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Alumni Spotlight: Drew Holcomb

By: Allison Sonnenberg (Class of 2016, Honors Council Public Relations Committee)


Drew Holcomb (University Honors Alum, 2003)

Walking around UT’s campus, one hears a variety of things: conversations, yells from games of Frisbee, music played loudly as a group of students chat. If one listens to the music, there is a good chance some songs by Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors will be flowing through the speakers. This is especially exciting because lead singer Drew Holcomb was once an honors student himself and a Manning Scholar. Drew Holcomb (’03) attended UT and was enrolled in the University Honors program (now known as the Chancellor’s Honors Program) from 2000 to 2003, and he graduated from the College Scholars program with a Bachelor of Science degree.

Holcomb has a successful career as a singer and songwriter with his band. Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors have released nine albums, with songs featured on around 25 television shows, including Criminal Minds, How I Met Your Mother, Justified, One Tree Hill, and Parenthood. They travel often in both the United States and Europe, visiting a variety of places and meeting a variety of people as they perform.

He is married to Ellie Bannister Holcomb (’05), who is also in the band, and who was also an honors student at UT. Together they have two children and enjoy an occasionally quiet life in a tightly-knit neighborhood community in Nashville. Both Holcombs speak fondly of their time spent at the University of Tennessee. “The program gave a chance for all the honors students to interact with each other, especially as underclassmen, that allowed us to get to know each other in both social and academic settings,” said Drew in an interview.


“The Honors Program gave me a much broader perspective on the world and expanded my intellectual curiosity and diversity of thinking.”


Holcomb credits much of his success to his experiences in the honors program. The opportunities for interaction with other students, especially upperclass students he might otherwise not have met, helped him make friends and grow as a person, providing him with additional connections and experiences he may not have had otherwise. Holcomb says Honors “gave me a much broader perspective on the world and [expanded] my intellectual curiosity and diversity of thinking.” Certain classes stood out as catalysts for his interests and future career, especially a 1-hour honors course he took as a freshman with Dr. Bruce Wheeler, the former Director of the University Honors Program. Holcomb recalls that Wheeler’s “humor and perspective shaped how I engaged my education for the next 3.5 years.”

Looking back on his time at UT, he remembers his father’s advice: “When I left for college, my father gave me one piece of advice. He said, ‘I dont care what you major in, just go to college and learn how to learn. If you learn how to learn, you can do whatever you want with your life.’ The UT Honors Program, with its many opportunities for interdisciplinary interaction, creates an environment where I was able to do that, and was able to do it well.”

Drew Holcomb has come a long way from a freshman eagerly joining the honors program. He has built a successful family and career, and given students on campus great music to play as they socialize and study.

You may listen to and learn about Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors at

Drew & Ellie Holcomb

Drew Holcomb (Honors Alum, 2003) & Ellie Holcomb (Honors Alum, 2005)

Photos courtesy of Drew Holcomb.