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In my travels, I get to see many drummers of all ages and stages of their careers. By constantly observing, I notice many drummers lack commitment in their approach. When you make a commitment, you make a decision to see something through.
How many times have you seen a drummer play with a lifeless style?
It’s as if they are staring at his watch, waiting for the gig to be over so they could rush home to warm up some ramen noodles and settle in with Three’s Company re-runs.
Commitment means giving yourself over to the music making process and the whole experience. Be IN it. Don’t confuse a drummer playing with lack of commitment and a drummer trying to play soft. You can achieve every bit of intensity and INTENTION when you play soft. More than anything, a performance starts in the mind. Are you IN the music or are you thinking about the stresses of life (bills, domestic issues, schedules)? Let the music take you away to a special place. By making that commitment, the performance and the music itself becoming more rewarding and meaningful.
I’m always thinking in these terms:
Balance between the limbs, proper tone and articulation, use all of the colors on the drum set, play with even time, make things groove listen to the other musicians, stay out of the way of lead vocals, play dynamically … play musically.
When David Letterman asked the late Warren Zevon if he had any advice for people as he was approaching his final days, he said, “Enjoy every sandwich”. Those words resonated with me. We only have so much time on earth and the whole life experience can be taken away at any moment. Combine that with the thought that if you are actually playing music professionally or semi-professionally, you are in rare company. About .01% of people in the world that play a musical instrument get to do it on a truly pro level. I told myself very early on in my career, that I would always play at 100%. I would always serve the music, listen, lift the other players up and make it a fun experience. In short, I was going to always ‘play my ass off’.
Being committed to your craft means being prepared for any opportunity that comes your way. After college, I was determined to make a name for myself in the music business. I reached out to everyone I knew in the music business to see if anyone knew about auditions in major markets. A friend turned me on to a gate keeper for a major artist. I got my audition tape to them and they liked what they heard. I was invited to a ‘cattle call’ audition, but had to cover my own flight, transportation, lodging and food. This would be pricey, but I was committed, and I wanted that gig.
I was asked to learn 5 songs. I did, plus I charted out another Fifty from the artists entire catalog. That way, if they called any other songs, I would be prepared and I could set myself apart from the rest of the pack. I did not end up getting that gig, but every person I met that day ended up turning me on to 2 other major auditions. I never got those jobs, but I learned that all the gigs were awarded to drummers that lived IN Nashville. I reminded myself of my commitment, so I gave my band 2 weeks notice, packed up everything I owned and moved to Nashville.
I knew very few people, had no gigs and very little money saved. I had my abilities, my confidence and my commitment to my goal. You have to have goals. A life without goals will leave you wandering aimlessly with no direction. When I arrived in Nashville, my goal was to become a top call touring and session drummer. Fifteen years later, I am still working on that goal. I’ve survived hard times when I had to supplement my drumming with waiting tables, construction work and substitute teaching. I could have packed up my bags a million times. Doors were slammed in my face many times, but I had 2 things: A Dream, my faith in myself and a commitment to see if through.
Commitment to drumming as a career you have to believe that failure is not an option. In navigating my career for the last 20 years, I never stopped moving forward…I realized the importance of practicing constantly, taking lessons, recording myself, video taping myself and constantly improving.
I realized that I needed to be persistent. No one was going to hand it over to me on a silver platter. I was going to have to earn it.
Did I take every single gig that came along from weddings to bar mitzvahs, corporate parties, weddings, pool parties, dance halls, strip clubs, super market grand openings?…The answer is ‘yes’. I even kicked jokes for magicians. At the end of those gigs, I would ask my band mates how things were feeling and how I could improve my playing.
When I made the decision to move to Nashville, the first thing I did was copy of 500 copies of my demo tape “Rich Redmond: Drums and Percussion.” This highlighted my musicianship in a variety of settings: big band, small group, fusion, Latin, metal pop, Motown, etc. Every waitress, hostess and music person I met got one of these. I ran out the first week! Remember the Five ‘P’s for success in the music business:
I am constantly asked how to be a professional drummer by serious students and hobbyists alike. Failure can not be an option. It can never even enter your mind. One has to move to a Nashville, NYC, or LA to GET the gig. The chances of getting a gig and THEN relocating are slim to none. You have to be where the gigs are. Period. This is a chance that 99% of people that want to do something and are unwilling to take. It’s great to want to do something, but if you have to do it, then you will make that commitment and follow through.
