DFW Music News

During the Pandemic, Livingston Had to Learn to Live With Viral Fame

Jimmy Fontaine
Denton artist Livingston emerged from the pandemic with massive TikTok fame.
Last year, Drake Livingston was an average teenager chasing a dream and trying to find his place in the world. Now, the 18-year-old singer-songwriter is an up-and-coming pop star known mononymously by his last name.

Livingston was born, raised and still resides in Denton, where the self-taught producer recorded his first hit, “Fairytale,” in his bedroom. In a matter of days, his ballad celebrating imperfect heroes went viral on TikTok. Over the course of the past year, he has pulled in over two million followers.

“It was like going from zero to a hundred,” Livingston says. “Historically, if you're an artist you start putting out small projects, putting out individual songs and you slowly move into playing tiny venues and bars. When I started to get that momentum on TikTok, it opened up a lot of good doors in the sense that now there are ears to hear the music and there are people who understand what I'm trying to do.

"And there are people who are supporting, even if it's from a distance and it's from far away.”

At the time of our interview, Livingston was days away from opening for Fitz and the Tantrums at House of Blues in Dallas. He'd spent the past five weeks in L.A. working on music and preparing for upcoming shows.

While he is enjoying his newfound fame and getting to travel, the artist is happiest in his hometown, newly in love with the city’s diversity and creativity.

“I think it's always been grounding for me to stay in Texas,” he says. “My family's here, my friends are here and my girlfriend is here. She's been proud of me throughout my whole career. So I think staying in Denton felt like a very powerful thing.”

Although he’s come to appreciate the city’s talent and diversity, Livingston says he struggled to fit in as a kid. Growing up, he attended Coram Deo Academy, which he says contained a small number of students. They weren’t divided into “the jocks and the nerds” or any other typical high school archetypes, which he says made it difficult to find friends who share his passion for music.

Livingston was in his school’s band, in which he played trombone, but he found his real joy in songwriting and producing music of his own. He also dreamt of directing his own music videos.

“These [music production] programs are really intuitive,” he says, “... There's a timeline, there's layering, there are effects. And then, there's the music. It was just kind of pressing a bunch of different buttons and figuring out which ones made my stuff sound good.”

In May, Livingston released the EP An Unlikely Origin Story, his second since signing with Elektra and Warner. On the lead single, “Superkid,” he reflects on his rapid rise to fame and the whirlwind of emotions that came along with it.

“I was having to figure out how to deal with this kind of pressure and intensity that I wasn't used to,” he recalls of the early stages of his career and meeting with labels. “And it was all good. It was good change. It was stuff that I think I'd always dreamed of happening and encountering. But I noticed in the middle of that experience for me, I didn't feel any different.”

"It was good change. It was stuff that I think I'd always dreamed of happening and encountering. But I noticed in the middle of that experience for me, I didn't feel any different.” – Livingston on his sudden fame

tweet this

An Unlikely Origin Story is composed of piano-driven ballads, with the vocal passion of Lewis Capaldi and pop stylings of Jon Bellion. A track called “The Giver” is inspired by Livingston’s girlfriend and contains an infectious drum loop that evokes sheer happiness.

“I've never really had properly written a love song before,” he says. “I think it's because I was so young and I was aware it was very ‘honeymoon’ and I hadn't really encountered struggle yet. But ‘The Giver’ for me is someone that you recognize is the best part of yourself and loves you regardless of your faults and what comes in between you.”

Over the past year, Livingston has learned a lot about the music business but is still honing his skills as a songwriter and producer. While he originally intended to go to the University of North Texas to study entrepreneurship, he decided to sign his record deal and take his music career full throttle. His performance with Fitz & The Tantrums is his first of what will surely be many major venues.

As most of us are adjusting to the world reopening, Livingston is adjusting to an entirely different world as a recording artist.

“I began during COVID,” he says, “I had no presence before the world shut down. So this is literally like coming out of a cocoon and figuring out how to use my feet.”