s mainstream country music seldom hits the wistful longing of a genuine country and western troubadour. You’ll be head over boots with one listen of “In the Pines” or “Highway 200” from this noteworthy rugged EP. Today we chat with Sterling Drake about living between Montana ranches and Nashville and the background of Highway 200.
Shop the Sterling Drake Highway 200 on vinyl by Soul Step Records HERE.
Q&A with Sterling Drake //
PDLR: How have you found being in Nashville beneficial to your career? Do you still go back and forth between Nashville and Montana?
Sterling Drake: “I think most artists that have spent time in Music City realize that it’s a love-hate relationship. If you move to a large music community, keeping your goals in mind is important. It’s easy to lose yourself in all the happenings of a big city. At times I’ve put too much stock into that town, which has ultimately led to a bit of resentment.”
“I went back to Montana during Covid, and my time away helped restore my perspective on Nashville. There is nowhere else with the amount of concentrated talent and abundance of country music lovers in a several-mile radius. The biggest benefit is mingling and playing with pickers and songwriters on any night. Currently, I spend my year split between Montana and Tennessee. When I’m in Nashville, I’m on the road, co-writing or recording. My downtime is back in Montana.”
PDLR: I’m eager to know more about country music’s influence on your childhood. Can you paint the picture of when you realized you wanted to pursue country music?
Sterling Drake: “My father and grandparents introduced me to country music as a kid. Papa was a big Willie, Waylon, and Roger Miller fan. It’s safe to say that it’s in our genetics. Admittedly, that wasn’t the music that piqued my interest in my teens. While I wrote country songs, most of my musical time involved playing drums or lead guitar in rock bands. I like to say that country is emo music for people with adult problems. It takes a little bit of living for it to grow on ya.”
“It’s a long Montana winter, and it’s likely to drive us both insane, and the livestock and the jukebox are the only thing to occupy my brain.”
PDLR: Did you have any specific influences for this EP? Whether it be another artist’s music or personal experiences.
Sterling Drake: “I wanted to incorporate several different styles of music that I enjoy. Highway 200 includes western traditional, old-time, and outlaw country. As a fan of American roots music, I aspire to fuse its different features into something new yet familiar.”
PDLR: Do you work with other songwriters, musicians, etc.? If so, who are some of your favorite collaborators?
Sterling Drake: “I’ve been fortunate enough to call a lot of great musicians and songwriters close friends of mine. I particularly enjoy discussing music and playing with Ryan Stigmon, a gentleman I’ve spent the past few years with on the road. He’s a steel guitar player out of Asheville, NC. Nashville is my musical home base. In Music City, I enjoy my time away from the road playing music and spending time with folks like Timbo, Sierra Ferrell, Hannah Juanita, Mose Wilson, Brennen Leigh, and many others.”
PDLR: What song on Highway 200 has the most meaning for you and why?
Sterling Drake: “I’d say the title track. It’s a true story about one of my experiences ranching in western Montana. Admittedly, there’s a bit of self-inflicted romanticism about western culture and ranching as a whole that I prescribe to. “Highway 200″ attempts to paint a more accurate picture of the lifestyle.”
“And I rented out a motel room off of Highway 200 just to work a riding job to earn my pay. And they never say this cowboy life was a good place to bring a wife, and I ain’t got a dollar to my name.”
PDLR: If you could collaborate or tour with any country artist, who would it be?
Sterling Drake: “I’ve spent time on the road with many of my contemporary artists and idols! In a fantasy world, I’d love to work with George Strait. One can dream.”
PDLR: What future goals do you have for your music career?
Sterling Drake: “Keep making more music and playing more shows for the good people!”
*Soul Step Records upfronts the cost of vinyl production for new artists. For more information on Soul Step Records and their mission, visit their website or follow them on Instagram below.