Playing the drums and making music defines me as a human being. It’s truly how I express myself. Knowing that I get to play the drums everyday gets me out of bed with a huge smile on my face. Most successful people will offer the same advice. Make a commitment, fuel it with conviction, passion and persistence and watch your dreams become a reality. Conceive, Believe, Receive.
Hello there, musician friends! I thought I might take some time out of my busy schedule to offer some insights and advice on the life of a touring musician.
Touring is not for the faint of heart and is not for everyone. It is an activity that will test your ability to navigate and utilize specific skill sets. The best touring musicians possess easygoing and flexible personalities, can easily adapt to last-minute changes, have the ability to take direction without putting up their guard and most importantly, are open to the idea of waking up in a new city every day.
The grand perks of a touring musician’s travel schedule include meeting new people and making new friends around the world. You also get to experience new cultures, foods and traditions.
I have toured nonstop with multiplatinum country rocker Jason Aldean since 2005. Outlined below is a 30-day account of my recent travels. This time frame coincided with the release of Aldean’s sixth studio record entitled “Old Boots New Dirt” and the television dates booked to promote its release. To make things even busier, the dates were booked while playing a very dense series of live shows to finish our 2014 cycle of the “Burn It Down” tour.
This hectic period found me playing a variety of rigs that included my normal touring drum set that moves around the country on an 18-wheeler semi truck, a variety of “backline” drum sets (gear provided by a third-party instrument rental company) for TV shows and a smaller percussion setup for acoustic “unplugged” dates. This required lots of preplanning with my drum tech Jon Hull. Hull and I made specific and meticulous notes about what gear was needed for each event. Preplanning is crucial for this kind of demanding schedule.
Let’s face it: Drummers sweat! Since, I sweat so much, I usually pack heavier than my bandmates. By looking at my tour schedule and our daily itinerary, I was able to find little pockets of time that I would be able to break away and do laundry.
Here’s a trick: If find yourself staying at a swanky, over-priced hotel and don’t want to pay $5 for each pair of underwear to be “sent out,” simply find out where the hotel sends its laundry and go there. The price will be way cheaper, and you’ll get out and see the city you are in.
Laundromats are great places to meet interesting characters, and I always get lots of business done there. The last time I was in a Laundromat in North Hollywood, Calif. I starting making a few calls and by the time my clothes were dry, I had organized a happy-hour gathering for that evening with 40 of Los Angeles’s finest drummers.
The life of a touring musician
In this 30-day time frame, I traveled on a tour bus and caught lots of early-morning flights to make all the appearances happen. TV shows are always notorious for very early hotel lobby calls. Get your rest when you can and set several wake-up calls. I call the front desk for a wake up call and set wake up alarms on my iPhone in five-minute increments.
A typical show day involves waking up in a new city daily. The band has free time until our daily sound check at 3:30 p.m. I enjoy filling the time with teaching local lessons, giving master classes, doing a drum clinic or speaking at a local high school, college or corporate event.
I also squeeze in as many workouts as possible. Regular exercise keeps me focused, clears my head, releases any toxins and keeps me stretched and limber for drumming. I try to keep it fresh. Sometimes I will opt for a hotel gym workout, a backstage burn with workout DVDs on my laptop or a “get to know the city” run or walk.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served in catering each day at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. After sound check, I work out, visit with friends, tend to more business, etc. Then, I usually try to dine with my band. This is a great time for us to bond. After dinner, we fight for shower space and get changed for the show. My warm-up ritual is from 8-9 p.m.
We take the stage at 9:15 p.m. each night for 85 minutes. The schedule below has some other twists and turns in it. Check it out. Here we go …
Sept. 11: I film more footage for my “Drumming In The Modern World” DVD all day long in Nashville, Tenn. I also make sure I was packed the night before and rush off to catch my 9 p.m. bus call.
Sept. 12: This is a show night in Knoxville, Tenn. Drummer friend Ray Luzier (Korn) comes to check out the show with his family. Luzier had just relocated to Nashville, and we joke that we had to both be on the road to actually visit each other. A post show “drum chat” goes on for some time after the show.
Sept. 13: It is a show day in Lexington, Ky. I teach drum lessons all morning for my friends at The Drum Center of Lexington. I do an official “meet and greet” for drum shop customers in the early afternoon along with Sean Fuller (Florida Georgia Line). I return to the venue at 2:30 p.m. for my 3:30 p.m. sound check. The show is at 9:15 p.m.
Sept. 14: Show day at Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio. My drum tech Jon Hull’s parents come to sound check, and I enjoy visiting with them. The show had energy for days.
