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Nashville Round Table Part 2

Interview by Jayson Brinkworth // July 02 2009
Nashville Round Table Part 2

Humility, it’s the number one personality trait people lack when it comes to trying to achieve anything with success or maintain success over a long period of time. - Ben Sesar

This month we feature the second half of Jayson’s interview with some of Nashville’s drumming royalty. Ben, Dave, Dave, Pat and Rich tell it like it is in Music City USA.



With country music having such a wide scope these days, I still find people that dismiss this style as being too simple. What is it that appeals to you about the style of music you play?

Ben Sesar: Too simple? Wow, why? Because there are less actual note attacks? I’m guessing these people don’t have enough musical experience to realize that the spaces between the attacks are notes too and, thus, have to be “played” as such. What appeals to me is that it is such a challenging genre to pull off with any authenticity. Playing country music requires so much patience, sensitivity, and awareness of space that I challenge anyone who thinks it’s so simple to sit down in my chair for a day.

The people that play and have pioneered this music have very big ears and know the subtleties. These people are equally as complex (in a musical sense) as Miles Davis or Coltrane or any well-versed jazz, fusion, or rock player. No one holds the patent on complexity, and no one gets to boast that their music is more complex because of the amount of notes being played, or the manner in which the notes are phrased— not until you play a country ballad at 52 bpm with perfect discipline and phrasing, or a train beat at 400 bpm with solos. Or better yet, since it’s so simple, jump right into a recording session here in Nashville and play a song you’ve never heard before, perfectly in 15 minutes. There are so many subtleties in country music which can’t be perceived by the untrained ear, and I love the challenge of mastering these subtleties, regardless of the note count.

Dave McAfee: It is exactly that that I love! Every musician has heard the Nashville battle cry of “less is more”, but it is more of a challenge than people think to make “simple” music like that. It is a daunting task to try to record a simple track but capture the intent of the song, the emotion, and even the sounds you need for that song to live. If you are playing and you only use one big tom note in a particular place…imagine if you put it in just the right place and the entire vocal works with that. You really have to know how to listen to the other players, how to leave space. I don’t think the common country listener reacts as much to blazing licks as they do to great feel. I get as excited about what I don’t play as what I do. When it comes to the tour show, it is only simple if you have done all your homework and make it look like it is!

Dave Northrup: Much of country music is very story driven which can sometimes translate to well-crafted songs, not always, but sometimes. The fact that there has been such a fusion of different influences that now make up what is considered country music makes it very appealing to the support that is expected from drumming, I think. Travis Tritt’s music has always had a southern rock element to it. He also draws heavily from his influence of R&B music and of course his roots in traditional country. I’m fortunate to be able to perform several different styles of music each night with an artist who is the “real deal”.

Pat McDonald: I’m lucky with the Charlie Daniels Band that I get to really stretch out and bring a lot of my non-typical country influences to the table. I grew up on rock, jazz and funk and didn’t know much about country until I moved to Nashville. I had a bit of that elitist attitude about it at first, but through the years I’ve developed a true appreciation for what it takes to make real country drumming work. I had to learn a lot real fast when I got here. But when people ask me So how do you like playing country music? I usually answer by saying, “You haven’t seen us play, have you?”

There isn’t much country on my gig! I tell people we’re more like Lynyrd Skynyrd with a fiddle than George Jones. Charlie is much more of a southern rock icon than a country icon, in my honest opinion. We play a lot of different styles of music in one show, and I continually hear from people, “Wow, I thought Charlie Daniels was a country guy! I had no idea you guys do all that stuff!”

I can do simple, sure. When the music demands it and it’s right, I have no problem at all playing the simplest thing in the world and really trying to make it cook. But in this band, I really get to explore and experiment and bring in a bunch of different influences to Charlie’s music, and he encourages it. He’s an old school guy. He grew up playing in bands and loves us to take his music in new directions and really explore what the band can sound like together as a unit. It’s very non-typical for Nashville.

