Country singer Drake Milligan amazed the audience with his “America’s Got Talent” audition during season 17 with an original song. Auditioning with a song the performer wrote is somewhat common, but the quality of the songwriting, melody, and performance rarely reach levels necessary to get one judge to vote yes, let alone four. Yet, that is what happened when Drake took the stage. What’s more, judges Howie Mandel and Simon Cowell predicted he will become a country star.
Unfortunately, though the excitement was high and the audience seemed to stand behind him, Drake Milligan failed to secure first place in “America’s Got Talent”. Luckily, he won the audience’s hearts and amassed a loyal follower base that couldn’t wait to hear and see what he did next. He didn’t disappoint; he played at some legendary country music venues after he was signed to a respectable recording label, and released his first limited play (LP) album. Since the future looks bright for the young singer, musician, and TV personality, we examined what Drake Milligan is doing now.
- 1 What did Drake do before TV fame?
- 2 Early acting career success as Elvis Presley
- 3 Appearing in “American Idol”
- 4 Moving to Nashville, getting signed, and releasing debut music
- 5 Auditioning for “America’s Got Talent”
- 6 Finishing third in “America’s Got Talent”
- 7 Releasing his debut country album
- 8 Touring in late 2022
- 9 He still listens to his country and soul influences
- 10 Drake wants to remain versatile going forward
- 11 He remains interested in history
- 12 His family life, food choices, and hobbies
What did Drake do before TV fame?
Drake Milligan was born on 1 June 1998, in the Dallas/Forth Worth suburb of Mansfield, Texas, USA, to Angela Milligan, a veterinarian, and James Milligan, who runs a recycling yard for scrap metal. He has a brother, Hunter Milligan, who grew up engaging in activities such as snowboarding, swimming, dressing up as a cowboy, and riding a mechanical bull.
His father inspired Drake’s passion for country music through his records from Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson, and George Jones. Drake wanted to perform from a young age when he fell in love with George Strait’s music from a CD his dad frequently played in the car. On the other hand, his mom had CDs of Waylon Jennings, and listened to ‘outlaw music’ a lot. However, a notable event at the age of seven that inspired him was seeing an Elvis impersonator at a local 1950s-themed restaurant.
Drake went home thinking Elvis was ‘the coolest thing in the world’, and started researching everything he could and listened to all his songs. His obsession grew to the point of him getting a costume, and dressing up as him for Halloween, dancing on the coffee table, and singing “Blue Christmas”.
Early acting career success as Elvis Presley
Drake’s earliest acting experience dates to 2014, when he portrayed Elvis Presley in a short film entitled “Nobody”. A few years later, the producers of the “Sun Records” American drama TV mini-series were casting someone to play the famous singer. Drake saw the ad on Facebook, and thought he was ‘preparing for the role his whole life’. Alas, he was only 17, and they didn’t want him until he used connections from “Nobody” to tell the casting directors he was serious.
After he auditioned, they acknowledged his musicality and physical resemblance to Elvis Presley. His experience as an impersonator and the role in the short film only cemented their decision to cast him in the lead role, and the series premiered in February 2017. Drake shared the screen with the likes of Trevor Donovan, Chad Michael Murray, Jennifer Holland, and Florence before the show wrapped up after eight episodes in April 2017. Starring in the show forced him to move to Nashville, Tennessee, while he was in his final year of high school. That was the moment he decided he wanted to be a country artist.
Appearing in “American Idol”
Drake auditioned for “American Idol” in New Orleans during season 16 in 2018. As contestant number 50096, he performed “You Look So Good in Love” by George Strait in front of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. Alas, despite earning the “ticket to Hollywood” from all three judges to proceed, he dropped out of the competition after the Hollywood Round.
Drake clarified on Instagram when asked, ‘I decided that I wasn’t quite ready for that platform yet, and that it would be a better step for me to move to Nashville and focus on my music first.’
He explained that quitting was tough but necessary, adding that no one pressured him to exit or discouraged him from competing. It was the opposite, as he stated, ‘Everyone was very kind and I feel absolutely blessed and gracious to have been part of it’.
Moving to Nashville, getting signed, and releasing debut music
After he settled in Nashville permanently in 2018, Drake decided to cut all ties to Elvis Presley, as he ‘wanted nothing to do with him’, instead attempting to get a recording contract. A well-known record label, BBR Music Group, initially rejected his audition, telling him that he ‘needs to do a lot of work, but something’s there’. Drake remained in touch, and kept recording demos and songwriting, and when he played again, the label reversed their decision, and signed him six months to a year later, in early 2021.