Sept. 15: We spend the majority of the day traveling on our tour bus to Denver. We check into the hotel, and then it’s time for a hot shower and a hot meal. Night off in Denver!
Sept. 16: Day off in Denver. My bride Cindy visits me on a break from her schedule as a touring entertainer.
Sept. 17: First of two sold-out nights at Red Rocks Amphitheater. I spend the day visiting with my wife Cindy in a gorgeous outdoor setting. My brother Mike also stops by for hugs and family gossip.
Sept. 18: Second sold-out show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. I spend the day visiting and spending quality time with Cindy. Members of the management team visit the show as well as people from Target who will shoot a commercial later that day. I decide to run the stairs at Red Rocks. It’s great exercise in a beautiful outdoor setting. I am sure to take lots of pictures.
Sept. 19: Show day in Albuquerque, NM. Cindy heads to LA for work. I press onward with the tour.
Sept. 20: Show day in Phoenix, Ariz. I enjoy lunch with Steve Fischer (inventor of The Drum Dial). I recommend getting “off campus” as much as possible. Every day can become very much like “Ground Hog Day” — the only thing that changes is the size of the dressing room and the speed of the wireless Internet. I recommend getting out, seeing the sites or having lunch with friends. Just make sure you are back at least a half an hour before sound check!
Sept. 21: Day off in North Hollywood. I go for an awesome early-morning run along Ventura Boulevard and meet with a producer friend about doing a project together over brunch.
Sept. 22: We film “The Jimmy Kimmel Show Live” in Hollywood. Cindy rejoins me for a visit. Jimmy Kimmel has the best green room in the business! There are always lots of celebrities and smiling faces backstage at his show — the epitome of a TV show in the heart of Hollywood.
Sept. 23: We film “Yahoo Live” in Santa Monica, Calif. This is an unplugged gig, so I play what I call “rock n’ roll djembe.” The song “Burnin It Down” needs a little help with forward motion and “lope,” so we decide to overdub a Latin Percussion soft shaker as a consistent rhythmic bed. It really brings the song to life. After the taping, 15 amazing food trucks are parked outside the building for the lunch hour. I decide to go with a burrito that fuses Asian and Mexican food traditions. It is a good choice! Our schedule has been intense, so I take a nap while the bus travels from Santa Monica to San Diego.
Sept. 24: This is a day off for the entire organization. I book two events. I present a “CRASH Course For Success” speaking event first thing in the morning at a local high school and then again in the evening at The Staump School Of Music. Both groups are fun and very open to my message. Between events, I ask my friend Tim to take me to the best Mexican food spot in the city. It is the real deal. Wow! After my evening event, I meet my friend and local San Diego drum educator Simon Das Gupta for a late dinner at the rooftop bar of our downtown hotel — perfect weather.
Sept. 25: Sound check and show in Chula Vista, Calif. My friend Simon Das Gupta comes to the show, and we visit again after. This particular venue has a tradition of hiring a Mexican food truck for post-show catering. I look forward to this gig all year, as these street tacos are the best I have ever put in my mouth — truly world-class food! I skip dinner to make room for this culinary tradition.
Sept. 26: Show day in Irvine, Calif. Cindy drops by for a visit, as does Drum Workshop Educational Director Juels Thomas. Juels is the best in the business and a great friend. We catch up on all things and soak up the California sun.
Sept. 27: My day starts early with a drum event hosted by Dennis Gast in Mountain View, Calif. My friend Troy Luccketta of the band Tesla decides to come by. It is a nice surprise to all the attendees, and we end up doing a nice, double-drum jam! Troy also comes to sound check, has dinner with me and watches the show. We even hang after the show! It was a great day with one of my favorite drum brothers.
Sept. 28: Show day in Sacramento, Calif. I meet with friend Chad Dwyer to sign items for charity events. It’s a great show. I’m always grateful to be playing a band with a singer and a band that are consistent. Our No. 1 goal is to execute every night no matter what!
Sept. 29: We return to The Beverly Garland Hotel in North Hollywood. We film an iHeart Radio Live event in Burbank, Calif. A few of the band and crew guys gather in the hotel lounge. Hurray for fellowship!
Sept. 30: Today, we tape “The Ellen Show” in Burbank, Calif. This show is always first class. The staff is so organized and knowledgeable. Sound check and camera blocking are a breeze! Whenever we play West Coast TV shows, my drums are provided by Center Staging in Burbank (thank you Johnny Lord and friends). Today, they set me up with one of my favorite DW finishes called “Gun Metal Grey.” After that, it’s time to hurry up and wait. At least it’s in a very nice green room with tons of health-conscious craft-service items. Lots of coffee … Thank God, we have been at it a while now.
