Y’all In Clave? Nashville Percussionists Roundtable

DRUM!: Do you prefer tracking with a live rhythm section or doing overdubs later on that ultimately may save time and money?
Bacco: I always prefer overdubbing for the art of it because I am totally in control of what frequencies I can use that really affect the track. I can make a section livelier or duller and it’s the “me” show. The engineer will take time and get the sounds we want. However, for the camaraderie, for the hang, and certainly for the higher budget records, I like to track live.
Darken: Didn’t you do the Neil Diamond record Tennessee Moon tracking both live and doing overdubs?
Bacco: That was really the best of both worlds. It was so cool because we had three different drummers. There was such a difference between Harry Stinson, Chester Thompson, and Paul Liem. It was more interesting to track with these guys to see which one is more giving than the other, or which one even considers that there is a percussionist in the room and leaves room for that percussionist. Neil Diamond is a great example of another star coming to record in Nashville.
Caruba: I much prefer to do overdubs, mainly because I can work at my own pace, but I agree with Sam, that it’s best if the drummer leaves you space.

(Left) Glen Caruba

DRUM!: Arguably, Nashville has the greatest concentration of recording studios per capita over any other music capital in the world boasting all of the latest technologies.
Caruba: I work regularly for a client that tracks the rhythm section from his Nashville studio, but the engineering and producing is done in real time from his New York studio.
Roady: Almost every writer in this town has their own studio.
Sorbo: And almost every engineer, too.
Roady: It’s really come around to where almost every studio musician has to have their own home studio.
Sorbo: You can paint your own picture. It’s like a coloring book for me, having your own studio in your house. It’s not just using samples, because I bring guys in to really play.

DRUM!: What else do you guys do? Sam, I know you also are a drum designer.
Bacco: Actually, I have a consulting company that does product development for many corporations. For years I worked for Gibson and we had the Mapex line. I was also head of R&D for Slingerland, then I worked for Gretsch, and am presently working with Leedy and Cooperman Fife and Drum, as well as my own thing.

Caruba: I am in charge of product development and marketing for Pearl Percussion. I’m sure you can relate but I find an equal satisfaction in performing as with developing and marketing the instruments that I use, or more so, that other percussionists use.

Bacco: It’s very complementary that one feeds off another as well as a great balancing act. After those thousands of shaker tracks you have to play from top to bottom make you want to go to the shop and drill some holes. Then you go drill holes, and after about your five-thousandth hole, then you’re ready to play shaker again. It starts out of the fear that you’re never going to work again. We all know that you can be the session king for one week, and then no one calls for three months. I play as principal percussionist in the Nashville Symphony, then the product development and repair stuff, and then the studio work. It’s just such a great balance except when everything hits at the same time.
Roady: Being a non-orchestral player, I am so happy that you guys [Ron and Sam] finally have a home [Schermerhorn Symphony Center].
Bacco: Thanks. We actually sold more classical units [recording] than any other group last year.
Caruba: When I meet someone for the first time that doesn’t know what I do, I say I am drummer. If I need to elaborate I’ll get into the many spokes on my wheel: Product developer for Pearl, session musician, teacher, writer, and yes, sometimes it becomes a bit overwhelming but it seems that you always want too much work versus too little.

(Left) Tom Roady

DRUM!: Say you meet a new percussionist that just moved to town, regardless of being a newcomer or veteran. What is the one piece of advice you would give?
Roady: Hook up with as many young songwriters that are going out and performing on songwriter nights and take a djembe or shaker and be unobtrusive. Meet as many of those people as you can, because that’s where you’ll get into demo work then ultimately master sessions.
Caruba: Be professional and have a good attitude. Show up to a session or gig with plenty of time to get a sound check. Especially sessions. If you are a newcomer and you don’t have a cartage company delivering your gear, you have to make sure that everything is set, tuned, and ready to go with enough time for the engineer to get sounds on you and the rest of the group. If it’s a union session and you’re not ready to go at 10:00 A.M. that’s a sure way of not getting the call again regardless of your talent.
Sorbo: Learn to play the piano and start writing songs to make as much money as you can as far as survival. If you can start writing songs or writing anything — sure there are more songwriters than instrumentalists as we spoke about earlier — but over the long haul there is future money that can be coming in, so all the time you are still playing you can also do something else for income. Learning to play piano or guitar, it opens your ears up to when, playing on songs, you have a better understanding of what’s going on.
Darken: Try to find quality environments to play in whether it is church, a club, songwriters, and eventually word will get out if you’re a good player and easy to work with.
Bacco: Create your own work. I didn’t come in to take Farrell Morris’ work. I came in and created my own niche. Go out and create your own group of people that you hang and work with and develop it. Sometimes that can take the better part of a decade to really come into it, but you’re going to be working. You may not be working like gangbusters or making the best thing, but everybody from that generation will eventually do it.

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