I first became interested in the drums by riding in the car with my father on the way to baseball and football games. When my father heard a song that he liked, he would drum on the steering wheel, and thus I would mimic him. His crash course on rhythm taught me to play standard drum beats with ease before my first drum lesson. Some of my fondest memories are of rocking out to Earth, Wind, and Fire with my father and me in football pads.
To prepare for middle school band auditions, I signed up for percussion instructions with Amanda Swift in Greensboro, North Carolina. After completing most of my studies on the snare drum and marimba, I was rewarded with ten minutes of drum set instruction per lesson. Being left handed on a right handed drum set allowed me to keep a powerful beat with the kick and snare.
In middle school I was required to take up the trumpet before I could audition for percussion. I quickly became the first chair trumpet to earn my way into the percussion section. The next year I auditioned for jazz band on the drum set and was one of four seventh graders to make the cut in a predominantly eighth grade band. My eighth grade year I became the lead percussionist in both concert and jazz bands. We performed recitals and even traveled to Atlanta, Georgia for a jazz festival at Stone Mountain National Park.
The highlight of my middle school career was playing snare in an authentic Scottish marching band, Deep River Pipes ‘N Drums. Being a part of an elite competitor in the North Carolina Highland Games exposed me to new techniques, such as the Scottish traditional grip, and challenging rudiments. It was here that I focused on the difficult rhythms and sticking patterns of traditional Scottish drumming. I marched in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina… kilt and all.
As a freshman in high school I elected to take concert band as a percussionist. We participated in a state-wide band competition in Charlotte, North Carolina. Among 50 bands of grades 9-12, our band was the only band of the entire day to receive a superior rating. Sophomore year I was selected to play drums in the jazz band and played a multitude of performances, ranging from corporate events to coffee houses.
About this time, however, my interests transitioned from concert and jazz to writing and playing my own music. Borrowing a drum set from a family friend led to the formation of my first rock band, modestly named Stick Shift Woody. I drummed, played guitar, and sang as our four-piece rotated throughout the instrumentation. Surprisingly, there was a crowd of 300 to hear our first performance featuring the first (non) hit single, “I Sat In A Chair And Broke It.” From here we gigged around the Greensboro, North Carolina area and gained experience in the business of making music–booking shows, marketing shows, selling tickets, and getting paid doing what we love.
The following year I formed a new band with one of my former band mates with more serious conviction. For The Record, as we dubbed ourselves, was a sexy six-piece featuring female vocals, two dueling guitars, big bass, killer keyboards, and me on drums. This was the first time I focused extensively on songwriting. Being able to play each instrument allowed me to accurately and quickly communicate or teach the parts to the band. After playing around the area for a year, the band came very close to scoring a record deal with the University of Chapel Hill’s label. However, with all of us entering school or working there was little time or space to practice, so we separated with our heads held high. All in all we recorded 4 tracks with engineer John Harrell at The Sound Barn and created many lasting friendships between other bands and ourselves.
After graduating from high school I arrived at NC State University in Raleigh, North Carolina to study engineering. Since I could not practice drums in my dorm room, I purchased my first guitar, a teal flip-flop Gibson SG Special. I spent countless nights with this guitar writing and recording songs on my laptop. For the first time I felt like I had control of my musical direction. Using Logic Pro 9, I studied the ins and outs of how to create music in a DAW (Digital Audio Workspace) and began experimenting with MIDI composition.
With 40+ songs and musical ideas I set out to get a professional recording of my works. Partnering up with some friends I entered FireSound Studios with Sid Menon to record 8 songs in two 4 day, 4-song sessions. The name of the band emerged as JANT, which was actually a working name of the track titled “Illusions,” currently on iTunes. JANT means anything you want, as it is an infinitely definable noun, verb, etc.
I led the group through months of grueling rehearsals as we learned the songs. The arrangement called for me singing and playing guitar, a rhythm guitar, bass, and drums. We looped our MIDI and backing tracks using Logic Pro 9 and a mobile computer rig. We were very fortunate to have a synchronized laser light show with our music, which made our shows that much more of a unique experience.
We began playing in Greensboro and Raleigh, North Carolina at the biggest venues we could find. We entered a state-wide contest, the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands, and won, thus earning ourselves a spot on Vans Warped Tour 2011. It was an incredible experience to play in the middle of summer on hot black asphalt with some great bands… all in all it was probably the hottest day of my life.
Probably our most monetarily successful show to date was a show that we orchestrated ourselves. We booked the venue, provided the sound equipment, hired a sound engineer, and sold merchandise. This entrepreneurial spirit continues to inspire me to not only find but create new opportunities in the music industry.
During the summer of 2011 I was very fortunate to intern at Sound Pure Studios (www.soundpurestudios.com). Here I lived, ate, and breathed recorded music across a wide spectrum of genres–jazz, gospel, classical, and opera. Jason Richmond, Chief Recording Engineer, allowed me to set up microphones, preamps, and the patch bay as I hammered him with questions about music production. He taught me many fundamentals of sound recording and studio etiquette that I carry with me for the rest of my life.
Today I am musically focused on writing new songs for Top 40 radio while I re-engineer the existing JANT material. To pay the bills I work at Audio Adivce, a high-end home audio showroom. I love working at Audio Advice because I work directly with customers and remain immersed in the world of music.