Drew Nugent has a storied history in the Philadelphia music scene, but dare it to be said he’s just getting started. With an innate talent for music performance and composition, he has built his life around the art and practice of playing.
Born and raised in the Philadelphia suburbs, Drew’s interest in music began almost before he can remember. At the age of seven years old, Drew’s parents purchased a piano for the family, which he took an immediate and enthusiastic liking to. On the instrument, Drew taught himself the art of ear training, an application he utilized to assist in his learning of the violin in third grade.
At the age of fifteen, Joe Benedict, Drew’s piano teacher, introduced him to the trumpet, which captivated his interest and remains one of his primary methods of expression today. Of this, Drew says: “When I play this music, be it on trumpet, piano, singing, or making some noise on the teapot, I feel a significant connection. I find myself seeping into the song, feeling its colors and moods [and] thinking of all the different ways the song has been played.” This passion is evident from the second you meet, listen to, or watch Drew perform live.
As a founding member, lead vocalist and bandleader of Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society, Drew’s voice has found its way through Philadelphia’s eclectic jazz scene. With a frenetic energy, dedication to the early twentieth century in dress, manner and musical style, and a repertoire of cover songs and original music that invite hot jazz into today’s musical space, there is no denying that Drew is a talent like no other.
The Midnight Society, which has been Drew’s musical home and identity as an artist since 2009, is a project he co-formed with drummer Skip Rohrich after the pair played together at a jam session at Ardmore’s revered Milkboy Coffee before its move to Center City. Alongside Gary Cattley on tuba and a wide-ranging group of Philadelphia’s finest musicians, The Midnight Society has ignited the Philadelphia music scene for more than seven years with their recordings and live shows.
The band has been invited to play in an incredible array of venues, including on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion; The Delta Queen Steamboat Lines; Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts; the Governor’s Island Jazz Age Lawn Party; Philadelphia’s Jazz Age on the Delaware Lawn Party; the Philadelphia Art Museum; and many more. In addition, he’s held residencies at The Farmer’s Cabinet, where from 2011-2014 he served as the house musician and bandleader before the venue closed.
I’ll Never Be the Same, Drew’s first solo record in a decade, is comprised of fifteen original compositions and unique takes on classic jazz numbers from early twentieth century. The record was encouraged and produced by Peter Evans, a Philadelphia musician whose passion both for Drew’s talent and his take on a bygone era is evidenced in the pair’s friendship. When asked what attracted him to Drew, he said: “When you listen to Drew play, you know how important it all is to him – you’ll get that lightning rod connection into a 1930s speakeasy. That’s a rare thing and Drew is a unique professor of history in that way”.
The pair ventured to Los Angeles, California to work with songwriter Shayna Zaid and producer Cynthia Carle at the famed Village Recorder in Santa Monica, where countless legends including Ray Charles and Muddy Waters had previously recorded their hallmark catalogues. After that experience, Peter stated, “I cleared my head of previous intentions and decided to produce I’ll Never Be the Same, convinced he needed to be heard”.
The sentiment is shared among all of those who work with and know Drew. Richard Hardy, the chief clarinet player on “Big Bad Bill”, said that his “first impressions of Drew were that he was so unique, like some genius who dropped out of the early twentieth century to grace us with the finest musical offerings of that time. I was amused by his ‘delightful irreverence’ when referring to almost everything, but when it comes to music, he's a serious student of the art form and an encyclopedia of information.” Little describes Drew’s dedication better than that.
I’ll Never Be the Same showcases Drew’s voice, musicality and instrumentation in a way that is rarely seen anymore. With its coming release in early 2017, Drew will be playing live to support the record while also maintaining his bandleader status within the Midnight Society. More can be found at: www.drewnugent.org.
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