Christofer Drew, the 19-year-old emo-pop phenom also known as Never Shout Never, is looking at a full calendar. Touring behind his major-label debut, the eight-song Beach Boys sugar-pop of What Is Love?, Drew plans to record his first full-length album this spring, is slated to play the entire run of this summer's Warped Tour, and is pondering a European circuit and headlining tour in the fall. Oh, and he wants to ditch the Never Shout Never moniker and start working under his own name.
"I really want to do the name change, because I want to reinvent the music I have," he says. "I'm kind of confused on what we're going to do. I feel like the whole world's against me. Maybe we'll do a Christofer Drew and the Shout headliner, or get a 10-piece string section with me on acoustic, which might be cool. We're in a very transitional period. I haven't gotten the OK from anybody, but I changed all the MySpace and stuff and got everybody pissed at me. We'll see what happens."
Drew's handlers should learn to trust the young man's instincts. They've served him well in his brief but successful career. Just four years ago, Drew was a promising tennis prodigy from the poor side of Joplin, Missouri. But a broken foot kept him off the court for an extended period. In his downtime, he learned to play his father's guitar by listening to Bob Dylan and Beatles cassettes. Within days, Drew's dream shifted from tennis to music.
"About two weeks in, I was like, 'Oh my God, this is me, there's something that just feels right about this,'" he says. "I literally just kept playing every day, and I started playing at this coffee shop down the street to hone my skills and get an audience to see what they thought of my songs."
With songs spilling from him, Drew realized he was on a path that no longer included high school. The sophomore announced his intention to drop out in a note; his father, who was also his tennis coach, told him not to come home. Working three jobs and playing as often as he could, Drew lived in his car for a few months.
He saved enough to buy a MacBook and started recording his songs and posting them on MySpace, which led to a management deal and two-week tours. He was selling enough merch to make his car and insurance payments, so his parents relented and let him move back into the basement, which became his studio.
"School was holding me back," he says. "I got amazing grades until I was a freshman in high school, and then I suddenly stopped caring. They weren't teaching me anything I could use. I said, 'Sorry, guys, this is what I'm doing. If you don't like it now, you'll like it someday.' They let me back in after two months or so, and they were super supportive after that. They were like, 'We see that you're working. We thought you were going to drop out and be a bum and watch movies all day.'"
At 16, Drew came up with his Never Shout Never moniker and self-released his debut EP, The Yippee; so far, he's sold more than 30,000 copies of the CD and hundreds of thousands of individual tracks. In short order, Drew became one of MySpace's upper echelon artists, touring with Dashboard Confessional and Gym Class Heroes, releasing two more EPs, and ultimately signing a deal with Warner Brothers/Sire.
Although he's saddled with the Never Shout Never banner for the time being, Drew's musical future is bright enough to require shades. His new material may lean more toward darker themes and tones, but for the moment, he's knee-deep in finding new inspiration and direction in his older songs.
"We turn them into '60s jam-band rock," says Drew. "My band behind me — they're called the Shout — they're literally some of the best players I know. We're like Bob Dylan and the Band. I just play my songs and they jam the most ridiculous shit. It sounds like it's straight out of Woodstock."
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