By Phil Hood Published February 20, 2010
Jason Aldean rode back to the top of the country charts in 2009 with a series of mid-tempo anthems and slower introspective tunes. Aldean's style relies on deft lyrics with an emotional edge and authentic country feel that cuts through sophisticated production. His drummer, Rich Redmond, is a go-for-the-throat rhythm master, who likes to keep it simple but cut loose in a big way when the opportunity comes. Rich is also a budding drum clinician as well as a songwriter/producer and one of the founders of New Voice Entertainment.We interviewed him by email this week.Artist: Rich Redmond
Bands: Jason Aldean/Sessions
Gear: Rich plays Sonor, Remo, Sabian, and Pro-Mark, but also endorses more than twenty other companies in percussion, electronics, recording, and accessories. Check out his complete gear list at the end of the article.
DRUM! How do you come up with drum parts for Jason? Does the rest of the group come in with ideas?
Redmond Nashville is a unique environment because it is the songwriting capital of the world. Nashville is all about crafting perfect, radio-friendly songs. There are more music publishing companies in Nashville than anywhere on the planet. As a result, it is common for artists to record 'outside' songs (songs penned by someone else). This creates a whole side industry (which I am grateful to be part of), where musicians are hired to play on demo recordings. Publishers use demos to pitch their songs to artists that are getting ready to record. We usually hear the demos of Jason's songs a day before we record them. I scribble out a phrase chart that contains any 'drumistic' info I need and we are off to the races. It is common for the session leader to make number charts using the Nashville Number System. This is a system of quickly outlining the harmonic structure of a song. When we cut, I have my 'drumistic' chart and the number chart. Being able to read the number chart allows me to participate with the other musicians by speaking their same language.
DRUM! How long do you spend composing and recording those parts?Redmond I use the demo as a guide and then Redmondize the drum part by inserting my own feel, groove, soul, passion, intensity, dynamics and musical concepts. Jason's producer is usally pretty attached to the overall structure and vibe of the demo, but he ultimately allows me to be me. This is a fantastic luxury. Everything in Nashville is tracked in a very conservative amount of time. All of the timelines are structured with a corresponding pay scale by the Musician's Union, which I have been a member of since 1995. With Jason, we average one song per hour. We literally track his records in 3 or 4 sessions, which is 9-12 hours. This means that I usually get the drum track on the second or third run-through. There is no time to mess around. We get in, capture the moment and go home. (Ha)! Just recently I did a record for Dann Huff with a group named Steel Magnolia. We had three hours per song to track. It was quite a luxury. It gave us tons of time to experiment with tempo, form and tones (snare drum choice, cymbal choice, etc.)
Tracking usually goes like this: After the initial run through, we will address issues of tempo, form, starts and stops, dynamics and overall vibe. It may take several run-throughs to find that 'magic' tempo. Once we do...I say..."Ok, this is the one boys"...and it usually is. We cut to a click and I get one complete drum take, no punching. The tracks you hear are mixed warts and all. There is no time scrubbing, aligning or beat detective stuff. It's as close as you can get to the Motown vibe of six guys in the same room playing music together. It's realthat way. Jason has been able to set himself apart because his recordings are less slick than lots of stuff coming from Music Row.
DRUM! Tell us about one of the songs, "Johnny Cash."
Redmond That was originally cut as a demo that was later remixed for Aldean's second release. I got my take on the first try. There was room for a 6-beat drum fill at the end of the track. I thought we were just getting warmed up, so I played an over-the-top Carmine-meets-Cobham fill and the producer loved it. Now drummers in cover bands from across the country ask me how to play that fill. I always say, 'If you can read music, I'll write it out and mail it to you'...It's about as close as I have gotten to having my own 'Jack and Diane' moment. Ha!
DRUM! How much does the song evolve on the road? Your live shows have a lot of energy that records don't always capture.
Redmond We usually play it a bit more safe on the recordings because we need to have it fit in that little box that is country radio. We are also usually just hearing it for the first time when we are cutting it, so we try to stay out of the way and let the song speak for itself. For the live show, the songs tend to have a bit more meat. We add more muscle and testosterone to the frame and it helps translate to the younger audience. Everyone in the band is very visual and I play with lots of showmanship and passion. I never met a stick twirl I didn't like!
The songs also have a tendency to evolve on the road. If I had to play the same exact part every night, 200 shows per year, I would kill myself. Jason gives me complete freedom to paint my rhythmic picture. As long as the basic form, setups, dynamics and attitude is the same every night, I have total flexibility to put my stamp on it. We did 200 dates in 2006, 180 dates in 2007, 160 dates in 2008 and 140 dates in 2009. The number of dates has dropped as the venues get bigger in bigger. The size of the band has evolved as well, which has influenced how we play the songs live. In 2005, we started with a 3-piece rhythm section (my '3 Kings') and did everything we could to entertain the 50 people in the audience. Eventually we added a second guitar, and now a steel guitar as well and the audiences have swelled to 12,000. It's a very satisfying evolution to witness and be part of.