On 23 July 2021, he released his debut extended play (EP) album entitled “Drake Milligan”. Although he co-wrote all five songs, the album didn’t bring commercial success despite positive reviews by reputable music critics. Interestingly, Drake received feedback that opposed what he thought he should do. Tony Brown, the album producer, advised him to incorporate the influence Elvis and his music had on his life instead of running from it. Drake also released a Christmas single entitled “Cowgirl for Christmas” on 22 October 2021, that failed to chart.
Auditioning for “America’s Got Talent”
Drake Milligan took the “America’s Got Talent” stage on 7 June 2022, after the producer of the talent TV show heard his EP album, and suggested he should give it a chance. He auditioned with an original, “Sounds Like Something I’d Do”, and impressed all four judges, Sofia Vergara, Heidi Klum, Simon Cowell, and Howie Mandel, who gave him four “yes” votes.
Drake stated this was the chance he waited for because he’d watched the talent show since he was a kid. More precisely, he could perform with his band, and present his already-released music to break the ice in the industry.
He also thought of it as a modern iteration of “The Ed Sullivan Show”, which aired from 1948 to 1971, and whose host requested live performances, launching many unknown singers and bands into stardom, including Elvis Presley, Connie Francis, and at that time in the US, The Beatles.
Finishing third in “America’s Got Talent”
After the judges deliberated, he proceeded to the semi-finals, where his performance of another original, “Kiss Goodbye All Night” received standing ovations from all four judges. After Simon Cowell called it ‘the best performance of the night’, he expectedly reached the finals. Additionally, the song topped the iTunes Country Songs chart the morning after, and he performed “Sounds Like Something I’d Do” again in the finals.
Before heading into the finale, he said he would invest the $1 million cash prize to improve fans’ live experiences. First, he would visit more places, as he could pay for road van upkeep and travel expenses. Second, he would purchase better music equipment and create a bigger and better production with the rest of the money. Unfortunately, on 14 September 2022, he finished in third place behind Kristy Sellars, the runner-up, and Mayyas, who won. Despite failing to earn the esteemed prize, he was the highest-placing singer in his season.
Hello from backstage at America's Got Talent! Bout to hit the stage with the boys here shortly, so y'all tune in on NBC right now (8/7c) and get ready to start votin' over on nbc.com/agtvote #AGT
Posted by Drake Milligan on Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Releasing his debut country album
On 15 September 2022, Drake released his debut digital limited play (LP), and CD album, entitled “Dallas/Fort Worth” under the BBR Music Group label. Drake wrote and recorded most of the 14 songs in 2018, 2020 and 2021, co-wrote them all, and prepared the album ahead of time. Therefore, he could release the album a day after his third-place finish in the TV show. His audition track was the best-charting single from the album, reaching 40th place on the US Billboard Country Airplay chart.
The album’s name stems from the sound it features, and was suggested by Adrian Michaels, Vice President of Innovation, Radio and Streaming of the record label He noticed half of his music has a rock influence, is polished, and radio ready, making it suitable for a big city like Dallas. In contrast, the other half represents traditional country music, played in bars and stockyards, which fits the Fort Worth name.
Drake cited Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, George Strait and Buck Owens as his biggest inspirations for the album, and described it as ‘old school in a new way’.
A song with the most unusual name, “Bad Day To Be A Beer” came from a one-liner that made him laugh and note it down. It happened randomly when during a fishing trip they were on, his friend said, ‘It’s a good day to be me, but it’s a bad day to be a beer.’ Another unusual reference is his duet with James Burton, entitled “Long Haul” – he wrote it as a fictional love song between him and country music since he ‘is in it for the long haul, and will follow it until the end and go everywhere’.
Touring in late 2022
Shortly after the album’s release, Drake announced that he’d embark on a cross-country tour. He immediately noticed how inadequate many clubs were for the number of people that showed up – he’d committed to performing in some venues up to 10 months upfront, and even promised to play and sing for free in some.
Although he visited several popular places, a notable performance was at the Billy Bob’s Texas venue in Fort Worth, on 24 September 2022. The location is renowned because the best-known country music legends of the late 20th and early 21st century performed there from 1981. Drake dreamed of ‘performing there as long as he can remember but never dreamed it would be this soon’.
