By Will Lofsky
At just 23, Drew Yorke has become a contributing editor and staff photographer for lifestyle and culture publication Sidewalk Hustle, started his own video podcast, The Drew Yorke Show out of the Red Bull office on Queen Street West and completed a joint-degree in media studies and journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber.
What separates Ottawa-born Yorke from most 23-year-olds is his relentless drive to turn his show into a regular press stop for international artists, produce live concerts and video performance segments like BBC Radio 1’s “Fire in the Booth”, and to help cultivate the next wave of upcoming rap and R&B artists in the city - all while keeping up with growing Toronto rent prices.
We got together at a coffee shop in Parkdale to talk about his story, what he’s got going on right now and his plans moving forward. Read the full interview below.
What made you want to get into journalism?
I’ve been a fan of interviews on Hot97 and the Breakfast Club for a long time now. Every day I wake up and I watch all of those shows. Even when I was younger and more into video games I would watch news shows and stuff like Machinima. When it came time to go to school, I went for a multimedia program and focused on journalism later on. I don’t really know what drew me towards it. I think I used to want to be a real, hard news journalist but I quickly realized that I didn’t want to get that serious. I like talking about stuff I care about. Even though hard news is really exciting, it’s exhausting.
How long have you worked as a photographer?
I started doing that in early 2015. So, I guess almost four years now but I started taking it really seriously in the beginning of 2017.
Do you have management?
No. It gets busy, but it’s not overwhelming. A lot of my work is based in the city. I’ve travelled a little bit for brand stuff, but it’s all pretty manageable. It’d be cool to be at that point where it’s not manageable, but I guess that’s a little scary too. I’m still in the place right now where I think I’m just saying yes to a lot of people.
Where have you travelled to?
I’ve been to Vancouver a couple of times to shoot and write. I know some artists out there like So Loki, ANKLEGOD and Yurmsauce and I was working with a cannabis brand out there called Emerald Health Canada. There’s also a festival in Quebec City that I go to a lot called Festival d’ete de Quebec. It’s a huge festival - they go all out for like eleven days. Last summer I saw The Weeknd, Neil Young, and Future headlining over three nights with a bunch of other acts. It’s crazy.
How’d you get in touch with Sidewalk Hustle?
HYPEBEAST posted a photo I took of an Atlanta artist named Raury at Adelaide Hall and the location tag on the post said it was taken in Toronto. Sidewalk Hustle saw it and DM’d me asking if I was from Toronto and how much I charged. I gave them my rate and started working for them. About a year later they were like, “Do you write?” and I wasn’t really writing about music or anything but my writing had always been pretty good so I said yes. Eventually they started sending me more opportunities and I would write about the shows I was going to as well as photograph them. One day they asked me if I could interview an artist, and I always thought about it, but I had never done it yet. The first one I ever did was with Phantogram. That’s how I got into interviewing.
When did The Drew Yorke Show start to come together?
I’ve wanted to do it for years but six months ago I started thinking that I wanted to take the idea seriously. I don’t really put things on paper, I kind of work them out in my head. The only thing I was missing was a name. I had bought mics, I had a location, I had equipment, I had some potential guests, and a quick format of how I wanted to do it. I slowly worked out all of the details but couldn’t figure out a name for it. I didn’t know what to call it. I think I just got fed up that I had no name and eventually I decided that I was going to call it The Drew Yorke Show. I thought that people were going to think that I was too cocky but people were into it. I was always behind the camera, and that’s the reason why I started doing interviews because I wanted to be on camera and be part of the story.
What’s the plan moving forward?
I really want to do a live performance segment. I haven’t really put the pieces together for that yet but there are so many people that do stuff like “Fire In The Booth” so I want to do a sick job. I want to do live events too. I think that strategic partnerships for live events and for anything I do with the brand is really important. I realized that particularly when trying to promote friends and other artists - I can only put the same cover of a song on my Instagram story so many times. There’s only the same 500 people that are seeing it and that’s not even the best way to reach people.
If I did a partnership with a music festival where I had a little set-up somewhere doing live interviews it would be way better for storytelling. I got emailed today by somebody saying, “I haven’t seen you out at any events since the new year,” and it reminds me of how puzzled I feel by how I’m going to break through and not be a part of my same little bubble. It’s really easy to get trapped in your own little comfort zone, thinking that you’re doing something cool with the same people around telling you how what you’re doing is sick and not moving forward. Toronto’s only so big. I want to be bigger.
For example, there’s a Spanish rapper named Kidd Keo. I really want to interview him. I think he has a lot of potential for western crossover - he has millions of followers and sells out huge venues in South America and Spain. And all I have to do is go to Spain. It’s all in my hands.
Who do you really want to work with in the city?
Do you know Nue? I like his music a lot. I’ve done some stuff with him before and he said he wants to be on the show. When he started to break through people didn’t really support him. The usual people that get behind artists that start to get popping weren’t really into it. I’m not sure if that’s because he signed to an American label so quickly, or because his music is so different, but I like his work a lot. That’s somebody I think I would like to work with more.
LocoCity is one for sure. He’s getting really good numbers and his music is interesting. There’s a new kid named Velow that just finished graduating from The Remix Project. His voice is unique, and I think he has a lot of potential in the US market.
It’s funny. I want to work with more Toronto artists but I also want to get every single American artist that comes to Toronto on my show - and I realize that it’s a process. If an artist is going to New York, they’re going to stop in at The Breakfast Club or Hot 97 or Sway. If they go out to LA, they’re going to stop at No Jumper and Big Boy. It’s a press run. That doesn’t even exist in Toronto. People are going to say “You’re going to Toronto? Are you going to see Drew Yorke?”
For more on Drew Yorke tune into his show and follow him on Instagram @drewyorke.
This interview has been edited by Drew Yorke for clarity in his responses