DRUM! You have great chunky grooves with Jason, and great cymbal sounds. That impresses me when I hear songs like "Keep The Girl." Do you have a particular hi-hat sound that you rely on with the band?
Redmond Thanks so much! I prefer larger hats. I have been using 15" Sabian AA Regular or Rock Hats since 2007. I could never go back to 14's unless an artist or producer asked for them. Fifteen-inch hats bark like a junkyard dog and they blend really well with acoustic instruments. They are meaty and warm. They have become part of my sound, my default size. I am even using 16" prototype hats that I picked out from the Sabian Vault in Canada. That was a fun day! Slushy and sexy are words that come to mind for those. I prefer big gear all together...Big Kicks 24" or 26", 6.5" snare drums, 12",16",18" toms. I'm also using a 24" AA Rock Ride on the road that could slice off an ogre's head! Ouch!
Going platinum. Sweet!
DRUM! You are producing, writing, everything now. Can you tell us what's up with Three Kings and acts you are working with?
Redmond It is very important to multi-task in the industry. It's the only way to have longevity in this business. I tour, I play live in Nashville, I do sessions, I do clinics and I produce. I love it all! My '3 Kings' rhythm section consists of Kurt Allison (guitar) and Tully Kennedy (bass). We have been making music together for 10 years. The level of communication between us is deep. You can't put a price on that. Our pal David Fanning (vocal coach, pro tools editor) became our 4th partner and we started New Voice Entertainment 2 years ago. We are developing several acts on Broken Bow Records and it's sister label, Stoney Creek. Broken Bow was voted the world's 'Best Indie Label' across all genres by Billboard magazine for 2009. Our first act, Ash Bowers, has a single called "Ain't No Stoppin' Her Now" that's currently climbing the charts. In the near future, their will be releases from artists Blake Wise and Thompson Square. We are also cutting sides on a gal named Krista Marie. We even did a club/dance remix of Jason's #1 hit "She's Country" which featured our rap artist FINESSE 'flowing' on the verses. It sold really well on itunes and tons of NFL cheerleading squads dance to it at games. We had fun tracking with Finesse, because we used all real instruments to create his rap/rock sound...no programming. Very fun.
Our goal is to keep cutting great songs with great artists and stay in the game. Becoming one of the top production teams in Nashville and beyond is the goal. It's already a unique story to tell. Nashville has many solo producers, but no full rhythm sections that are actually producing and playing on the projects. You have to find a niche and make it stick.DRUM! How has being a drummer helped you with that aspect of your career?
Redmond I think drummers make excellent producers. Look at Butch Vig, Dave Grohl, Russ Kunkel...We are used to seeing the big picture. Trying to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together in a smooth and musical fashion is our daily modus operandi. It's what we do! I'm there to make the artist happy with everything from the tempo to the key of the song...to...lunch catering and the temperature of the room! (Ha)...
I always try to just think musically. When you are focused on making the end product gorgeous and you focus on making everyone else comfortable, you will end of being invited to lots of parties! Successful drummers are team players and team players always achieve the most success in life. Seeing the big picture inspired me to learn how to play percussion early on. Now I do tons of percussion overdubs in Nashville. Some of my 'shake and rattle'is on new releases by Trace Adkins, Chuck Wicks, The Lost Trailers, Montgomery Gentry, Frankie Ballard, Josh Thompson and Josh Gracin.
Jason gives me complete freedom to paint my rhythmic picture.DRUM! What do you like better, the road or the studio?
Redmond That's a great question. I have to have both of them in my life because they both present a unique set of challenges and they both satisfy different parts of my soul. I thrive on the immediacy of a live crowd...their energy, their enthusiasm...and my responsibility to entertain them and give them 200%! Playing live is physical and that satisfies my inner athlete. It's a moment, it's an event, it's a shared experience between the people on stage and the fans. It's beyond satisfying. I can get off on a great performance with 12 people in the club or 12,000 in an arena. It's magical.
Studio drumming is special to me because it's historical. You are recording a snapshot of a musical performance for all eternity. There's a lot of responsibility that goes along with that as well. The 'craftsman' in me revels in my choice of the perfect tempo, the selection of the right snare drum for the track, or nailing a performance on the first try. Hearing yourself on radio or TV also never gets old.I remember driving down the highway with Kurt and Tully. We were waiting to hear the lead single from the band we were in, Rushlow, on the radio. When we finally heard it, three grown men broke down in tears. Our dreams had come to fruition and it was a powerful moment.
I love juggling my recording and touring life. If I have 3 days off in Nashville, I will get on the phone and hustle some sessions. It's an addiction that has to be fed!DRUM! How often do you change heads and maintain gear when you're touring?
Redmond I have two great guys that help me with my gear on the road, John Fritz and Ed Turner. They both play drums which is amazing. They set em' up and tear them down for me an I handle day to day tuning. If I am busy with clinics during the day, they will help me swap out heads. I usually change kick drum heads every 3 months, tom tops every 2 weeks and a snare drum head once every 3 shows. The density of shows usually determines the change. We are averaging 3-4 shows per week now, but it may be more in the summer. I'm a very physical player, but I play with correct technique. I have classical and jazz training, so the Moeller technique came natural to me. It's the only way to get a good tone out of your instrument and not hurt yourself. It also saves heads!DRUM! What's next for you?
