A Soundtrack for Southern Love

Bandmates and husband-and-wife duo Drew and Ellie Holcomb build the perfect Valentine’s Day playlist by sharing the songs that scored their romance

Photo: Courtesy of Drew and Ellie Holcomb

Drew and Ellie Holcomb.

Plenty of couples have “their” song. Nashville musicians Drew and Ellie Holcomb have a whole catalog. The couple met in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee, where their music—and their romance—took off in 2005.

A wedding, three children, dozens of albums, and countless tour dates later, both have formidable careers as solo artists, but they shine brightest together, performing with band Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors and scaling back to play as a duo, too. So we asked them to share some of their favorite love songs, and they built a playlist that includes legends like Dolly Parton and Al Green alongside newcomers like Kacey Musgraves and Jason Isbell.

More: Watch Drew Holcomb ’s G&G Back Porch Session

Despite the growing number of Holcomb originals they could have included, only one of their own songs made the cut: “The Wine We Drink,” from 2013’s Good Light. “It’s a love song that, to me, sounds like a dozen years married,” Ellie says. The lyrics, written by Drew, touch on shared experiences, long drives, and, yes, dirty dishes. “He actually came in from writing it while I was doing the dishes,” she laughs. “Every time I hear it, I come away feeling really grateful for a slow-burn love—someone in it for the long haul.” Listen to the number, along with the rest of their favorite love songs, on Spotify, and keep reading for the stories behind ten of the choices.

Photo: Courtesy of Ellie Holcomb

The Holcombs on their wedding day in 2006.

Stevie Wonder: Signed Sealed Delivered

“This was our first dance when we got married,” Drew says. “We wanted to get the party started.”

Alison Krauss: When You Say Nothing At All

“I’ve loved Krauss’s version of this song since I was a little girl,” Ellie says. “It painted a picture for me of what love could look like.”

Johnny Cash: Bridge Over Troubled Water

“In some ways, this song is about a friendship,” says Drew. “I’ve always aspired to sing with the heart and tenderness Cash does in this version of the song.”

Ray LaMontagne: Hold You In My Arms

“Ellie stood me up for a Ray LaMontagne concert when we were just friends,” Drew says, jokingly. “This whole record was a big part of the early days of our relationship.”

Patty Griffin: When It Don’t Come Easy

“Our first date was to see Patty Griffin at the Ryman,” says Drew. “I still remember the date—May 14, 2005.”

Kacey Musgraves: Late to the Party

“I think Kacey’s probably the most played artist in our home—she’s an expert at taking a really specific experience and turning it into a shared story,” Drew says. “I was so glad you picked this one, Drew,” Ellie adds with a laugh, “because I am always running late.”

Jason Isbell: If We Were Vampires

“One of the best love songs of the last ten years,” Drew says. “To face the reality that death is coming is a great way of telling a love story—you get a real sense of [Isbell’s] gratitude to walk through life with [his wife] Amanda.”

Dolly Parton: I Will Always Love You

“This might be the most obvious love song of all time, but there’s just such regret and tenderness in her voice,” Drew says. “We saw Dolly at the Ryman a couple of years ago, and she put on the most endearing live show I have ever seen—she is the living icon of Southern music.”

Brandi Carlile: The Mother

“The first time I heard Brandi play this solo acoustic, I had to cry my way through it,” Ellie says. “I loved the idea of capturing a mama’s love for her kid—how surprised you can be by the love for your child.”

Al Green: Let’s Stay Together

“If you don’t have Al Green on your bedroom mix,” Drew laughs, “you’re doing it wrong.”