The following interview took place during 2010 when Jamie Little was touring the UK with Texas Blues artist, Hamilton Loomis. It first appeared in digital format on the ADC Drums website.
Mention Birmingham or the Midlands of England, and most people visualise an industrial landscape, dominated by concrete, motorways, pollution and silent factories that were once the lifeblood of the British car industry. Behind this somewhat blinkered façade, it is easy to forget that the area spawned a music scene that produced some fine drummers such as Bill Ward, Bev Bevan, Jim Capaldi, Carl Palmer, Don Powell, Roger Taylor, Chris Dagley and a certain Mr Bonham from Redditch. Keeping that tradition alive in the 21st century, we have new blood emerging from the heart of England, treading the path taken by eminent predecessors. With more than enough musical prowess to inhabit the worlds of Pop, Rock, Soul and Blues, Jamie Little has been a regular first-call player to cover the groove requirements of artists as diverse as ‘Boyzone’, Leona Lewis and Roy Wood, right up to Soul ‘Sista’ Beverly Knight. Currently making a name for himself as a much sought-after drumming choice for American Blues artists visiting Europe, we caught up with Jamie on Texas Bluesman, Hamilton Loomis’ UK tour.
Which area of Birmingham are you from?
I was actually born in a place called Washwood Heath – which is pretty near the centre – and I now live in Hockley which is the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham.
When were you first aware you wanted to play the drums?
Well, my Dad is a musician; his name is Curtis Little. He was a singer in a couple of very, very good Soul bands in the Midlands, so I’ve been aware of bands and music since I was born. I’m the eldest of two boys, and when I was first born my Mum went back to work so my Dad would have me all day long in a sling around his neck and take me to rehearsals and all that stuff! So since I was a baby I’ve been initiated into that kind of lifestyle, which settled down after my parent’s separated. I saw my first live gig when I was 10 or 11 and heard a drum kit being sound-checked through a 10k rig. I stood in front of it and still remember the feeling to this day of the kick drum hitting my stomach and the Snare drum slicing my head off! I suppose it was that and also the fact that my Dad had a drum kit in the cellar at home. So from when I was a kid there was always a kit around – although I didn’t really start playing the kit properly until I was 12 or 13 and I’d done a short stint in the Boy’s Brigade on the side drum. I notice Pick Withers (‘Dire Straits’) was interviewed and talked about drumming in the Boy’s Brigade. So again, just like Pick, I soon progressed to the ‘corner boy’ where you walk in a block and on the corner is the guy who shouts the call and answers. I was very quickly doing that and although it wasn’t really kit playing, it was certainly picking up sticks and listening to things. Then my Dad found me a kit from somewhere and that was it! I knew what I wanted; I knew I wanted to play drums.
Did you learn any technique in the Boy’s Brigade or have any formal lessons?
I haven’t had any lessons from anybody; I guess the only lesson you could say I had was some old dude in the Boy’s Brigade who told me how to hold the sticks – although I was taught to hold the sticks orthodox style and play the side drum, which is of course, nothing to do with playing a kit!
Coming from a musical background, were your parents supportive of you?
Yes they were. My mum and stepdad were so supportive of me and my home had a basement cellar which was right underneath the lounge. When I was 15 I was rehearsing down there every night with a 3 piece power-trio rock band and they would put ear plugs in upstairs and try to watch TV! Now that’s supportive! They used to drive me to gigs and help out with equipment – although there was nothing lavished on me. I remember saving up for cymbals – only another £20 and I’ll have enough for a crash cymbal etc, so it was a meagre existence as a young musician. But I’m kind of glad it was that way because I see a lot of kids who are just bought the best of everything and I think its easy then not to appreciate what you’ve got. So yes, I had very supportive parents in both camps; my mum and my stepdad and then my Dad who lived across town and who really taught me the ropes.
What drummers influenced you when you were growing up?