Rich Redmond: The art is in the details. There is thought that goes into what we do. In the studio, we have to do the right thing for the music, while injecting some personality, and do it all very quickly. In a live situation the parts need to be brought to life with power, finesse, dynamics and showmanship. A simple, colorful, perfectly composed drum part for a three-and-a-half minute song gets me much more than playing every subdivision known to man. Take a tune like Jason Aldean’s “Hicktown”. I made a decision to use the rims of the high tom as a color, and I overdubbed a Rhythm Tech Metal Crasher that became a rhythmic hook, almost a counter melody. The kick and snare drum relationship in most of the music is always basic, but you can change the attitude and feel by adding or subtracting ghost notes on the snare or accents in the hi hat pattern. Simplicity is where it’s at for me. The drummers who play the least notes always have the biggest bank accounts. Think about it!

This is kind of a tough one to keep short, but can you list 3 things that have helped you the most in your careers?

Ben Sesar: Letting go the need to have something to prove. Letting go the need for correctness or incorrectness; it’s “right” because I played it. Accepting personal responsibility for whatever happens, bad or good.

Dave McAfee: First, humility. In Nashville, especially, it would be hard to say who the best drummer is, anyway. There are so many great ones. You should really have some true humility when you call yourself a professional drummer among all that talent. That being said, you have to bring what you bring to the table, and you have to be confident in what you do to be successful at a high level.

Second, dependability. It may sound old fashioned these days, but in the real trenches of Nashville you won’t see top session players showing up late. You won’t see top tour musicians being late for bus call or rehearsal, or not knowing their material. Most guys and girls are grateful for the opportunities they have, and they are professionals. They tend to have lots of respect for their band mates or session mates.

And, lastly, knowledge. For drummers, especially, there is so much to know. If you are going to be playing arenas, you need to know how your job integrates with the audio and video crews. You need to know how compressors and gates work and how they affect your sound. You need to be a good [drum] tuner. The more you learn about the whole picture, the better you will be. You have to have relationships with your soundmen, your tech, and your crew chiefs in order to do the all-around job well. I think I have learned at least one important thing in every job I have had. The first professional job I had in the business was as a truck loader and assistant tech for a small sound company. I not only learned how to drive a truck during that time, but I learned how splitter snakes worked, how to tell if something is in phase or not, and the difference between the many types of microphones, among other gems. For me, it has helped many times to have a good, all-around picture of how to integrate my drums and my playing into whatever situation I find myself in next.

Dave Northrup: Persevering and staying positive. I had a great teacher once tell me that the players that are successful in this business are the ones that stay focused, weather the crazy ups and downs of this crazy business and keep trudging forward. Again my wife, Sandy, has been a continued source of support for me. She keeps me grounded and if it wasn’t for her I don’t think much of the successes I’ve experienced would have taken place. I’m a blessed man. I’m not as much of a religious person as I am a spiritual person. Music is a gift from God and an amazing form of spiritual communication. I can say honestly that my relationship with God has been the most important thing that has helped me in my life and career.

Pat McDonald: I’d say the first is having the opportunity to play piles of differing styles in my formative years. Having a wide stylistic background has helped immensely. The second has come along while obtaining that background. Having a strong, confident musical presence and knowing when to grab the wheel of the bus and direct the music is invaluable. I see many guys who are good players but who still play almost timidly, as if they’re more interested in being led than in leading. I’ve found that the ability to be confident and strong and take charge musically in the appropriate places is a big help. The other players notice immediately and get a sense of security and trust in your judgment that helps them do their jobs.

And lastly, I think being level headed, musically aware and professional without taking things too seriously is paramount. There’s always room for a laugh to lighten the mood and make everyone loosen up and have fun, and I’m constantly looking for an opportunity to be that guy. When you’re a pleasant person to be around, people want to use you. Playing music is fun. That’s why we all do it to begin with. I try to keep it that way as much as I can.

Rich Redmond: Playing, Personality and People Skills. Those are the “3 P’s” I talk about with students and in my drum clinics. My friend Mark Sackett, who is a very successful businessman, encouraged me to add “Presence” to the list recently. Your playing skills have to be there. You have to be able to play a great groove in time with a great feel. You have to be able to play a million styles with authority, conviction, and dynamics. It’s smart to be able to alter the attitude of any groove. That has been a selling point for my drumming. I try to be the versatile, emotional drummer that bleeds passion. That’s what artists and bands want.

