A testament to his talent
Ray Rocha, editor, Music Insider Magazine speaks with Rich Redmond, drummer for Jason Aldean, Hank Williams III, Ludacris and more…
Rich Redmond is one of the most positive, upbeat, dedicated and driven musicians I have ever had the pleasure to speak with. Not to mention his serious chops (he’s currently on tour with Jason Aldean). During our recent conversation, I found out a number of interesting tidbits about his career, his achievements and the day-to-day life of this amazing drummer, educator and studio musician.
Music Insider Magazine: When I found out I was going to interview you, I did a little bit of research and was immediately impressed with the many aspects of your life, and your outlook on music and drumming. To that point Rich, why the drums?
RR: The drums, so exciting, man’s first instrument. Before we were talking, we were beating on logs and skulls with bones. It’s a primal thing that goes way back, its part of our DNA. My parents were ultra-supportive of me playing drums from a young age. It has been awesome to share my journey with them.
MIM: Your parents must be so proud with all that you have achieved.
RR: They are the best. I take a cue from my parents and try to be an inspiration to others. I am big into music education. I am a product of music education, and I tell parents if their kids show any interest in an instrument at all to support them 150 percent in their music endeavors.
MIM: Speaking about education, can you tell me about your CRASH program?
RR: There comes a point in every musician’s career when he or she wants to give something back. I want people to be inspired to play, practice and get into bands after one of my clinics, which are not your usual drum clinics. I solo a little, play to tracks and deconstruct my studio process. I talk about the road, the trials and tribulations and the amount of passion, persistence and determination it takes to get to this level. The CRASH Program is designed to inspire people from all walks of life to be successful at whatever they do.
The five concepts of CRASH are Commitment, Relationships, Attitude, Skill and Hunger. It’s a versatile program. I have taken it from kindergarten classes to music business schools, to high schools, rotary clubs, colleges, drum shops and businesses. My friend Mark Shulman and I have similar events and we are always trying to improve and expand our audience. People in the corporate world need a shot of motivation and want to know how to perform more effectively and enjoy their profession. That’s my message. The drums are a way for me to communicate that message more effectively.
MIM: As we both know, being a drummer is an extremely unique talent. How has drumming influenced other aspects of your life?
RR: Well, people like the drummer (laughs)! A drummer can make or break a band. A good drummer can uplift everyone in a band, and I have seen bad drummers squash some really great musicians. A band sinks to the level of the drummer; whereas, a really good drummer who has control over attitude and dynamics and the ability to manipulate time, has the ability to take an average band and elevate it to a very high level. It’s like you are a maestro conducting a symphony. It’s a very powerful instrument. You can be like Leonard Bernstein or you can be like a weapon. It’s a lot of responsibility. You are the first one in, the last to leave, and you have the most stuff to set up. You have the most responsibility in shaping the timing and the feel of the song and the performance. Running my music career like a business is one of my messages. I tell young musicians, you are selling a product. That product is YOU! You have to be consistent from night to night. Everything has to feel the same, you have to perform with energy, and you have to be well dressed. Your instruments must sound good. Show up on time. Being a musician is a full career. Unless you want to spend a lot of money, you are your own booking agent, public relations agent, personal trainer, drum tech; you have to do it all. So, being good at those skills have led me to opportunities like producing, songwriting and band leading. It has just been great.
MIM: Can you talk a little about The Three Kings?
RR: Oh yeah, my best friends in the world: Kurt Allison, Tully Kennedy and I have been playing nonstop together for 12 years. Three presidencies have taken place, hair styles and clothing have changed, wives and girlfriends have come and gone, and we are still making music together. Since we enjoy each other personally and enjoy playing together with so much respect, we decided to tackle the music business together. We are basically Jason Aldean’s recording and touring rhythm section. We produce and get hired to play on other people’s records. We produce records together. Four years ago, we added a fourth partner, David Fanning. He is a fantastic country recording artist in his own right, an amazing vocal coach, Pro Tools genius, and we added him to our company that is New Voice Entertainment.
MIM: I read about your approach to playing a song. You try to play what is right for the song. Can you talk a little bit about how you find that perfect groove, that perfect feel and beat for a song?