I’m not really into lots of other drummers. I don’t want that to sound arrogant, but I don’t necessarily listen to drummers, so there’s a lot of tunes I grew up listening to that I couldn’t tell you who played on them. One of the biggest impacts was ‘Pick up The Pieces’ by Average White Band and of course, I did some research and found out that Steve Ferrone was their drummer and then years later, I found out that it wasn’t actually him on that single, it was a guy called Robbie McIntosh! That brilliant fill in the middle of the song, my Dad always used to say was like someone pouring a glass of melted chocolate. I guess a lot of the music I listened to at the time came from my Dad, a lot of Rhythm and Blues, a lot of Soul. In fact, I’d say that 90% of what I was listening to was 60’s Southern Soul like Otis Reading, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Sam and Dave, Arthur Conley, Percy Sledge; then as I got older I started listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Fabulous Thunderbirds along with the Blues and Soul based music my Dad was playing in his bands.
Were you gigging in bands from an early age?
I was a big lad for 14 or 15 so I could get into clubs. Hanging around my Dad’s gigs I knew quite a few muso’s, although I remember thinking at that point that I wanted to go my own way. I didn’t really want to get involved with his scene; I wanted to get something of my own going. I just did what I presume kids do these days which was go to the rehearsal studios and check out the little signs on the boards and ring people up. My first formative band was a band called ‘Summerland’ which was a 3 piece rock trio. Just me, guitar and bass and we all sang. We were playing gigs at night and I’d be falling asleep during the science lesson in school the next day!
You were in the David Bowie Tribute Band ‘Jean Genie’, was that your introduction into the world of professional work?
Not really. My progression into professional work was with a Blues band called the ‘Mighty House Rockers’ who are still working. It’s fronted by a guy called Les Wilson who is a great front-man, great guitar player, real Hendrix kind of influence and when I was about 17, we were going out to Europe and I realised quickly that I could actually earn enough money just by playing. It didn’t just stay that way though. I went back to college and did some other jobs, but that was the first taste I had of being pro. After that, my first big break was playing for ‘Boyzone’.
That’s a pretty big break!
Yeah it was pretty cool and again, it was through a contact of my Dad’s. His guitar player Keith Randle was in a studio in Birmingham and wanted me to come down and put some drums on something. The young sound engineer had a gig passed to him of the little known boy-band ‘Boyzone’, which he had to put a small band together for. At the time, it was just drums and keyboards they needed, everything else was on tape, so he asked me and I’ve never looked back since then really.
If that was your introduction to the world of pop sessions, did that get you the connection to do the X-Factor stuff?
Similar connections; it wasn’t like one gig lead to another. There were lots of ups and downs in the meantime; in fact, I came out of the ‘Boyzone’ gig thinking “I’m sure there’s another gig around the corner” but I was out of work for nearly a year. I actually trained as a carpenter when I left school so at this point my Mum was saying, “Come on Jamie, it’s about time you got a real job now!” On the other side, my Dad was saying, “I agree with you, but at the same time, someone has to be the drummer in a band, someone’s got to have a go at it or there’ll be no drummers in the world!” So although they were both supportive, I was always good with my hands and had something to fall back on in those early years. After the ‘Boyzone’ gig I literally had no work, because you go out on the road for two years and when you get back to town, all the little gigs you were doing have been given to someone else!
Charlie Morgan, Elton John’s old drummer used to say the same thing. He’d go away for two years with Elton, come back to London and the phone would be dead because everyone thought he was still out with Elton or too expensive!
Exactly, that’s what it’s like!
Tell us about your appearance on ‘Top Of The Pops’ with Beverley Knight
The Bev Knight thing was a lot of fun. It was actually just a mime and it came about because I’ve got a band in Birmingham called ‘The Downstroke’ which is sort of an R&B pop covers band. I put that together really just to shake the tree in Birmingham as there were a lot of bands doing function type Soul. I wanted to do the kind of Soul no one could ever play, which was R&B Soul, so I put a band together with some of the gospel guys in Birmingham. The guitar player – who happened to be Beverley Knight’s MD – called me one day and said “can you come down and do these songs?” so I said “yeah I’d love to!” She was gorgeous, great to work for. It was just a mime – nothing more to it than that. I hear there’s lots of men in line for that gig whenever it comes around so I was honoured to be asked to do anything at all! Yeah she’s great, she’s great. I just think that you never really know what’s around the corner; you never really know what’s going to happen, so you just take whatever comes your way.