Oct. 1: Today, we fly from LAX to Winnipeg, Canada. It’s a long travel day. I always get lots of work done on flights. (I wrote this article on a flight from Vegas to Nashville).
Oct. 2: Today, I present an educational master class hosted by drummer Josh Ward in Winnipeg. The show that night is great!
Oct. 3: Show day in Sioux Falls, S.D.!
Oct. 4: Travel day from Winnipeg to Las Vegas.
Oct. 5: Tonight, we headline the Route 91 Festival on the Vegas Strip. The scene is awesome. With a sea of smiling faces and the lights of Vegas all lit up, I have the best seat in the city! These are the kind of moments you savor.
Oct. 6: We fly from Las Vegas to New York for a night off! I catch dinner with some band and crew guys — great times. I try to get to bed ASAP for the ridiculously early lobby call in the morning.
Oct. 7: I meet my under-slept friends in the lobby for a trip to NBC’s “The Today Show.” Billy Idol is on the show promoting his new memoir. He is very nice and takes the time to come over to me and say “I f*&^ing love your drumming mate.” Who doesn’t love a compliment, especially from a rock legend? From that taping, we go immediately to a sound check for “The Tonight Show.” Taping is smooth and effortless. The new studio for the show has a great sound and feel. The Roots sound amazing, and the house audio crew is top notch. I say hello to the ever-friendly Mr. Questlove in the hallway. We have yet another night off in New York. I spend some time with my band and crew friends. My pal Sammy Merendino (drummer for The Tony award-winning musical “Kinky Boots”) drops by for a visit as well.
Oct. 8: The entire organization has a day off in New York. A limo picks me up and takes me to Garfield, N.J. for a photo/video shoot for percussion manufacturer Latin Percussion. This is my first opportunity to meet the entire staff. We also share a nice lunch and talk about future plans. I head back to the city for an early evening dinner with Anthony Citrinite of The Collective Music School. Anthony lets me know that he is adding me to the adjunct teaching staff as an “artist in residence.” I will make several visits to the school each year to teach an international roster of drum students.
Oct. 9: Show day in Erie, Pa.
Oct. 10: Show day in Auburn Hills, Mich. I have a 1 p.m. interview with my friends for the “Detroit Drums Dreams” podcast. I catch some catering, do my sound check and get ready for the show.
Oct. 11: No sound check. Free day. I visit with some family members who just happen to tailgate at 5:30 p.m. It is always great to visit with family. Showtime is 9:15 p.m. We are on the bus by 1 a.m. and head back to Nashville.
Oct. 12: I wake up in Nashville and have a day off catching up with my wife on a Sunday — great day. I am happy to be home for just a bit!
The end of the road
So there you have it. A drummer’s diary presenting a month in the life of a touring musician! I hope that I provided some insights into the experiences presented to me daily. The moral of the story: hard work does pay off, you just have to believe in yourself and make the effort.
Many cheers! Questions or comments? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me through my Rich Redmond social media sites.
Rich Redmond is a top-call recording drummer/percussionist based in Nashville and LA. Redmond’s versatile, dynamic and rock-solid drumming is the sound behind many of today’s top talents. He has toured/recorded/performed with: Jason Aldean, Ludacris, Kelly Clarkson, Bryan Adams, Bob Seger, Chris Cornell, Joe Perry, Jewel, Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Thompson Square, Steel Magnolia, The Pointer Sisters, John Eddie, Pam Tillis, Susan Ashton, Deana Carter, Montgomery Gentry, Alabama, John Anderson, Trace Adkins, Keith Urban, Emily West, Lauren Alaina and many others.
As a Grammy-nominated drummer, Redmond has played drums and percussion on 18 No. 1 singles with sales well over the 20 million mark. He has also appeared on the trail of television shows such as “The Grammy Awards,” “The Tonight Show” (with Leno, O’Brien and Fallon), “The Today Show,” “Conan O’ Brien,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” “Good Morning America,” “Ellen,” “The CMA Awards,” “ACM Awards,” “CMT Music Awards,” “ACA Awards” and many others.
Redmond is a partner in a production team known as “NV” (New Voice Entertainment), which constantly develops new talent such as Thompson Square and Parmalee, which together have celebrated three No. 1 hits. Redmond also brings his “CRASH Course For Success” motivational drumming event to drum shops, music stores, high schools, colleges and corporate events across the world.