If that wasn’t thrilling enough, Drake made his Grand Ole Opry debut on 5 October 2022. Not many singers and musicians get this honor, let alone so early in their career and after releasing their debut album without a multi-million audience. Based on the public response, his fans felt he’d finally found recognition, and that his career would be on the upswing.
Who am I gonna see out on the road in February?! ⚡️ https://t.co/JZp2uEEsP2 pic.twitter.com/cuVtE27W0S
— Drake Milligan (@DrakeMilligan) January 27, 2023
He still listens to his country and soul influences
Drake seems to stay true to his statement early into “America’s Got Talent”, when he said, ‘I know Elvis’s music like the back of my hand. I love it, but I feel like my calling is country music. I’m a country boy at heart.’ In late 2022, he said that his ‘favorite music is Elvis from the late 1950s and early 1960s, especially the “Elvis is Back” record, songs like “Surrender” and “It’s Now or Never”, and all these big, lush sounds.’
He added that ‘the operating stuff and a lot of Spanish music’ are what Elvis listened to, and what Drake wanted to infuse into his album. In contrast, he still listens to Keith Whitley, Alan Jackson and Vern Gosdin, ‘some of the greatest singers in country music’ to him, and who influenced his romantic songs “Dance of A Lifetime,” “She,” and “Don’t Look Down”.
Drake plans to open for his favorite artists who still perform, too. He opened for Dwight Yoakam in late 2021, and partnered with Vince Gill on-stage in December 2022 to perform his song “Goin’ Down Swingin’”
Drake wants to remain versatile going forward
Drake incorporated several music influences on his debut album and will keep it that way on the next, while staying loyal to country music. Funnily, he couldn’t decide which country song best described him. He jokingly cited “Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old” by Garth Brooks, before becoming more realistic, picking George Strait’s “Cowboys Like Us”. If his music had to be influenced by two artists, he would choose to ‘stay between Elvis Presley and George Strait’.
Moreover, one of the biggest compliments to him is when people say they aren’t fans of country music, or didn’t know they were, yet love his work. Although he enjoys holding concerts for a massive audience, Drake draws joy from giving people something impactful to listen to ‘during a lazy Friday, drinking beer’. For him, music is a great escape; he loves ‘trying to tell a story, bringing people to a different place, and giving them an outlet to kind of take it easy for a while.’
Despite understanding that his fans enjoy listening to his music digitally or using a CD, he never wants his music to stop playing on the radio; he even moved from Texas to Nashville with that desire. To him, the most commercial radio artist ever was George Strait, and he aspires to reach similar stardom.
He remains interested in history
Drake Milligan was always a history buff; it was his favorite school subject. Therefore, he enjoys learning as much as possible about country music, a desire that grew when he moved to Nashville. Furthermore, he found it unusual that only the recording artists are publicly known because, ‘for every one artist, there are maybe 50 people behind the scenes.’ Thus, he decided to make it a goal to learn where the albums were recorded, and who played instruments, produced, and approved the release on the label.
Drake goes as far as learning who the record label has in their arranging and recording (A&R) division, i.e., the talent scouts that sign artists, and their noteworthy successes. For that reason, and because he knows that Elvis Presley’s band contributed significantly to his success, he wouldn’t wish to continue his career without his band members.
His family life, food choices, and hobbies
Drake Milligan still lives in Nashville, Tennessee in 2023, while his parents reside in Tarrant County, Texas, but do their best to show up at notable performances. He goes back home when he’s unoccupied, and enjoys yard work on his gasoline-powered lawn mower.
He used to attend many Major League Baseball (MLB) Texas Rangers’ games before becoming a singer and musician.
Drake remains a massive fan of fishing, an activity he’s been involved in since childhood. In 2021, he visited Alaska for the first time to fish, and frequently impresses his social media followers with the specimens he catches, especially redfish and trout.
Drake likes to snowboard when he gets the chance, and has a long history of snowboarding at the Red River Ski Club in Red River, New Mexico.
He’s also a fan of hiking and an avid golfer.
Interestingly, Drake thinks In-n-Out French fries taste like cardboard, but loves going to Buc-ee’s and drinking Lone Star beer in Texas.
Despite being in love with hunting, especially targeting whitetail bucks, mule deer, and birds with the help of hunting dogs, he’s still a big animal lover. He had two cats, Booger and Catfish, but Catfish passed away in 2013 at 15, and his family has a wild pig named Daisy. Drake has dogs named Jack-Jack, a Jack Russel terrier, a chihuahua named Jill, a golden retriever named Belle, and Lucy The Shark, born in 2017.