Drake White Finds Optimism After Suffering Stroke & Shares Experience Through Songs On New Album, ‘The Optimystic’

Drake White, Photo by Zack Knudsen

It’s been challenging to say the least,” Drake White told Music Mayhem and other media outlets.  

During a show in August 2019, White experienced the unthinkable. He collapsed on stage due to a hemorrhagic stroke that turned his world upside down. At 36 years old, he had to relearn how to walk again and regain the use of his left side. During his recovery, he had a lot of time to sit and write. The result of this difficult time is his second studio album, The Optimysticwhich gives proof that it’s possible to overcome any odds against you.

This is just what White did when he was told by doctors that he may never perform again, the worst thing an artist can hear. The stroke occurred because of a previously diagnosed brain condition known as Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM). After having to undergo multiple procedures and months of intensive physiotherapy to get to where he is now, White is not only releasing a new album, but he has also announced the continuation of his headline, The Optimistic Tour, in the spring.

I’ve had to keep a good sense of humor about it because of all the things that have come our way and all the obstacles that we’ve had to jump through,” he explained. “It’s been a life changing perspective shift for sure. I was always an optimistic dude, but this was the test. You don’t really know if you’re optimistic until you go through something that you have to battle.”

White found his true optimism through this journey and he channeled all that energy of fear and uncertainties into this project. He recalled not being able to feel his left toes, yet the only thing on his mind was writing music. He found healing through his songwriting.

All I wanted to do is write about the experience so I could share it with my fans and put it into music. That lets you know really quick that I didn’t think of dying. I didn’t think of not being able to walk. I didn’t think of, ‘Oh, I’m not sure about kids’ or ‘I’m not sure about my future family.’ I thought, ‘where’s my pen at and how can I get this on paper?'”

Even through all the pain and the unknown of what was next, White found himself believing this whole ordeal was really a blessing in some way. He explains that moments before the terrifying event occurred, he was jumping on stage as he normally does, not knowing how the night would end. When all is said and done, White knows that he has become a stronger person as a result of the turmoil he endured and now he’s ready to share his story with the world to hopefully inspire others to find the same strength.

“You really find out where you’re where your strength lies and where your faith lies,” White said.

Several tracks have already been released from this collection, including “Giants,” “Hurts the Healing,” “Angel Side of You,” and “Power of a Woman.” White had a hand in penning 12 of the 14 songs on the project, produced two songs solo, and co-produced 10 others alongside The Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnson. The final track on the album is a heartfelt rendition of “Amazing Grace” that contains a personal twist. He decided to include an old tape recording of his father singing the track back when he was a choir director in 1988

“My dad is a great singer. He can sing me out, 10 to one,” he began as he reminisced on the times he would listen to his father sing as a young boy. “I’m like five years old in the front pew, and imagine a tape recorder on the front pew and dad with a congregation of about 30 or 40 people…and then my whole family was singing ‘Amazing Grace,’ so that is what the last song of the record is, and they’re all credited with it.”

Drake White 'The Optimystic' Album Art

In chatting about getting back on the road for the second leg of his The Optimystic Tour, White reminisced on the first time he got back up on stage to perform after his stroke. It wasn’t easy jumping back into things, but in the end, he knew it was worth it. Like his grandma would say, the proof is in the pudding. White proved to himself that he would be able to continue with his music career that day. 

I’ll never forget it, ever. We had worked so hard and I was so, I wasn’t worried about limping, and I will say through the healing, through the prayers of healing, it’s been brought to my attention that maybe people need to see me limp across the stage. It’s not about me… Maybe the only reason I’m still limping and able to get on stage is because maybe somebody needs to see me limp on stage and hear the story.”

He continued to describe the private show that he and his band rallied together to play for about 500 people in Austin, TX in February 2020. 

“I walk out and my heart’s racing and my blood pressure, I’m taking medicine to keep my blood pressure down and I’m dizzy, but I just I’m kind of praying under my voice like, ‘help me, help me’… I get out there and I look at the crowd, and I heard like this urge of this is you, show them who you are. Show them resilience, show them tenacity, show them what you talked about the TED talk show.”

Although it was a bit nerve-wracking, he pushed through the fears and was able to play three or four songs. Suddenly, his confidence was back, he just had to rip off the band-aid and play that first show to find out if he still had it in him and luckily, he did.

“This new version of me, I can do this till I’m 150. I can go out there and it doesn’t matter if I limp. It doesn’t matter if I play guitar. It doesn’t matter. Just write these songs and tell this story and be 100% authentic to the struggles of who you are and what you’ve been through.”

“I know what doesn’t kill me is going to make me stronger,” he continued, “and I’m gonna keep pushing because the story’s going to get better. And I’m a storyteller. And if I claim to be a troubadour and a storyteller and a strong person, then this is the perfect opportunity to display that.”

The Optimystic Tour began in September 2021 and it will continue this spring beginning in Portland, ME, where White will be joined by Kasey Tyndall for the next round of shows.

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