Redmond received his master’s degree in music education and was voted “Best Country Drummer” and “Clinician” by both Modern Drummer and Drum! magazines. He has also been featured in Drumhead and Rhythm magazines. Redmond’s first book “FUNdamentals of Drumming For Kids ages 5-10” published by Modern Drummer and distributed by Hal Leonard is a best seller.
Principle 5: Hunger
by Rich Redmond (part five of five)
Hey folks! Do you want to be a better musician? Do you want more gigs? Do you want more overall happiness in your life?
Well then, try my “CRASH” concept on for size. CRASH is an acronym for Commitment-Relationships-Attitude-Skill-Hunger. The CRASH Course For SuccessTM is a true philosophy for living with five main principles that I have developed over the years. I would like to share them with you!
When I first arrived in town, I was literally, hungry. The pursuit of my dream of drumming success left me with credit cards maxed out from Ramen Noodle and Balance Bar purchases. It was a leaner time, but it was a special time. I was feverishly and enthusiastically working to make my dreams a reality. I had a burning hunger for success that led me to Nashville from Dallas, Texas.
After graduating from The University of North Texas in Denton, Texas with a Masters of Music Education (with a specialization in percussion), I moved into the Dallas/Fort Worth area to freelance and to make plans for my next big move. Was I going to carve out my future in New York, Los Angeles or Nashville? It didn’t matter, because I was starving to play my instrument at a higher level. I wanted to play on records that people could purchase everywhere, hear myself on the radio, make music videos, perhaps travel the world on someone else’s dime and be part of the crazy culture that is the music business. My bags were packed for sunny Los Angeles when I received a call to audition for a major-label recording artist in Nashville. Two other auditions for major label artists followed. I knew my time was now. I was hungry. You know that feeling you get in your stomach, when you realize you have been working hard all day long and haven’t eaten? That was the feeling I had burning in my heart. I wanted it.
They don’t call them ‘starving artists’ for nothing. You can minimize the starvation process by saving some money and doing some detailed research about exactly what you want to do and where you want to be. I didn’t do the research about how Nashville worked. I didn’t even know many people before I moved there. I was operating on pure desire, blind faith, and a burning hunger to taste success. Even if I was still playing clubs, pick up gigs, honky tonks, weddings, free demo sessions and showcases when I got to Nashville, I was doing it in a place where there was no “glass ceiling”. There were endless possibilities for career advancement. In Nashville, I could get that “Big Gig” (Check out Zoro’s Book).
When you are in the battle of bringing your life’s dreams to fruition, it is a time of endless possibilities, massive setbacks and countless little victories. It’s impossible to success without failing many times. Learn from your setbacks and use them to fuel future victories…and don’t forget to celebrate every little victory!
My father always told me that cream always rises. You just have to be patient. I played every gig that came my way like it was the last time I would every play (and still do), and word got around. The calls kept getting more fruitful. I waited it out and it paid off. I can even remember playing pick up gigs until 3 a.m., getting home by 4 a.m., getting 2 hours sleep and being in front of a class room full of kindergartners as a substitute teacher at 7 a.m. That’s commitment, that’s hunger.
I always like to share the story of how many of the artists I have played with over the years became successful. It has never been easy for an artist to break through the masses, get heard, get recognized, and even more difficult to become a ‘star’. I’ll let you decide for yourself which artist i am referring to in this tale, but…We cut a record on a shoe string budget that produced a breakthrough single that fought it’s way up the charts with the help of a band of brothers that played every bar and music venue that would book us. We toured in a van and then a second hand bus. We showered at YMCA’s and nibbled on backstage vegetable trays for years. It happened for this artist because of the collective hunger and hard work of a team of people. We were all hungry.
I make it a point to study the habits and actions of successful people from many different fields and businesses. I have noticed a very common denominator for individuals and companies that achieve a high level of success and notoriety. At a certain point, things become comfortable, people take things for granted, they lose the spark and the quality of their work starts to decline. I call this “The Fat Elvis Syndrome”. The entities that continue to push themselves hard and look to consistently reinvent themselves, develop new skill sets and create new product lines are the ones that survive and continue to thrive. I have also noticed that people greatly respect individuals or companies that never rest on past accomplishments. When you fan the flames of hunger and keep pushing, you will be rewarded with new and exciting opportunities. In other words, you get back what you put in. The lesson here is: Stay hungry!