Personality is very important. I am happy 99% of the time, and I bring that outgoing joy for life to the bandstand. An easygoing personality is a selling point to any organization. You have to be able to play well with others on the bandstand and off. The concept of presence is important. It’s the idea of being in the moment and giving 150% to the task at hand. Too many players get distracted and don’t dedicate themselves to their job, whether it be a rehearsal sound check, show or recording session. Be in the moment and give everything you’ve got, even at a sound check! I also have invested greatly in people. I champion many artists in their musical journey and they support mine. Real relationships that have been nurtured over time have been my investment. I have planted many seeds and they continue to grow. Invest in people.

I know that time on the road and busy schedules don’t allow for a lot of practice time. If you get a chance to practice, what things do you still work on? Do you have a pre-show warm up routine, or is it the Buddy Rich concept: “I take my hands out of my pockets”?

Ben Sesar: My pre-show warm up is just that: getting my hands and sticks warm. I find without doing so, the sticks are more prone to slip, and I’m tentative about my grip. There is something to be said about developing a certain amount of friction and heat between the skin of the hands and the sticks themselves. Once a certain amount of warmth is achieved, my grip becomes more naturally stable, and the muscles loosen up accordingly.

As far as practice, I work on ideas—phrasing, soloing, anything creative. The only rule: it has to come from me, from within. Now, that is a Buddy Rich concept which I have always admired. I know, he thought of practicing as a bore, but the concept applies whether performing or practicing. He didn’t like to borrow too much from others and felt he had everything he needed within. I love that.

Dave McAfee: I definitely have a pre-show one-hour warm up routine. I play rudiments on a practice pad, I drink water, and I think about the show. I think about the transition points, the syncs, and the blackout points that will happen during the night. That way, when all the pyro, the million watts, and the screaming is going on, I am calm and relaxed and I know what’s coming. A surprised drummer or one counting off the wrong song or to the wrong click is not a good thing in a sold out arena. I wouldn’t want to try to play the Toby show without being warmed up. It is basically balls to the wall for the first 90 minutes. It would be way too hard to do that and have any real fun. My home practice routine is almost entirely about working on my meter and feel. I am lucky enough right now to be playing usually at least four to five days a week, either live or in the studio. I still want my feel and time to be better. The magic moments in the Nashville studios are almost always when the section really locks into a great groove. I think I was recording a jingle the last time somebody got excited about one of my licks.

Dave Northrup: Not nearly as much as I’d like to. Being a husband and father, and responsibilities that that brings, takes a huge priority in my life-- which is a good thing. I think balance is so important. I try to sneak in a few hours here and there when I can, especially before having to go out and do clinics, so I can be somewhat on top of my game. Before show I do stretches, singles, doubles, parradiddles, finger exercises for about 45 minutes. Time alone doing that helps me get my game face on.

Pat McDonald: I really don’t do much drumset practicing anymore. When I was young, I had an unstoppable fire to improve and learn new things and get better on the instrument. But I’ve found that learning to play the instrument well is just the first step in the developmental process. It takes several years to learn to just make a nice sound come out of a drumset. I’ve spent many years doing that. But I’ve also learned that it takes even more time to learn how to play music on a drumset. It takes a lifetime to learn how to play in a band situation with other musicians. That is where I get my practicing done these days.

I look at each gig as another chance to hone my ability to find a space in the music that I’m playing at that moment and to let my creative mind get exercised. I rarely sit down at a drumset alone and work on exercises and licks and the like anymore. I still get the itch now and then when I’ve been off for awhile, and I go downstairs and noodle a bit, but usually after a few minutes I’ve gotten it out of my system. It’s interesting how your perspective changes as you get older. But now that drumming is my job, my livelihood, I like to do other things with my time when I’m not on a gig. I play racquetball, hunt, fish, scuba dive, ride my motorcycle, play golf, work on my house, tinker with my cars... anything but practice! When I’m on the road, I’ve found that I do have to take a half hour or so before each show and just get my hands loosened up and warm though. I have a little practice pad on the road, and I find a road case backstage or in the dressing room and just run through a bunch of finger exercises and rudimental things to get ready to play. Our show is pretty high energy and we’re on full tilt right out of the starting gate, so I have to take time to get the blood pumping in my hands and feet before the show or I cramp up and run out of gas really fast!

