An Inside Look: Dave Grohl’s Movie “What Drives Us”

By: Samantha Eddy
(Photo by Roswell Films/Therapy Studios via Louder)

We all know Dave Grohl as the rock-and-roll legend of Foo Fighters and former drummer of Nirvana. Now working in the film industry, Grohl made his debut as a director/producer in 2013 with the Sundance documentary Sound City, which is about the Van Nuys California studio where Nirvana’s Nevermind was recorded in 1991. Grohl also created and directed the HBO eight-part docuseries Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways, which premiered in 2014 and won two Emmys. It is also confirmed that he is in production on a horror movie being sold by Endeavor Content. Recently, Grohl directed a new documentary called What Drives Us, co-produced by John Ramsay, James A. Rota, Mark Monroe, and Foo Fighters. To release on April 30th of 2021 through Coda Collection, What Drives Us is about the life of touring in vans and the journey of being on the road. Watch the trailer below.

What Drives Us will include interviews with Brian Johnson, Duff McKagan, Exene Cervenka, Flea, Lars Ulrich, Ringo Starr, Steven Tyler, St. Vincent, and the Edge, among others. This documentary highlights the decision and commitment that musicians make in their life to make something of themselves, to show what it’s like to put all of your faith and desire into life on the road, and show where you belong.  “This film is my love letter to every musician that has ever jumped in an old van with their friends and left it all behind for the simple reward of playing music. What started as a project to pull back the curtain on the DIY logistics of stuffing all of your friends and equipment into a small space for months on end eventually turned into an exploration of ‘why?’ ‘What drives us,’” says Grohl in an interview. 

This documentary is a lot like a tribute to young musicians with big dreams. Dave Grohl used to be that kid, along with every other musician who speaks in the documentary. Movie production describes this documentary as a “homage to the moment in every musician’s life when their commitment is tested and their desire to play music for others becomes an almost irrational act of blind faith. The first step to prove to yourself and the world that you belong is to load up your instruments, your talent and your courage, and get in the van to take your music to the world – a true rock and roll right of passage.” It is also stated that “while they [musicians] all have stories – outrageous, unbelievable, insane, as well as poignant stories – they all share a common bond. At some point, before anyone knew their name, they had an unstoppable drive to share their music with the world. Their passion led them to leave everything behind, throw caution to the wind, and chase their dream,” (Deadline). 

(Paste Magazine / No Copyright Infringement Is Intended)

What Drives Us follows bands RadKey and Starcrawler through their on-the-road journey, and tells the stories of some of music’s biggest artists during their time on the road. This film also details what it’s like to take a van and turn it into a home, and the various aspects that have helped artists for decades get where they are today. “Every band that you have ever seen, ever listened to, has probably started out in a van, ‘cause that’s just the way you do it,” says Grohl in an interview with DC101’s “Elliot In The Morning.” Starting out, musicians often struggle to get a following and have to find alternative ways to get their name and talent known to the world. Hopping in a van and traveling the world one town or city at a time is the key way for musicians to not only gain popularity and a following, but a way for them to learn more about themselves and where they want to take their music. We often hear stories from many artists who write their songs while on the road or come up with ideas. Taking a van, calling it home, and going on adventures sort of opens up the opportunity for exploration and inspiration and gives artists what they need to make themselves and their music better. Grohl states, “We still have our van from out first tour, and it’s more than just some rust bucket full of gear on wheels; it represents something really special. So I started interviewing people, and what I realized was…everyone kind of started the same way. But beyond that, everyone started for the same reasons. And so it’s like, why on earth would you quit your job, pack a duffel bag and a sleeping bag, throw it into some crummy van with your stinky friends and just totally leave your life behind to play music? And all of these people basically do it for the same reasons and have the same story. And I think it’s the key to becoming like a rewarded musician – someone that feels rewarded when they get up on stage and play. ‘Cause you’re doing it from the heart.”

(Stereogum / No Copyright Infringement Is Intended)

Not only does this documentary give viewers an inside look on the adventure and fun involved in becoming a successful musician, but it also details the hardships involved in leaving everything behind to take on life on the road. Grohl dives deep into what it’s like to leave behind friends, family, relationships, jobs, and even sanity to take on a musical journey. This film explores the physical and psychological tolls of being in a van for such long periods of time and how musicians battle and overcome these hardships overtime. “There’s a lot of sacrifice, there’s a lot of adventure, there’s a lot of struggle, there’s a lot of pain, there’s a lot of high points, there’s a lot of low points, but to hear these stories coming from someone like St. Vincent or the girls from L7, it’s a beautiful story,” says Grohl on the importance and meaning behind it all. “The thing that keeps you going is the passion and the fire to do that, and it stays with you your whole life.”

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