Musicians that I respect and model myself after are the ones that sound and look like they are literally playing for their supper. No matter what stage of their career they are in, they are hungry. They still want it. The only way to feed their hunger is to always play at the top of their game. Respect will always have to go out to musicians that play like it’s the last time they will ever pick up their instrument!
I hold dear to my heart the feeling of playing my first blue sparkle snare drum and bass drum combo so many years ago. It was magic. When I finally got my first 5-piece cherry red pro level drums, I was ecstatic. I practiced to records and worked on my technique. BIG thanks to Mom and Dad for putting up with the decibels for years. Now let’s fast-forward many years Recording studios, rehearsal halls, tour buses, hotels and back stage areas have come and gone. They could all easily run together, but they don’t. I’m making sure that I drink it in, express and truly feel gratitude and stay hungry.
|My “CRASH Course For Success” ™ seminar takes these concepts and mixes them up in an efficient, methodical, high-energy motivational event. The course has been presented to such diverse groups as The Musicians Institute in Hollywood, The Drummer’s Collective in New York City and special events for major corporate entities like CISCO. Send my team an email at email@example.com for booking inquiries.|
When I think of hunger, I think of inspirational cinematic characters like Rocky Balboa. I think of the students from the film “Stand and Deliver”. I think of Tom Hanks in “Castaway”. To me, the word HUNGER conjures up positive images of someone passionately, purposefully and relentlessly pursuing a dream. What is your dream and are you willing to go hungry for it? These are important questions to ask and even more important to answer. You know that cream on the top of your favorite coffee house latte? That can be YOU.
I sure hope this ‘crash’ course version of my “CRASH” philosophy has made you think about where you have been and where you are going. Take these concepts to heart and watch your music career take massive strives forward. Let’s all CRASH our way to success. It’s a lifestyle!
Rich Redmond is a Nashville/Los Angeles based touring/recording drummer/percussionist with multi platinum country rocker Jason Aldean. Rich has played on 13 #1 hits and has helped bring a new rock infused sound to Music Row. Rich has also worked with Kelly Clarkson, Bryan Adams, Jewel, Ludacris, Lit, Joe Perry, Miranda Lambert, Steel Magnolia, Rushlow and many others. Rich is also a member of a full service music production company called New Voice Entertainment or “NV” which is responsible for creating the sound behind Thompson Square’s #1 single entitled “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”? Rich’s “CRASH Course For Success” ™ seminar focuses on applying time tested concepts to help people everywhere attract more success to their lives. Rich is also a member of Rocker’s Collective.
For booking inquiries:
Following the rules of the road
by Rich Redmond
Since 1997, I have split my time as a musician between touring and recording. I find that both of these activities “feed” and support each other. Playing in the studio usually leads to cool, live playing situations, and playing with quality live musicians seems to open doors to recording projects. Many musicians draw a line in the sand and choose one or the other. I like doing both.
In my experience traveling on planes, buses, trains and automobiles, I have acquired some bits of wisdom that I am happy to share with you. Here we go!
Know the parts: Most touring musicians are hired to recreate parts recorded by studio musicians. Your job is to know those parts inside and out. My advice is to play those parts every night, note for note — with purpose, perfection and passion.
This is THE most important part of being a road musician. You have to play your parts and the show perfectly every night. Your lead singer and bandmates will appreciate the consistency. The management team and the fans will notice this as well. Secure your spot in the overcrowded and competitive music world by playing flawlessly night after night.
Be consistent: Be reliable. Show up on time or be early. Show up sober. Show up happy. Show up ready to work.
Ask yourself these questions: Can people rely on you? Do you have a great attitude and demeanor?
The people who can answer yes to these questions hold on to gigs and keep getting recommended for other great gigs. Please don’t forget to be open, giving and flexible. Take direction well, and have a great attitude. People will notice that you exhibit these fantastic qualities and will spread the word. You will have the world as your no-cost marketing team.
Be kind: Kindness goes a long way in any field and in any business. I am always kind to baggage handlers, hotel personnel, bus drivers, flight attendants, road crew members, techs, stage hands, caterers … everyone. All of these people’s efforts factors into the overall success of your organization.
Everyone has individual skill sets and life paths. Who’s to say that your job is more important than theirs? Don’t be arrogant. Be kind, helpful, approachable and friendly. Spread joy and love. People will always remember this about you over any kind of musical talent. It’s a fact.
Dress the part: Every band and every style of music seems to have a corresponding fashion style. A big-band jazz group usually requires a tuxedo or tucked in shirt, tie and jacket combo. Hard rock may call for a dash of leather, studded belts and jean vests. Dress appropriately for your musical genre.