Did you have to audition for the X-Factor gig?
No. An MD friend of mine called me. That’s the way it works. A production company is hired to put the show on and the production company hires an MD and the MD hires the band and that’s it.
You’re also becoming well known in the Blues circuit, so you’ve had your feet in a few camps really.
The Blues is a funny thing. Someone once said “Blues isn’t dead; it just smells bad!” It doesn’t matter where you go in Birmingham, there’s always a Blues club somewhere and it’s been a Blues town for years and years. One of the places I would drink was a place called ‘The Adam and Eve’ which still does great business; but as a live venue 17 years ago they would have a band on every night. By the time I was 16 or 17 I was working with every band playing there. I could literally leave my kit set up every night of the week working with a different band!
Now you play with American artists visiting Europe such as Sherman Robertson and Hamilton Loomis, so you’ve managed to break into that level of the circuit.
Yes, Hamilton happened first for me. Ham had already been over once and he’d brought his rhythm section with him. While it was great to bring the whole band over, because he was just starting out here, I don’t think he went home with a lot of money. So, fiscally it was more advantageous for him to find a rhythm section in this country and fly over with his sax/keyboard player. While they were here, they bumped into (guitarist) Matt Schofield and kept in touch. Hamilton called Matt and said, “I’m going to come back to England next year but I need a drummer and/or a bass player; can you recommend anyone?” Anyway, Matt recommended me and I got an email. In fact, I was sitting in X-Factor rehearsals in 2006 at the Ritz in London, and this email pinged up “gig with US artist” so I read it and I listened to the material. As soon as I heard it I thought, “This is great, this has got to be done!” So I said “yes”, and I haven’t really looked back. Then a couple of years later the gig with Sherman Robertson became available. A guy who also used to play in ‘Gene Jeanie’ was already doing the gig and asked me if I wanted to do it, so I said “I’d love to do it!” Within a couple of years I’d gone from not playing any Blues, to playing with everyone out there! It was a little bit crazy!
When you first started working in the UK with Hamilton, it was assumed that he was carrying a US rhythm section. People weren’t aware he was using British players. This can sometimes comes as a bit of a disappointment to some audiences, as it’s well known that there are very few British rhythm sections who can nail an authentic American Blues feel, especially shuffles. But as you have proven, it is obvious that you have an understanding of the music which perhaps goes back to your musical upbringing?
Yes and No. ‘The Mighty House Rockers’ (the band I first got steady work with), I was replacing a guy called Tom Farnell who to this day, is one of the best double-shuffle players I’ve ever heard and I had to cut my teeth on his legacy! I had to try and get that double-shuffle right and I don’t really feel that I really was happy with that double-shuffle feel until just a few years ago. So that’s like 17 years it’s taken me to do that! I’ve seen some American guys first hand who are brilliant straight players – but can’t shuffle to save their lives. I don’t think nationality even comes into it. I think it’s whether you understand what a guitar player needs from you when they play a shuffle.
So obviously you passed the test with the American artists?
Yeah I’d like to think so; I did a great trip at the start of this year to the Caribbean at the Mustique Blues Festival and it’s the first time I’ve been asked to do it and it’s a great honour to be asked to do it because a lot of guys would kill to get that gig! You’re basically on a Caribbean island for three weeks and I got to play with all the artists that were there. I was actually sharing it with another drummer called Mick Morena. We played with Joe Louis Walker who’s a Grammy award winning Blues player from New York and Harp player Billy Branch from Chicago. By the end of it, I was playing with both of them on each night; in the end Donald Fagen turned up and aksed to jam! That was really great! I guess I do sort of pat myself on the shoulder when I get off stage with people like Joe Louis Walker, Billy Branch, Sherman Robertson and those guys say, “Yeah man, you can really shuffle!” When those guys say “you can shuffle”, you can shuffle!
So obviously, Hamilton’s not going to bother bringing an American drummer over in the future, you seem to be a permanent fixture.
