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JD Blair

Interview by Jayson Brinkworth // December 02 2009
JD Blair

You are never too old. Make sure that you are trying to do it because you love it. If you happen to make money, then that becomes a bonus.

Boring is not a term that comes to mind when one thinks of JD Blair. The self professed Pittsburg Steelers addict is not only one of the busiest drummers around, his resume takes a page from just about every musical genre known to man. From his former throne high atop the country airwaves, as Shania Twain’s “groove regulator,” to his latest gig with the incomparable Victor Wooten, JD is the man in demand. The Black Page’s Jayson Brinkworth had the honor of speaking with his Blairness recently and submitted a great interview filled with some of the best insight this side of the Allegheny River. Enjoy! 

JD, thanks for letting us get a glimpse into your groovy world. Start off by letting us know how you began as a drummer, and about some of your formal years of playing?

I started out by playing on books and furniture. My dad wound up getting me a snare drum in high school, and here we are forty-something years later.

You are known as the “Groove Regulator.” Where did this expression come from, and in your own words, what is the “Groove Regulator”?

The nickname was inspired by a group of riders called the Regulators; the name of the movie: Young Guns. The word groove was added to form the nickname “Groove Regulator.” 

In your career, you have worked with an extremely diverse list of artists. What do you feel you bring to all of these different styles of music that make artists say, ‘We need JD Blair’?

Grooving comes first, with or without the click tracks. I also try to be low maintenance while in the studio or on the road. I aim to do my job as well as I can without being an annoyance to the entourage.

You have also worked with some huge touring acts such as Shania Twain. What was that experience like? 

Being on that tour was a huge blessing for me and my family. I worked with some of the best musicians in the industry. Until then, I didn’t realize that there were cats who could be note/tone specific. In other words, reproducing the studio tracks live! We put in a tremendous amount of time months before the tour even started. I learned so much by being in that environment. We were molded into focusing on the little things that many people may let pass. A high level of efficiency was expected while dealing with vocals, instrument sounds, tone, time and visuals. Outside of the band was management, opening artists, catering, wardrobe, bus drivers, truck drivers, sound engineers, riggers, video techs, lighting techs, pyro techs, travel agents, band techs, and drum technician Jeff Chonis. All of these people were amongst the best in their field and made major contributions to make those shows a success. I would not have had the opportunity without the recommendation of Crystal Taliefero. Thanks, CT!

You also have a deep musical connection with the legendary bass player Victor Wooten. What is your history with Victor and the Wooten family?

While attending Norfolk State University, I met the Wooten Brothers. Once I moved to Nashville several years later it was by chance that the Wooten Brothers were arriving too. We eventually got together and started playing a few gigs. When Victor released his CD A Show Of Hands, he asked me to play the drums. The two of us had alot of fun playing back then. Kurt Storey was the engineer during that period. This year he asked me if I wanted to do a few duo dates. We did four weeks and that was the most fun that I’ve had on the road ever. No rehearsing, just show up and improvise. Way too much fun!

Victor and yourself have been out on the “Two minds, One groove” tour. Who came up with the name? I have seen clips from the shows, you guys are having a blast. Try and describe what it is like to play music with Vic every night? 

Manager Danette Albetta, Vic and I started out with, “2 Stix, 4 Strangs” Comin’ 2 Yo’ Town”. It eventually became, “2 Minds, 1 Groove.” Like I said before, it’s way too much fun! We focus on listening not only to each other, but to what’s happening around us. Grooving, playing, or not playing what the music asks for is part of the gig as well. In working together, it’s like he’s Johnny Carson, I’m Ed McMahon. He’s Michael Jordan, I’m Scotty Pippen. He’s President Obama and I’m, well, you get the point.  

Always the Pittsburg Steelers?

God, family, Steelers. There you go!

You also have some of your own music out there. Your latest disc is called 3hree. Did you write and produce this music? Where did the inspiration for these tracks come from? 

I am inspired through God, musically. I either wrote or co-wrote the tracks. “Amazing Grace” is a traditional song that was arranged around Victor. Before the end of the year I should have a CD of my favorite hymns. Right now, I’m doing 2M1G track edits. Reno Daly was my monitor/drum tech, who did a marvelous job. Jack Trifiro was the sound engineer. Jack gave me a few live shows to scope out. So far, I have one show done. I’m 11 songs into about 18 on a second show. I would guess that some of this may be available in 2010. I know that I at least have it.

Finally, do you have any words of advice for any young, aspiring drummers out there? 

Believe it or not, I get emails from older cats who wanted to drum but were not able to when they were younger. They are now where they can take a chance with it and wonder if they are too old. You are never too old! Make sure that you are trying to do it because you love it. If you happen to make money, then that becomes a bonus. As for me, I trust God to put me where I’m supposed to be. Sometimes it’s not what I dig, but that comes with the task of being a believer. If you think about it, there would be no reason for me to trust in God if everything went the way that I would like for it to go. My advice is to keep God first and everything else will take care of itself.



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About the Author
Jayson  Brinkworth

Jayson Brinkworth is an accomplished drummer, percussionist, vocalist, educator and writer based out of Canada. He is co-owner of the Saskatchewan music school Music In The House, as well as the founder of both the Regina Drum Festival and The Stickman Drum Experience.

Jayson proudly endorses Yamaha drums, Sabian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, Evans heads, Impact cases, Kickport, Flix, Future Sonics and Mountain Rhythm. Visit Jayson online at www.jaysonbrinkworth.com.

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