I like to mix and match stuff. I’ve gone through many phases over the years. Lately, I gravitate towards slim jeans, Converse low-top shoes, a funky tee, a vest and a wallet chain. I mix and match brands and colors, but that’s my overall vibe. I own it, and it works for me and the group I play in. Don’t be afraid to coordinate with your band.
In our group, one guy may do the leather jacket, one guy does the vest open, one closed, one cat does the long sleeves, while another does short sleeves … mix it up to create that look for your band. It’s important, and you are kidding yourself if you think it’s not.
Prepare for problems: Have at least two of everything. Have backups of backups (especially anything electronic like drum machines, samplers, trigger pads or computers). Have a great relationship with all of your endorsing companies. You (or your tech) need to be able to pick up the phone and have a spare or replacement part shipped out to you immediately.
For drummers, try having backups of these items:
Try to get along with everyone: Be a team player. There is no “I” in team. The band behind Jason Aldean knows each other inside and out. We are aware of what makes each of us “tick” musically and personally. We get along.
Sure, we may fight like brothers sometimes, but we are committed to one thing: making the show kick ass night after night! Get along with your bandmates and everyone on your tour, from the road manager to the stage manager to the head chef. GO TEAM!
Get off the bus: The road can make you pretty weary. They don’t call it “road worn” for nothing. Get off the bus, take a walk, and see the local surroundings (museums, art galleries, record shops, clothing stores, gyms). I like to go for runs and stop at the local coffee shop to make phone calls. I take pictures of my surroundings and send them to my wife. This is a fun hobby we have that helps keep us “together” while we are constantly separated. Get some fresh air! Smell the roses.
Find a hobby: I don’t have any time or interest in building ships in a bottle, but I do like to decompress a bit from the stresses of touring with an awesome koumbucha tea and a movie with my bandmates. I like to read books on spirituality, music, motivation, business, as well as biographies and the occasional thriller. I also do lots of writing for magazines (like this one you are reading). These things are great distractions and are healthy.
Make friends: The most appealing part of travel is making friends all over the world. I have friends in almost every major city. We catch up, have coffee or do lunch. Sometimes friends will stop by a sound check or one of my events. It’s a blast!
I like to teach drum lessons and hold my motivational drum events at colleges, high schools, music stores, drum shops and corporate events everywhere. (Check out www.crashcourseforsuccess.com). I meet lots of people and make many new friends. It’s an honor and a privilege to have this opportunity, and I don’t take it for granted. Do yourself a favor and make some friends in your travels. Your life will be richer.
Eat right: You truly are what you eat. This subject could warrant an entire article. A good rule of thumb here is “everything in moderation.” Limit sugars and refined carbohydrates (bread, pastas, tortillas), avoid heavy sauces and cream toppings and avoid fatty meats high in saturated fats. I say no to soda and yes to water. I love coffee and tea. I always try to eat balanced and clean. Think tuna on whole wheat, salad with a chicken breast and a light vinaigrette, sushi with brown rice, lean beef with spinach or broccoli, an egg white omelet, greek yogurt with local honey and blueberries or grilled salmon with sweet potato and veggies. Always choose grilled over fried. Eat smaller meals every three to four hours.
Eating heavy bogs me down. I pull long hours, and I have to have energy to play drums in a very physical style. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your diet and tweak things until you find your perfect eating philosophy. Focus on how the food and combination of foods makes you feel. Remember: Eat light, eat often!
Get some exercise: Get out there and move! Exercise burns calories, keeps your muscles toned, helps with endurance and helps rid your body of toxins. Exercise reduces your chances of acquiring a disease and extends your life span. I have found that when I exercise, it’s best to regularly mimic the amount of energy that I expend while playing the drums and the cardiovascular intensity I exert when I play a live show. This is essentially a “chop” that goes away very quickly.
If I don’t play a show for 30 days, and I don’t exercise regularly, I will immediately notice a difference when I come back to playing live shows. You have to exercise! I prefer a mixture weight training, cardio (street runs, treadmill, stair climber, elliptical trainer) and fitness boot camps. Keep experimenting, find something you like, and stick with it. Your body will thank you.