Rich Redmond: I did so much practicing as a young man that I would prefer to do a gig with an average band than sit alone and work on paradiddles. I like playing with people! (laughs) When I do practice, it’s to work on material for something that I have coming up, whether it be a show, guest artist appearance, session or clinic. I still enjoy playing with clicks and records when I have the chance to sneak away to my practice space. Most of my time is spent mentally practicing while I am traveling. I dissect tracks as I listen to them and transcribe them in my mind’s eye. “Good composers borrow, but great composers steal.” I steal from records and even from the other drummers on the bills at shows and festivals. Get stealing!

One hour before the show, I break out the sticks and my Real Feel Pad and get busy. I do some light stretches and play singles, doubles, diddle combos, flams, ruffs, drags, etc. The band is usually in our dressing room or bus 90 minutes before show time with the ipod rockin’, so I just crank out ad lib rudimental ideas to the tempo of the tunes-- 30 to 60 minutes is all I need, and I am ready to bring the thunder!

Do you do any private teaching or drum clinics in your downtime?

Ben Sesar: I have done some teaching, and I enjoy it very much. It seems hard to build a private practice, but it’s something I’m sure I would love. I am currently working on a clinic format, as the opportunities are out there at the moment. It’s really up to me at this point, but I want to come up with something helpful to the everyday player. I’m not interested in being yet another guy who goes out and does the drumset acrobatics thing. Not that I’m down on that, but I feel that market is so saturated, and most players are out there everyday and just need a bit of practical advice.

Dave McAfee: I do teach privately in my home during my downtime. I have a few regular students who fly in and try to catch lessons with as many “name” guys as they can. I know Jim Riley (Rascal Flatts) and I share one or two students, and I have several adult students from the surrounding area. I am planning to start doing some clinics this year. I was never a big fan of the shred clinics. It is always fun to see someone play a kit in a way that you can’t even believe, but I prefer motivational speaking to a lickfest. I remember every person who ever told me I was on the right track, and everyone who told me I could do it when I was growing up. I want to be that kind of inspirational person to the drummers who might come to one of my clinics.

Dave Northrup: I have a handful of students I teach here in Nashville, not so much on a regular basis but every few weeks when our schedules permit. Mostly younger playing professionals. I also do clinics and master classes, which I really enjoy and sometimes stay over an extra day where I might be doing a clinic and teach for a day at the store.

Pat McDonald: I do a little teaching in town when I’m home and available and schedule permits, but it’s really sporadic. Guys will call now and then and want to get some tips and pointers, etc., and if I’m loose and not working, I still enjoy sharing the information that I’ve found works for me. As far as clinics, I’ve done a few and really enjoyed it, but you really have to hustle that thing if you want to make it work. I’ve never been really comfortable at self-promotion, so I don’t work it too hard. If someone calls me and wants me to do a clinic based on what they’ve heard me do then I’m always up for it. It takes a lot of preparation and scheduling to work it all out, and I’m kind of lazy about that kind of thing. I don’t want to be just another one of those guys who plays a half-hour solo and then says, “Any questions?” I prefer a clinic that is informative and inspirational and leaves players saying to themselves, “Hey! With some hard work and a little luck, I can do that too!”

There are so many amazing drummers out there who do incredible things on the instrument these days. I’m just not one of them. I don’t have the desire to practice a bunch of insane, complex drumming licks and things to try to compete with them. But I do have a lot of experience in the real world, the making-a-living side of drumming, and it’s always nice to be able to share some insight with guys who are looking to do the same thing. I’ve found that I’m pretty comfortable talking about things that I know a little about, and I enjoy it when I get to do it. Hopefully I’ll be able to do more in the future, if people want to hear me blab on incessantly about hitting things with sticks!

