Rich Redmond is one of those drummers that we all wish to become. He has played on number one hits, sold millions of records and has performed with some of the biggest names in the business. A beast behind the kit with an infectious personality, Rich has stamped an unmissable mark on the Nasvhille circuit and beyond.
In this interview Rich tells us about his journey from Connecticut to the world stage and offers some great advice on how we can reach the top of our game:
Can you tell us about the early days and how you got into drumming?
I started playing the drums in 1977. I started taking lessons because my Dad was like, ‘Hey, do you want to learn a musical instrument?’ and I was like ‘No, I want to learn the drums!’ (laughs) So, I started taking lessons and my first teacher taught me how to hold the sticks correctly, the importance of posture, reading and the rudiments. Then I added a cymbal and a kick drum to the set-up and started working on co-ordination, you know, the Joel Rothman books along with all the bibles, Stick Control, Syncopation and of course, Carmin Appice’ Realistic Rock.
We ended up moving from Connecticut to Texas for my Dad’s job and that worked out great because Texas has an outstanding music education program. Football is huge in Texas and whenever you have football, there’s marching bands and so the schools always want to have a great marching band. I was in the marching band for eight years – I did four years in high school and four years in college and that gave me great rudimental facility which I count my blessings for.
I got really involved with the music programs in school starting in the fifth grade. Concert band, marching band, orchestra, jazz band, the pep band – anything I could get my hands on and then always had projects outside of school as well… jam bands, rock bands, tribute bands. I just always wanted to play and started getting paid to play when I was 18 years old in El Paso, Texas.
What happened next?
My parents are really supportive and they said, ‘Son, the music business is not a good thing. We support you all the way but you should get an education.’ So, I went and studied Music Education and I ended up getting a four year degree at Texas Tech University under Alan Shinn.
After that I went to the famed University Of North Texas which has cranked out guys like Steve Houghton, Ray Brinker, Greg Bissonnette and Keith Carlock. As a matter of fact, I used to sub for Keith back in the day when he was playing in top forty bands and horn bands in Dallas. Those were some big shoes to fill and I always knew he would go on to change the world because he was something really special. He moved to New York and six months later he was, like a household name. So, we all aspire to that.
How did you go from university graduate to Nashville session beast? (a journey very few people are able to make)
Aw-shucks! I kicked around Texas for a while and at 26 I decided that I didn’t want to play in the smokey clubs anymore. I wanted to try to a) Play on records so I could hear myself on the radio and b) Get on those tour buses so I could cruise down the highway and have someone set up my drums for me (laughs). I knew that it wasn’t going to happen in Dallas, Texas so I had to get to New York, LA or Nashville.
I said to myself, ‘How the heck am I going to get out of here?’ so I started asking around. That’s definitely some great advice I would give people – If you have a desire, something you want to accomplish – announce it to the world! All your friends, band mates, everybody and then ask for help. I asked around if anyone was looking for a drummer and my friend said, ‘Yeah, there’s this gal Trisha Yearwood that’s looking for a drummer in Nashville and their asking for a call of demo tapes.’ I sent my tape and they said, ‘Wow, we love your stuff. If you can fly yourself in, you can come and audition.’ I went to that audition and I did very well, but the gig went to somebody who lived in Nashville.
I was a nice person, had a firm handshake, looked people in the eye, played well, was well prepared and was a fun person to be around. As a result they turned me onto another audition and those people turned me onto yet another audition. I kept auditioning but all the gigs went to people who lived in Nashville, so I said, ‘Aha!’ After my third audition I gave my two weeks notice to my top forty band in Dallas, packed up my little car and I left. I only knew one person in Nashville but I just knew that if I didn’t get out I would be fifty years old playing the same old gigs in Dallas.
It really comes down to how you define success. For a lot of people success is pursuing their passion and making a living and I was doing that but I was yearning for the big stage. So, I came to Nashville and I starved for the first year. I lived off Ramen noodles, I waited tables, delivered packages, did construction, substitute taught… you know… anything but play music. I did play music but the gigs I was doing didn’t pay any money. Looking back, fourteen years later, I’m very proud that I hung in there.
That’s a lesson in the music business – you just have to hang in there.
You’ve since played with some of the best names in the business including Jason Aldean, Bryan Adams and Jewel. What are some of your personal highlights to date?
A big accomplishment for me was getting to play with the “One O’ Clock Lab Band” at the University Of North Texas. It’s a world-class big band and we would play these charts that were fifty pages long, which could be problematic when you’re ‘spang-a-langin’ at 400bpm and the wind starts blowing. That was a really cool experience for me and we went to Portugal to cut a live record in 1994 which was the first time I traveled internationally.
Since then, in 2003 I was signed as an artist with my band Rushlow to Lyric Street Records. We had two top forty hits and we toured eleven countries in fourteen days to play for the us military. We were on a big naval jet with a full crew and got a chance to make a difference in the peoples lives who bust their butt for us. It was a real thrill to do something like that.
When I got to hear our first single, “I Can’t Be Your Friend,” on the radio that brought three grown men to tears. That was such a highlight for us because you have these dreams and you chase them and when they come to fruition there’s kind of like this emotional catharsis. I was with my rhythm section and we just started bawling. We said, ‘That’s us on the radio… we made it!’
More recently, I’d have to say playing on Jason Aldean’s number one hit, “Why.” That was awesome! Playing with Bryan Adams recently was also a real thrill. I watched him on MTV everyday so getting to meet this iconic figure was amazing. Everyday it’s just a great thing, whether your shooting a music video or playing an awards show or just cruising on the bus. I say to myself, ‘What is this reality that I’m in?’ Well, It’s a reality that I’ve created for myself but I try not to ever take for granted. What a great life this is playing my instrument and trying to affect people in a positive way – It’s such a great way to make a living.