Don’t over do it: Musicians are always surrounded by a limitless supply of booze and drugs. If you want them, they’re easy to find and usually free of charge. I don’t use drugs. I never have. DON’T DO DRUGS! Opening that box can take you down a dark path that you may never find your way out of. I do like to relax and drink socially. Please realize that it can quickly get out of hand. Know when to say when. Alcohol is something that can very easily keep you from reaching your maximum potential in the music business. Enjoy it responsibly and make sure it never interferes with your gig, your relationships and your quality of life.
Save some money: The music business is like a roller coaster — lots of ups and downs — and very unpredictable. Tours come and go. Artists like to take time off or even cancel tours. Make sure you set aside some money to get you through these unavoidable moments. You just need a bit to get you through to the next tour or project. Save some cash.
Redmond’s rules of the road
- Always warm up and stretch before a show.
- Always take bottled water from the back stage area for your hotel and bunk.
- Bring along protein bars, nuts and any healthy snacks for future use. Dump them in your backpack and go!
- Know where your luggage is and always have it with you.
- Put tags and your contact information on every piece of your luggage. I use plastic tags, strips of bright-colored tape (neon pink or green) and the airline tag.
- Never pass up a hot shower. Who knows when your next one will be.
- Always be kind to everyone, especially the runner. The “runner” is the person the venue hires to drive people back and forth from airports and hotels, pick up food, make gym runs and take band members on personal errands (to the post office, anniversary present shopping and, of course, this one, “Can you take me to buy a couple of pairs of underwear? All of mine are dirty and we have another week on this tour!”)
- Don’t eat too heavy before a gig. Save it for after. You don’t want to look or feel bloated when you are trying to put on a sexy performance. Ha!
- Use text messages, email, Skype and Apple’s FaceTime app to keep in touch with loved ones, family, friends and other musical colleagues. These are indispensable and mostly free ways of keeping in touch and nurturing precious relationships.
- Have a system for storing your most important items in your backpack. I have everything compartmentalized, so when I go through airport security, I know where everything has to end up after I take it all out and put it in those annoying plastic bins. Constantly perform an inventory: keys, driver’s license, passport, phone, wallet, watch, computer, iPad, passport, flight itinerary, house keys, iLok for ProTools, chargers, etc. Know where all of it is at all times. It’s very easy to misplace things and leave them behind fast. Have a system.
- Always write down the name of your hotel or take a hotel business card from the front desk. If you are jetlagged or get turned around in a foreign city, at least you will have the name and address of the hotel.
- Always have a little cash on you. It’s such a cashless society now. I find myself without cash most of the time. When you want to tip that baggage handler or cabbie, it’s easier to have cash.
- Take pictures. Life is short! I have snapped pictures every step of the way with my journey in the Jason Aldean band. We all look back at these experiential snapshots and laugh. We’ve had such a great time. Pictures are the proof that it happened. Don’t miss your opportunity to archive the times of your life. It’s even better when you share it with the world.
- Shoot videos. You will look back and smile as you remember all of it.
- Share your journey with your fans via social media. Facebook and Twitter are very effective, free ways to promote your band or you as a creative brand. Coca Cola and Pepsi are brands. YOU are a brand. Don’t be afraid to let people know you exist. There is only one you! Share your experiences. Be transparent. Be friendly. Be YOU. Build your brand. Post photos, videos and insights into your life. It’s powerful! As Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
Need more touring tips? I’m always happy to answer questions via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). In addition to session drumming, you can contact me about production work, songwriting, drum lessons (via Skype or in person), drum clinics, motivational speaking engagements, guest-artist appearances with high school/collegiate ensembles or to play drums on your next recording via the Internet.
Remember: Play from the heart, it will set you apart!
Rich Redmondis an influential touring and recording drummer/percussionist whose versatile, rock-solid drumming is the sound behind many of today’s top talents. Based in Nashville and Los Angeles, he has performed with Jason Aldean, Thompson Square, Lit, Ludacris, Kelly Clarkson, Bryan Adams, Joe Perry, Jewel, Miranda Lambert, John Eddie, Pam Tillis, Susan Ashton, Deana Carter, Kid Rock, Lauren Alaina, Luke Bryan, Marty Stuart, Vince Gill and many others. Redmond has recorded 11 No. 1 singles with the Grammy-nominated country rocker Jason Aldean who has sold over seven million albums and 13 million single downloads. Redmond has also played numerous TV shows, from Leno to Letterman to The Grammys. He leads a production team known as “NV” that is constantly developing new talent such as Thompson Square, whose first single “Are you Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?” was a No. 1 single and the most played song on the radio in 2011. Redmond brings his “CRASH Course For Success” motivational event to drum shops, music stores, high schools, colleges and corporate events across the country.