Rich Redmond: I have a teaching/practice facility located in the Metro Center area of Nashville with 24 hour access. I have a core of semi-pro and pro players who seek me out through my website or Myspace/Facebook. We cover the specific concepts they want to improve upon. I started booking my own clinics last year, and it has been an amazing experience. There has been some great feedback, and it has opened up a whole new side career for me. The idea of having something to give back in the way of knowledge, wisdom and hard-earned experience is very satisfying!

My clinics are called ‘The Drummer’s CRASH Course for Success” with CRASH being an acronym for Commitment, Relationships, Attitude, Skill, and Hunger. I’m visiting music stores, colleges and high schools. Sonor, Sabian, Remo, Promark, Rhythm Tech and Audio Technica have been massively supportive and encouraging. I also have been doing some guest artist appearances with high school percussion ensembles. That has been a great way to keep a set of chops together that I don’t use every night with Jason. I also plan on working with an organization called Little Kids Rock this year. Very exciting stuff!

These days, with technology the way it is, more and more bands of all styles are using it in their shows. First off, do you use a click on your live shows? Secondly, are you running any tracks? And, if so, quickly run us through the process.

Ben Sesar: We are definitely using clicks for just about every song in our show. We have a lot of video content, which syncs directly to the lyrics of a given song, so it must be precise. We run it in two ways: one, the click (and a count off) is fed directly from the video command center; and, two, I start a song with my own click track using a foot switch. This is for the songs which don’t sync directly to the video, but we use it for reference. There is actually a third version, which is a mixture of the two. The video gives us the count off, and from the next downbeat I start the click with my foot. I like this method because I feel more in control and less at the mercy of others.

I also would add that the click is very beneficial for consistency. Sometimes it’s hard to hear each other on a big stage, (even with the best of monitor technology). The click acts like glue in those situations, it really keeps us all on the same page when things get fuzzy, and we are struggling to hear.

Dave McAfee: When I got the Toby gig, they didn’t even use a setlist. There were no clicks allowed. You got a baseball type hand signal during the ending of the previous song, and you worked pretty much from any album he had recorded. I worked at reference timing, but it was hard. That band was already eight years famous, and trying to change the way they did anything would have been tough, if not impossible. Eventually, Toby got his own tour and added massive lighting, pyro, and video. There really isn’t a responsible way to do a huge show like that without a setlist. There can be variations, of course, but some things have to be a little planned out. Everything from videosyncs to guitar changes and lighting blackouts to pyro blasts work better if you know they are coming.

Nowadays, I use a Yamaha Clickstation for my own reference. I flash time (run the click before the song starts) to the guitarist and the keyboardist on songs that they start. The band generally doesn’t have click; they just play to me. On video syncs the click comes from the video hard drive, and it has a computer count. We all get the count, and I just play it with the click and everything works out fine. We use one track nightly, when we do the song “Beer for my Horses”, which was a duet with Willie Nelson. We again get click from the video drive, and Willie comes in and sings the second verse and the first chorus with us, audio and video-wise. Toby doesn’t use any recorded tracks other than the Willie vocal all night. He doesn’t believe in it much. We have a large band, and we definitely have a “live” show.

Dave Northrup: Yes, I use a click for tempo consistency. I’d say about 65% of Travis’s show I’ll use it throughout the song, the rest of the time the click is just used to get the tempo initial then I’ll turn it off. One of the liberating things about working with Travis is that it is completely live. There are moments of ebb and flow emotion, and those times when we build a little during a bridge or a solo, I embrace that. That’s a part of the human element of music, and as long as it’s musical there’s nothing wrong with that in my opinion. No there are some songs that need to stay honest, and I’ll use the clinic through the entire song. We also have one tune where we use a loop, but as far as any backing tracks with additional instrumentation or vocals, none with Travis. I have however been required to do this with other acts, or showcases and what not.

