It all began with a guitar and a dog. Drew Arcoleo, whose stage name is Drew Cole, has had a whirlwind few years.
Graduating from the University of Connecticut in 2014, he then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a music career after a YouTube video he made went viral. Fast forward to the present and Cole is fresh off a stint on NBC’s hit TV reality talent show, The Voice. He’ll return to his hometown June 29 at 7:30 p.m. to perform at the Ridgefield Playhouse.
Growing up in Ridgefield, where he lived from age 3 through college, Cole learned to play guitar by the sixth grade and formed a band with three of his friends from middle school to high school. “My dad was a hobbyist guitar player so there were always guitars around my house. I just naturally fell in love with the guitar. It wasn’t until high school that I became confident vocally,” he said.
Interestingly, his band competed in the Battle of the Bands at the Ridgefield Playhouse, winning three out of four times. His confidence in his voice grew and he moved from singing background to lead and the guitar has now taken a back seat to his singing.
The aforementioned YouTube video, “Golden Loves Guitar,” was recorded in 2012 when he was a sophomore at UConn, showing him playing guitar at a friend’s house and the dog reacting to the music. He uploaded it mainly to show his friend’s extended family but it quickly garnered 14 million views. “That was a pivotal moment definitely. That’s when everything changed for me,” he said.
After writing songs and making music with a producer in L.A. who saw his video and suggested he fly out there, Cole got his next big break when he auditioned for The Voice, which just wrapped its 14th season. His breakout blind audition in February wowed the coaches when he sang a cover of Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy,” prompting coach Adam Levine, the frontman of Maroon 5, to turn his chair within 10 seconds (which signifies a coach likes the contestant). The singer-songwriter joined Team Adam until being eliminated in the Live Playoffs.
Being on The Voice was intense and surreal, almost overwhelming, Cole said. “It was just incredible, it is a very intimidating stage but we are so prepared for those moments,” he said. “There’s a lot of rehearsing that goes into each performance, way more than I have prepared for anything in my life. The show really taught me what it takes to be a professional and performing at your best — really applying yourself to each and every song, emotionally.”
Working with Levine as his coach was a great experience, Cole said. “One thing Adam is so good at is finding moments in songs and finding your best side for each song — how to maintain your identity but step out of your comfort zone and reach for these moments whether it’s a big moment when the band falls out or a falsetto note,” he said.
“My favorite performance was ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’,” a duet he sang with Miya Bass. “It was the first moment I really settled down on stage and became present and it was great to interact with another performer,” he said. “I had such a great experience and opportunity with The Voice. I’m in a very happy place coming off that amazing experience.”
Asked who his biggest musical influences are, Cole said that early on it was rock and roll — anything from Led Zeppelin to AC/DC and the Rolling Stones. “When I started singing, I gravitated to more pop stuff, like Michael Jackson,” he said. “Chris Robinson from The Black Crowes is one of my favorite frontmen of all times, he has such a soulful edge. One thing I want to accomplish as a singer is to bring that soulful edge to my music.”
Cole has a couple shows coming up in New York City. “I’m working really hard, writing a lot of new songs. I will be putting out a single right before the [Ridgefield] show, and will get on the road and play some great music, eventually get an album together and a full tour. I’m looking forward to so much stuff.”