RR: Yeah, well I tell all the kids that there is no substitute for experience. Playing the right parts comes from listening and playing all different kinds of music. I’ve played in Greek wedding bands, Polish polka bands, Latin salsa bands, cumbia bands, smooth jazz and pool parties. I’ve even accented jokes during magic shows. Wherever I could play, I would go try and express myself on my instrument. I wasn’t proud — It was all part of an experience. So that every time I was presented with a song, I could reference it against all the other great songs and artists that have come before me. You develop a kind of musical instinct.
The first thing I do when I am presented with a song is start singing between five and 10 different drum grooves against the melody; I find which one will be the most musically appropriate. That way, before I even get behind the drums, I have a real idea of what needs to happen. This is important, especially in places like Nashville and Los Angeles, where time is money, the red light is on, and budgets are tight. People want you to do things quickly. In Nashville, you are expected to get a song in the first or second take, to do that at a high level, play with click tracks and perform soulfully and walk away from the session and say, “Okay, I am ready for that to be on the radio.” It’s a skill you have to develop. What I do is sing grooves and see what will work. I get behind the drums, and my band mates start making music and communicating, and we find that the right thing happens fairly quickly.
MIM: Rich, you have performed with Bryan Adams, Kelly Clarkson, and Ludacris among others, and you have recorded ten number one hits. Which do you prefer, playing live or doing studio work?
RR: Another great question. For me, life is a balancing act, and I have found that I am happiest when I am riding the bus and getting that immediate feedback from an audience. It’s part of my soul. I have to have that high level of communication that comes with a live performance.
There is also something very beautiful about being in a candlelit studio and drinking coffee and tea with my friends and making something that will last forever. You know they call it a record for a reason. It is a record in time, a record of a musical performance. There is a lot of fun and responsibility that goes with that.
I like to strike a healthy balance between the two — these two parts of my personality.
MIM: Who do you really want to play with, whom you haven’t had the opportunity to play with yet?
RR: Coming up, I really enjoyed the music of a lot of classic rock bands: Foreigner, Bad Company, you know, all those classic rock bands. I hope there will be a time when I can play with those artists. That is a real important sound to me, one that I learned how to play drums on. I started playing in 1978, so I came up listening to that music. It would be great to play with a real classic rock band.
MIM: You spoke earlier about all the different types of gigs you did, can you name a really notable gig or experience you had?
RR: Once, my super supportive dad and I were in El Paso, TX. My dad would take me to all these different kinds of shows. So, we go see Buddy Rich, and they booked him at a heavy metal nightclub! Waitresses are wearing chainmail and leather, serving cocktails to this older jazz crowd. Buddy Rich comes out and plays, and during the drum solo, he stops, stands up and says, “Who the hell booked me here?” (Laughs.)
MIM: Can you talk a little about the products you endorse?
RR: I use DW drums and I love ’em. You being from L.A., Ray, you know how great DW drums are.
MIM: Yep, I use ’em, too.
RR: I use Sabian Cymbals, from this very forward-thinking company. Remo Drum heads since 1994. Promark drum sticks; since Promark is really into education like me. I love cultivating these relationships. On my website (www.richredmond.com), you can see all the other products I endorse.
MIM: It is a testament to your talent and dedication that these companies want to work with you. What do you have upcoming in the near future?
RR: Jason Aldean is in the middle of this huge tour, which has been going on for two years, and from July to November, we will play a lot. There are some stadium shows coming up that we are very excited about. The new record will be out in October. From my production company, New Voice Entertainment, we are working on the second record for Thompson Square, a record for American Idol Finalist Christy Lee Cook and a record coming out by a rockin’ country band called Parmalee. Their new single “Musta Been a Good Time” is just crushing it on satellite radio. Also, an awesome young Canadian singer named Linsey Elle has a record, too. I am doing about five CRASH events a month around my tour schedule, and I love that. I also have a book and DVD in the works. I’m putting the finishing touches on CRASH Studios. This is my home studio. I am setting up to do drum tracks for global clients. Send me the music files, I play drums on ’em, and send ’em right back to your inbox.
MIM: That technology is incredible.
RR: It is an unbelievable feeling. I have clients all over the world. As a final word, if you can live by the CRASH concepts in your personal life and your business life, you will have an edge on the competition. One of the most important things you can do with your life — and this applies not only to musicians — is picking the right mate (laughs). I have the most incredible wife. As busy as I am, she is such a part of the team, whom I love and can share everything with. Don’t settle.
MIM: I really appreciate your time, and all of us at Music Insider Magazine wish you continued success.
RR: Thanks, see ya in L.A. sometime.