Drummers can be known for having several areas of expertise, which is en- riched through times of transition. With this in mind, I will share a few of my own transitional moments and explain how they have and can help in the development of character and patience. I will also share my ideas concerning two areas we career mid-level drummers can at times struggle with--the task of reintroducing ourselves to those who have concluded a certain ex- pectation of qualities we may or may not possess.
This is what I’d like to call, “The Transition”.
Having toured with several different Artists, I’ve had opportunities to see amazing parts of the world and beautiful parts of my own country. I’ve been fortunate to be in a band that not only enjoyed playing music but also loved taking time to appreciate the different cultures and really take in the sur- roundings where we were. It literally changed my life. It changed me in ways that I’m still discovering today. People around this world are amazing and commonly complexed. This taught me so much about myself and those around me. It even affected areas of my musicianship. "How?," you may ask. Well, music is like culture in our world—varied with presentations of dif- ferent languages. I would find myself playing drums differently depending on where in the world I was. I found that I wanted to be able to speak closer to the language of those I was around. I wanted to speak musically to them so they could understand what I was saying. That may have meant one night playing complexed rhythms and another night playing simplistic phrasings. The world had and has a lot to say, and I want to perpetually be part of the conversation.
I’ve come to love and value the musical conversation more than any “chop” I could ever play to impress a crowd, my peers, or even my ego. Sometimes I can’t articulate a thought or emotion verbally, but when I play my voice and passion comes forth effortlessly. And it’s not always about saying something; it has everything to do with listening. It is during this time of discovery and traveling around the world that my first true “Transition” was birthed.
Knowledge speaks, but wisdom lis- tens. - Jimi Hendrix
When I began to view music making as a lifelong passion and a serious pur- suit, I was fortunate to meet and have some of the most amazing mentors in Memphis. Niko Lyras, Kevin Paige and David Porter are just a few that helped me along this path. I've come across so many of Memphis’ greatest and innovative producers, musicians, writers and teachers. They helped me understand the importance of story telling no matter what instrument I played. The reoccurring lesson from them all is to always make the emotion feel good so the story being told is authentic and undeniable.
My earliest experiences were in the studio. I remember loading in my drums in Cotton Row Studios and thinking, “I hope I don’t suck!”. Well, I didn’t suck too bad, and that moment opened up new possibilities. The studio served as a place where I was opened to instruction and guidance, mainly because I had no idea what to do. This was the start of a love affair so great that I didn’t realize it until I didn’t have it anymore.
When I began to tour I found that live playing required a different approach. I couldn’t just play the parts from the record; I had to embellish them for the stage. In my first five years of touring, I didn’t play a lot of sessions. This was a result of simply being on the road. I would find myself buying new records and hearing and listening to the great things other drummers were creating and hating myself because I didn’t have those outlets any- more. You see, sometimes live playing can be less about creating something and more about little moments that are gone in a flash and forgotten even quicker. I started to notice that I was beginning to be labeled a “live drum- mer” by those whose only experience was that. It became very frustrating because I hadn’t done anything to prove to them otherwise. This is where the building of character really took leaps and bounds.
Over time I began to realize, learn, and dislike certain limitations resulting from being on the road. The road sometimes lacked the opportunities of true cultivation of relationships with both family and friends alike. It’s easy to fall into the matrix of meeting and networking with amazing people around the world yet be left with no real connections when it all stops. For me, the road started to hinder the ability to really evolve as the musician I wanted to be- come. Another thing was the comforts that come with surfaced based rela- tionships. On the road they can bring about familiarity and careless indiffer- ences from and in all areas. These are just some of the things I learned. I found, at times, that being on a touring circuit drained the very life force from what I love about making music. Now you may say, “Come on man, that’s crazy! You’re just not cutout for the touring life. All of that comes with
￼￼thejob!” Iwouldthentellyouthateveryexperienceisdifferent.Touring with different bands and artists will definitely bring about different experi- ences because every tour is different. I am in no way saying that touring is hell or that I’ll never tour again. What I am saying is that the things I learned shaped and helped me to see what I wanted to do next. I’m a drummer/musician driven by passion not by status, notoriety or money. I really have to love it, like absolutely love it; so if my passion isn’t unbridled, then it’s time to move on.
If what you’re doing right now is not your passion, you have little to lose. -Unknown
My father would tell my brother and me, “There’s nothing wrong with helping others achieve their goals/vision, but don’t get so lost in cultivating their dreams that you don’t take the time to cultivate yours. Invest in yourself”. Well, that’s what I’ve been doing and it’s amazing! The Transition can be good and bad all at the same time, but it challenges us to go past our com- forts.
My passions have been revived by getting back into real life. Getting off the road has allotted me the time to be refreshed. Not only in music and what it is to be a recording drummer but to also be in the precious moments that can easily be missed or taken for granted while on the road. Time now is spent with friends and family and the excitement that comes with getting back into the grooves of their lives. This time has allowed me to not just coast through moments but be all in the moments. Don’t be so caught up in the hustle and bustle of trying to get the next gig that taking a moment to slow down becomes taboo and almost blasphemy. To be a full-time musician means to give yourself time to live and be inspired by life. We’re all artists painting colors with different tools. This is where I am now. This is where “The Transition” currently has me.