Well, this is the way it works; Ham’s on the road all year round, and just as it’s difficult to keep a band on the road in this country, it’s a full time job for him for him in the States as well. Depending on where he’s touring, sometimes he’ll pick up a drummer in the places he’s going. Of course, he does have permanent members there, but when the drummer left him who’d came over here with him the first time, the position started floating around. Other people would pick up the gig over in the States, but two years ago when a drummer let him down over a North American tour, he flew me out, which was great! I did all the southern states – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi – which was an absolutely fabulous experience. I don’t know why I thought it’d be so different from here; in fact, it was the same – vans and load-ins and stages and monitor-men who couldn’t pull their finger out of their asses and all the rest of it! But it was great to have that experience on the road with him in hiscountry because here, I think a lot of people don’t know what to make of it, they’ve never seen anything like it before! In the States they kind of get it a bit more.
That’s probably because Blues music is part of their history, whereas, over here, we experimented with the genre in the 60’s and 70’s and exported our version back over to America and then lost it during the 80’s, allowing it to metamorphosis into something closer to Rock than Blues.
Yes, I think there are certain artists who took the Blues and put a white mans vibe to it – which I applaud in some ways – but it changed the way Blues is thought about by an English audience. But at the same token, music’s ephemeral, it’s constantly changing and I do get a little bit annoyed by purists who say, “that’s not how Muddy Waters would do it!” but that’s because Muddy Waters was doing it! Unless you’re Muddy Waters you aren’t going to do it like that and if you do do it like that, you’re copying. I don’t get too hung up about purist people because Hamilton is a living example of how you take Blues as a structure, and then add little bits of influences from every musical genre going.
Exactly! Blues is a big church and sometimes it’s hard for British audiences to take every influence on board.
There will be a lot of guys in this audience tonight who will be able to tell you exactly where Howling Wolf was when he cut his record or exactly where Etta James was when she did so-and-so, and that’s all well and good, but getting back to the likes of Hamilton, it’s about bringing the Blues into a new domain. I think for English audiences, I don’t think they have to know where the origins of things come from. I think when something entertains them, it’s good enough. Certainly with Hamilton you can ask, “is it Blues, is it funk?” but you can’t pigeon-hole it because it’s a melting pot of so many different things. But it’s definitely entertainment.
Yes, he definitely makes a connection with an audience; he’s the A-star front-man you want, he can sell anything!
He kind of wrote the modern book on it really, even though he doesn’t know it, he really did!
Getting back to the British Blues scene, does it worry you that audiences don’t seem to be getting younger even though the genre is producing new young guns like Oli Brown for example?
Yes, I totally understand what you’re saying and I think I can speak with some authority on this because I worked with Joanne Shaw Taylor for a long time and I’ve just done Oli Brown’s latest album (‘Heads I win, tails you lose’) and Dani Wilde’s album. They’re signed to RUF Records and if you want to look at the young Blues players, RUF’s got them all. Certainly in Oli’s case, he’s come from a Blues background but just like John Mayer did, he’s taken the Blues, added a few more chords, written some interesting songs and melodies around it and all of a sudden you’ve got something that’s bordering on a pop album which is what Oli’s album is. It is Blues based, just like Hamilton’s stuff, but it’s not ‘The Blues’. It’s based on it, but the songs are accounts of his life so far and that’s what sets this new album apart from his last one. With British Blues though, I think it’s a bit too early to tell which way it’s going to go; we’ve already seen the reversion from the Electronica of the 80’s and 90’s reverting back to guitar bands like ‘White Stripes’, ‘Franz Ferdinand’ and all that. In America, we always seem to follow them; we’re always a few steps behind. Certainly with John Mayer – and I hope he’s not the only phenomenon – he’s gone from being a Blues artist to being a household pop name. Again, it’s still based on Blues, but it’s not Blues anymore; it’s Soul, it’s popular songs, and if that makes ‘The Blues’ more popular then I say good on him! I kind of see Oli in the same vein – I’m not making a comparison to Mayer as I think they’ve both got different things to offer – but I do see that Oli’s progressing from beyond just being a ‘guitar slinger’. Nowadays, thanks to the Internet, the world’s a smaller place and you can go on YouTube and look up some really good guitar slingers from Mississippi who can’t be beaten. So why would you want to try? Why not write an album that sets you apart from the rest of those people?