Pat McDonald: The Charlie Daniels Band is an old-school, real band in the truest sense, and what you hear us do is us and nothing else. We don’t use a click live at all. We do use one in the studio most of the time for ease of overdubbing, etc. but not onstage. The bands music just isn’t that kind of music. Things drift and float here and there based on the vibe and mood, and that’s what makes us “us”. Our show is about hearing the band play songs. There isn’t a bunch of MIDI-syncing with lighting and tracks and video and big production. It’s just a really simple, live band thing. Charlie has always been big on featuring all of the individual players during the show, and he has gradually extended my feature spot to a full-out drum solo where everyone leaves the stage, and I get four to five minutes by myself to solo.

I’ve added a Roland SPD-S pad this year to my rig, but I only use it during my solo. I had a good friend in town who is a tremendous keyboardist help me write some little looping riffs and musical interlude things with horn hits and rhythm ideas. We dumped them into the SPD-S and configured it so that I can hit them during the solo and have some little musical things to blow over. I’ve only done two shows with it so far, but it’s working out pretty well, and I’m getting a handle on using it live. I’ll get more comfortable with it when I’ve gotten a few more shows under my belt. It’s really nice to have something to play along with and not just be stuck up there banging away like an ape while people go to the restroom or get more beer! Hopefully it’ll be something entertaining for the audience to see and hear and add a new dimension to the show.

Rich Redmond: I think click tracks are a wonderful tool to have live because most records are cut with clicks, and it’s a super easy way to replicate that exact time feel of a record night after night. Why not use the technology? I keep it really simple and use a Tama Rhythm Watch. A hundred dollars and you’re in the game! It’s very user friendly, and it’s easy to program setlists that are always changing. You can program 30 tempos back to back. On a drum machine, you may have to skip from pattern to pattern or patch to patch, which can be a time waster. Computers also have the tendency to crash, so when I do use computers I always have two. Jason’s music is very straight ahead and visceral, so we don’t run tracks. That would change the onstage vibe and aesthetic greatly. Programs like Pro Tools and Abbleton Live are now accessible and affordable. I know many bands just firing tracks from iPods! It’s a brave new world. The moral of the story is to be able to get a consistent and solid time feel with or without a click, but I prefer using one for consistency in the music and the overall flow of the show.

Lastly I want to get your insight into having a successful career as a musician and the maintenance that goes into its longevity? This is more than playing. There are definite business skills we all need as well, correct?

Ben Sesar: Yes, there are countless other skills needed in achieving and maintaining success. People have been trying to come up with a success formula for ages—which suggests that by reverse engineering the paths of other “successful people”, one could bring about success in a similar manner—but I don’t think it works that way. No two people doing the exact same thing, the exact same way, are going to have the same outcome. It’s a very narrow-minded approach.

As far as longevity, it goes way beyond business skills. I think you have to have a little humility. You have to be willing to adapt and change, but the first step towards that is realizing you don’t know it all. The ego must be put aside, so you can do whatever it takes to get the job done, even if it means re-learning how to play, or getting along with people, or whatever it may be. I say all this, and it looks easy on paper, but humility is a very hard quality to find in folks these days. Very few people are willing to admit they don’t have it together in one area or another.

We live in an “everyone’s a winner” society now, and people feel entitled to success because their mom or their best friend said they had talent. Don’t believe me? Watch one episode of American Idol. That’s extreme, but there are varying degrees, and I see it everyday when kids ask me the same exact question. Humility, it’s the number one personality trait people lack when it comes to trying to achieve anything with success or maintain success over a long period of time.

Dave McAfee: The music business is a people business. I used to be shy, and I had to work on my people skills when I decided other people were getting where I wanted to be a little faster than I was. When it comes to longevity, sure you have to be a good or great player to keep working for years, but people who enjoy working with you will keep working with you.

On a tour bus, most older pros will take a very good player who is easy to live with on a bus over a great player who is a pain in the ass. I have learned over the years that musicians can become better players with time and work. I have seen many of them do that. However, I haven’t seen that many people become easier to live with, or less of a jerk over time—if that is how they were when they got there.