Redmond I am very excited about continuing to rock with Mr. Aldean. His 10th single, "Crazy Town" hits radio on Feb. 23rd. We just celebrated our 4th multi week #1 hit with "The Truth". What an amazing feeling. I have been working towards this my entire life! We are recording Jason's 4th record in between tour dates. That record will be released late this year, so I look forward to hitting LA and NY and doing the late night and day time TV show circuit. I'm really grateful to have had such a steady gig since March of 2005. The fact that my best friends make up the band is a huge bonus.
It is also my intention to keep pushing towards being one of the busier session drummer/percussionists on Music Row. I am also throwing it out to the universe my intention to work with more internationally recognized artists in a variety of genres. That's a big goal. And, continuing to push New Voice Entertainment further up the flag pole is also on the list.
DRUM! You've also started performing at clinics.
Redmond Education has always played a huge part in my life. I am a product of the great music education system in Texas. After many years of playing the drums on a pro level, I feel like I can give back to the drumming community. I have a story to tell and I have learned lots along the way. I enjoy sharing my nuggets of wisdom with players of all ages, backgrounds and levels of ability. I have a new drum event that I am promoting called Rich Redmond's "CRASH Course For Success". CRASH is an acronym that stands for Commitment-Relationships-Attitude-Skill-Hunger. It's a great spring board for talking about universal laws of success and how you can get from point a to point b in the music business and in this 'game of life'. Staci Stokes, Promark's Educational Director is representing me and we are booking lots of events. Feel free to visit http://www.crashcourseforsuccess.com. During the day on my tour stops, I have been visiting college percussion programs, high schools and drum shops and presenting my clinic. I also offer master classes and even 'house call' drum lessons on the road. Students hear about me via Twitter (@richredmond) or Facebook; they pick me up at the venue and I teach them a lesson at their house or the local drum shop. It's very satisfying.
I hope to see everyone on the road! Thanks!
The band with Jason (hat) and Brian Adams in the middle. Rich Redmond is far right.
Drums/Live Sonor S Classix in Grained Maple Finish; 24" x 17.5" Bass Drum; 14" x 5.5." Phil Rudd Signature Snare Drum; 12" x12" Tom; 16"x 16" Floor Tom (with legs); 18" x 18" Floor Tom (with legs).
Drums/Studio A selection of Sonor SQ2, Delite and S Class drums.
Hardware Sonor 600 Series
Pedals DW 5000 or 9000 double pedals; Danmar Cherry Red Wood Beaters
Cymbals Sabian16" Prototype Hats (hand selected from the factory Vault); 15" AA Rock Hats as auxiliary hats; 12" AA Splash stacked on a 12" AA Mini Chinese; Two (2) 19" Vault Saturation Crashes; 24" Custom Made AA Rock Ride; 20" HHX Evolution Ride (for sessions); 19" Vault Devastation China or Paragon China;19" HHX Ozone Crash (for sessions)
Drumheads Remo CS Coated Black Dot on Snare or Emperor X; Tom Tops: Smooth White Emperors (for live and studio); Tom Bottoms: Clear Ambassadors; Bass Drum: Clear Powerstroke 3 with Remo Double Pedal Falam Slam Pads
Sticks Pro-Mark Autographed 5B American Hickory with wood tip; Black Stick Wrap; Brushes, Hot and Cool Rods
Muffling DW Muffling Pillow or household pillow in bass drum; Moon Gels (various sizes and positions depending on the situation)
Electronics/Live Alesis SR-18 Drum Machine and Tama Rhythm Watch for click generation; Alesis DM5 Sound Module (DDRUM trigger source); DDRUM electronic triggers (used on kick to send an electronic signal to Buttkicker shakers)
Electronics/Studio Apple Macbook running Protools, Reason, Ableton, Stylus RMX; Akai MPC 2000
In-Ear MonitorsUltimate Ears
Cases Impact Cases
Trunks Alcorn Custom Case
Stick Holders Danmar and Qwikstix
Percussion/Live LP Ridge Rider Rock Cowbell, Rhythm Tech Pro Series Tambourine Percussion/Studio Assorted Sonor, Remo, Rhythm Tech, Factory Metal Percussion and Grover treats...as well as 'found sounds'.
Accessories Cympad cymbal pads, Safehoops, The Drumdial, The Robokey, Hansenfutz Practice Pedals, Woodshed Percussion Custom Bass Drum Artwork, Blowit Fans, Real Feel Practice Pads, The Beatnik Rhythmic Analyzer, Hiptrix Glow in the dark drumsticks, Buttkicker, Phatfoot, Organic Drums Custom Snare Drums. Other Drum Star Wear, Wrangler Fashion,Turn It Up And Lay It Down Play Along Series.