I can still remember my first week in Nashville over 20 years ago. The music community is very friendly here… at least to me. Drummers seem to be a tribe that usual hang together pretty well. A local hero of mine, Mark Hammond, allowed me to go out on a session with him. He was really rockin’ the drums and leading a full band & orchestra through it’s paces. Mark allowed me to hang out; ask questions; and was very open about what a drummer is expected to do in this town… and in the world of pro-session drumming in general. We talked gear; studios; producers; etc. BUT one thing really stuck with me that day…
In the drum booth of that studio was a wall for the drummers to leave comments; tack on notes; draw pictures; write graffiti… just a cool community bulletin board. There, in big red letters was the phrase – “ADAPT OR DIE.” — I’ve never forgotten that. Anytime I feel tired of learning something new, or being open to ideas that are different than mine, those big red letters pop into my head. “ADAPT OR DIE.” If you want to keep working you have to serve the producer, artist, music, and so on. Being a musical prima donna will not do well in any working situation… and really this attitude will not work well in any job… or any life situation for that matter.
I’m not saying that I always do this perfectly. But I have attempted to keep an open mind in my musical & life journey. Always learning, always being open to new ideas – or ways of doing things. For instance on a recent session for Paul Baloche’s new Christmas project, he mentioned he wanted an old Ringo-vibe. So I put towels on the drums & tuned differently, and even used tape on my cymbals to get an “old school” sort of sound.
On most of the other songs I let the drums ring openly; adjusted tuning according to the key of songs; and used several different snare drums. I never look at the drums as having only one sound. They are tools to be used to serve the music. So I’m always listening to how the drums work with everything else that’s going on around me.
Ultimately, I’ll make sure the artist &/or producer is happy with the result. That, in the end is all that matters. Some say that you have to be “true to yourself.” I believe that you find your true self in serving people and discovering what makes everything work together. It is really a joy to see all of the pieces come together and everyone is happy. Yes, sometimes it can be very challenging; yes, sometimes you have to let go of what you thought was the most amazing idea… but, in the end, that won’t matter. To have longevity in your work you have to learn to adapt… Just “stick to it,” stay humble, and keep embracing the challenges. “Adapt or Die.”