As far as staying in the business and being successful for the long haul, you just have to keep learning the other parts of the business. I have had my own production company for a few years now. The first time you refer to yourself as a producer, you get silly chills and feel like a goof, but, actually, producing involves everything from scheduling sessions to time and people management during the session. You have to be involved in everything from managing the budget to arranging the charts and picking the players. The first time you bring in a good project at or under budget, it is a rush!

With the Jamey Johnson project, we were all coproducers because we all contributed to the arrangements and the style of that record. To Jamey’s credit, he wanted us to have credit for the music we created with him and also for creating the whole experience. Now after a little success and some good reviews, a few Grammy and ACM nominations, it isn’t so silly to be called a producer. The challenge is to keep building on that. You always bring your ears and your experience with you to any new project. Being a producer is a natural step for experienced drummers, given the responsibilities you will have had after many years in the business. James Stroud and Lonnie Wilson are great examples. Again, it would be great to just be one of those guys in the mix in Nashville at the end of the day!

Dave Northrup: Absolutely, you have to be a people person with good communication skills. More and more home recording is the norm these days. File transfers and recording drum tracks and sending them back. Having the ability and knowledge to do that has become significant to stay in the recording game. You just have to be able to do it. And being diverse and finding your niche to stay in the game. That might mean along with performing you’re doing clinics, master classes, seminars, speaking at universities and teaching privately. I think sometimes those other things help keep it interesting and lend themselves nicely to continued growth on the instrument. Capitalize on your strengths and experiences and be able to share those with others.

Pat McDonald: Absolutely. I’m not a business minded person in general, but I’ve had to learn to be more of one as I’ve gotten into making a living doing this. It is a business and you must be wary and cognizant of how things operate. There are a lot of sharks out there, so you have to learn to see the fins circling and learn when to get out of the water! You have to learn to organize the business side of your career because there aren’t managers and agents who handle things for you as a sideman in this business. You are responsible for booking yourself, keeping your calendar organized, handling your finances and tax issues, maintaining your contacts and keeping them abreast of your availability. You book yourself. No one does it for you. You have to have a reasonably organized system in place and keep it operating, so that you can take the work when it comes and not double book yourself and have to cover your goofs.

A lot of guys book things and then bail if a better paying thing comes along. I won’t do that. If I book a club gig that pays $50 and then get a call later for a showcase the same night that pays $300, I won’t cancel the $50 gig and leave someone hanging. I don’t think it’s right nor is it good business. I told the guy I’d be there on his club gig and I will be ---on time and ready to go. The money will always come if you’re a pro, and I figure it all evens out in the wash. Someday down the road I’ll get another $300 showcase call and I’ll take it then. And if I don’t back out on the guy who booked me for the $50 gig and do a good job, he’ll probably call me again and again and I’ll end up making more than that $300 by working with him anyway!

I’m so fortunate to be able to play drums and get paid actual money to do it. I pay my bills by playing. I’m not getting rich, but I’m happy and I’m not starving. That’s more than a lot of people can say these days. I’ve made a living doing it for a lot of years now and things have always seemed to work out one way or another. I don’t see why they’ll ever stop as long as I play well. I’m organized, professional, courteous, grateful, humble and above all prepared to go with the flow and take the bumps along with the smooth road. If you do all of those things, you can’t go wrong.

Rich Redmond: Yes sir! That’s important stuff! The world’s greatest drummer could be playing in a basement somewhere, but we’ll never know because he never gets out to play with other musicians. You can’t be afraid to let the world know you exist. This is a business where people will easily forget about you. I have branded myself by using a website, newsletters, bulletins, blogs and all forms of social media. By embracing the internet, you can create a global persona for yourself for free! It just takes some effort and self confidence. I’m amazed by the number of musicians who are just too lazy to get busy with this stuff! Creating a network of people that champion what you do is the first order of business. That’s your bread and butter. If you have people willing to move their entire schedule around to get you on a gig or session, you know you are doing something right.

Here’s some quickies: Be a great player, be over prepared for every gig, be confident, be happy, be well dressed, be on time (be early), have great gear, have a firm hand shake, look people in the eye, remember names, do what you say you are going to do, have a business card, have a website, have a demo reel, have promotional materials, go beyond expectations always, deliver, and have fun!

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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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