Jojo Mayer Interview

Learning From the Greatest


Ever wondered what makes Jojo Mayer tick? Find out here!

What inspired you to start playing the drums?
It’s kind of hard to tell. I started when I was really young, you know, one and a half or something like that. Obviously growing up in a musical household; (my dad is a professional bass player) the atmosphere, music was always around. I was always surrounded by music and the lifestyle of musicians – I spent life on the road with my family so I knew the hang and the vibe and I just got sucked into it in a very natural way.

What was the turning point in your career?
The real breakthrough in my career was realizing it’s OK to be different. It’s not necessary for me to be able to do everything that other people do but it’s more important to acknowledge that I have something to say – for the simple reason that there is only one Jojo Mayer in this world. Nobody can compete with that!

New York city has probably the densest accumulation of incredible drummers in the world – it’s just ridiculous how many great drummers are in this city. For every jazz gig, for every latin gig, for every funk gig you’ve got plenty of choice. For me it was like “What am I doing here?” I was hustling, waiting for phone calls, getting phone calls, up and down, up and down, second-guessing myself.

But the real breakthrough was when I decided to invest in the brand Jojo Mayer – becoming more of a leader rather than a sideman. Once I decided to do that and realized how to materialize it basically everything fell into place. I didn’t have to chase gigs. I was never put into a position where I had to fill in someone else’s shoes. People started to ask if they could play in my band – I was no longer asking people to play in their band, they were asking to collaborate with me.

That got me into a whole different place.

Have you picked up any tools over the years that have really helped you perform better?
As far as tangible tools go, in ear monitors have been really good for me. I damaged my hearing years ago from the abuse you put yourself through as a drummer. In ear monitors relieved a lot of the stress. Technical tools – I would say the Moeller technique has really helped me. Psychologically, I would say a refined sense of awareness. It’s better now and getting better and better all the time.

What do you think makes a great musician?
I think the ability to reach people’s hearts and minds – the ability to change people’s lives!!

Do you have any good advice for young musicians trying to make it?
Keep your eyes and your ears, and your heart and your mind open. Observe carefully and draw your conclusion once you get to the bottom of things. Don’t believe everything that you hear, know where things are coming from and try to understand why things are a certain way. The best advice I can give is to ask a lot of questions. Don’t be satisfied too quickly with the answers people give because there might be a better one out there. Ask lots of questions!

Interview taken from The Psychology Of Drumming.

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