What do you try to do to stay busy and at the top of your game?
Every time an opportunity is presented to you, you have to be overly prepared. If an audition comes along and they tell you to learn five songs, learn the whole catalogue. Really focus on those five songs and if they say, ‘Hey, do you know such and such from my first album in 1976?’ you can say ‘Yeah, no problem!’ You’ve got your little recipe cards and it’s all there. They’ll be thinking, ‘No one else took the time to dig that deep into my catalogue, I really like that your this passionate and prepared.’
Do whatever you need to do to give yourself an edge and remember it’s a business so focus on your health, be professional, have a good attitude, keep your gear in good shape, and dress stylishly… these things are all factored in. Nobody’s going to put the drummer with the old clothes in the video!
You don’t necessarily have to play the best, you just need to have a good package. Bandleaders will always choose the guy who plays well, gets along with people and is fun to be around over the monster drummer who has no social skills. When you’re riding down the highway in a 45 foot tube people skills really come into play.
So, I just try to stay mentally sharp, get my exercise so I can feel good about things, keep my attitude in the positive and then every time I sit behind my drums play them like it’s the last breath I’m ever going to breathe.
When I was younger I was always dreaming of the ‘fat cat’ with the cigar coming into the club, seeing me play and saying ‘Hey kid, come with me I’ve gotta gig for you!’ So I was always prepared, I was on time, the drums sounded good, I was dressed well and I was trying to play my ass off. It’s the same thing now. I’m thinking, ‘I’ve gotta play these same fifteen songs every night but I better play the s**t out of them because there are 12,000 people out there who paid there hard earned money to see the act.’
As a drummer you have so much power because if your attitude is not in the game and your performance is not in the game then it effects the whole band. If the band doesn’t sound good then it effects the artist and if he doesn’t do as good of a show then the fans go, ‘Ah, Jason Aldean wasn’t as good this time.’ It spreads like wild fire and before you know it, the records aren’t selling, there’s no more videos and you don’t have a paycheck.
The recording industry has changed a lot in the last decade, what’s it like in Nashville right now?
In Nashville, we have so many great drummers who stay busy but there are probably twenty drummers who work all the time. It’s a healthy scene but massively competitive. It’s not like it was 15 years ago when I moved to town when there were three times as many records being done. Let’s face it, the music industry as a whole is at an all time low. With the drop in sales there are fewer records being cut and everything trickles down from there. Fewer demos are being cut, fewer people are getting their songs published and fewer publishing deals are getting handed out. This really affects the working drummer.
For guys like me, everyones having to re-invent themselves. Yes, we’re playing drums but guys are also opening up there own drum tracking facilities in their homes, producing, writing songs and doing clinics. In this economy you have to come at it like a multi-tasker.
I seem to be able to play the drums everyday but that’s only because I juggle sessions, producing, teaching, clinics and working the road. I’m doing five different things so I’m OK but the guys who are doing just strictly sessions, it’s definitely affected them.
Speaking of clinics, can you tell us about your “CRASH! Course For Success”?
Absolutely, my “CRASH! Course For Success” is a motivational drum event. CRASH is an acronym for: Commitment – Relationships – Attitude – Skill – Hunger. I discuss these concepts as they relate to attracting success to your life. I also discuss the musical, mental and business skills necessary to succeed in the music business. I do some soloing, play along to some number one hit records that I’ve played on, tell stories and answer questions. We have a great time and I would love to bring it to a high school, college, music store or drum shop near you. More info at www.crashcourseforsuccess.com
You also have a column with Drum! magazine?
Yes, it’s called “Rich’s Corner” and the first article ran in the July 2010 issue. I focus on what I call the ‘money beats’. These are the five beats you have to know to make a living in the music business. I wrote nine articles on deconstructing the first money beat, which is just ‘boom-schmack-boom-schmack’. A lot of people think, ‘Well I can do that,’ but the real art is in the details… the use of accents on the hi-hat, the application of rim shots, the use of ghost notes and the space between those notes makes all the difference in the world. This first beat is used on everything from Abba to Zappa so mastering it, and I mean really mastering it… is where it’s at baby! Each of these written lessons has a corresponding video lesson at www.drummagamzine.com.
You now offer Skype lessons. What kind of things do you cover and how can people sign up?
It really depends on the student and what they want to learn. We can cover anything including how to hold the sticks, posture, reading, bass drum technique, musical styles, solo concepts, playing with a click – anything they want to talk about. It really is an open forum. I also offer advice on how to build a successful career and what I like to call ‘life lessons.’ If you have questions about how to get from point A to point B in this business, then I can help out with that.
The best way to get in touch is through my website www.richredmond.com and email [email protected] My Skype name is ‘richredmond’ so get in touch and we can sort something out.
As a bonus to your readers I’d like to offer a FREE Skype lesson to one lucky winner. Anyone who signs up to follow me on twitter @richredmond over the next 7 days will be automatically entered into a drawing. I’ll pick a winner at 12am on Wednesday 13th October 2010 who will then get a FREE Skype session with me!
Thanks Rich it’s been a real pleasure.
Thanks so much Ninja, it was a blast. I look forward to next time!
Rich’s Contact Info
www.twitter.com/crash4success (Motivational Events)
www.youtube.com/richredmond (You Tube)
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