Even so, you must have noticed that the UK Blues scene is predominantly followed by an older audience and unless there is some new blood coming into audiences, it could find itself on the endangered list.
But traditionally ‘The Blues’ has always been a fifty-something-mild-drinking-will-you-sign-my-T-Bone-Walker-album kind of scene! It still very much has that tag today. When I toured the States the audiences were a lot younger and you would find a Blues band like Hamilton’s playing in any nightclub in America. They don’t put Blues clubs on in working men’s clubs like they do here. They’ll put on a Blues band on any stage anywhere. Music is less pigeon-holed in America so you never know, it might follow on here.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed on that on…As someone making a living as a professional musician within an industry that has changed massively over the last decade, how do you see the future for someone wanting to play drums professionally?
Well…I don’t really know about that one. I don’t think it’s got any easier or any tougher. Certainly in the 60’s and the 70’s you had more chance of getting a gig as the whole thing was newer. In the 80’s and the 90’s if you were already established you had more chance of making a big buck because record companies had big budgets, record producers had big pockets, you could go and cut an album and if you played it right you could retire! That’s what session musicians did back in the 80’s. Since the coming of Logic, drum programming and all the rest of it, of course that’s had an effect. With the digital download scene, I think that as music becomes more freely available through the internet there’s less value in what you record, but there’s more value in what you perform live. For me, I think there’s still a healthy gigging scene all over the world and though people might change the way they listen to a product, they’ll never change the way they listen on stage to human beings performing it. It’s always going to be ‘us and them’; it’s always going to be the band and the audience. How else are you going to do it? A little live remote video link that’s like a DVD? You need to be in the room. You can’t package it another way, you’ve got to be in the room and that will always be there. So as far as live gigging goes I don’t think that’s going to change and if anything, the live show is going to get more of the focus for the artist because it’s the place where they can physically sell product. I certainly feel that in the Blues world, I would tell smart people that if they want to make an album, don’t actually put it on their website to download; make people actually come to the gig and buy it. Like I said, the live gig is more of a focus for the musicians business these days than it ever was, simply because of the ephemeral nature of music as a downloadable product.
Despite the shrinking nature of CD sales, there’s still a healthy interest in big pop shows with the likes of Lady GaGa and a recent report by PRS suggests that there are cores of dedicated music consumers who still want to buy the actual artist CD along with getting their hands on the ‘must have’ tickets for the shows. Perhaps there is a future for musicians in the industry?
It’s interesting that you’re talking about the pop thing; I was talking to my mate who still does ‘Boyzone’, their recent album didn’t do quite as well as they wanted, probably because a lot of ‘Boyzone’ fans (and it’s probably the same with Lady GaGa fans) care more about the visual side. They’re not really ‘listeners’, they want to be involved with the artist as ‘a product’, they don’t really care about the artists product, they view The Artist as ‘the product’ really. Why would they go and spend 79p on a download of a tune when they can watch them free on YouTube and actually see them singing it? I guess that attitude has always been there, but again with YouTube, that’s just reinforced it. The whole digital age is reinforcing what we already knew about they way people consume music.
Your observations on this part of the music business are certainly refreshing to hear. It’s certainly more important for drummers to keep a watchful eye on the industry rather than getting sucked into a lot of nerdy gear-talk!
Which is great, because I’m not really a nerdy drummer! I hate talking about gear and I hate talking about chops and rudiments! I don’t have any chops and rudiments! If you asked me how to do a 5-stroke roll now, I’d be here ‘til Christmas because I’m a groove player! I play songs; if you read my website (www.jamielittle.co.uk) it says I play the song like I feel it in my heart. I’ve got some chops but I’m not a flash showman, I hate drum solos and he (Hamilton) makes me do two!
Again, this is where we see so many players get side-tracked into stick-twirling, Olympian drum-slinging, the pursuit of unfeasibly fast double-bass drum licks etc, whilst forgetting that their role is completely irrelevant without a song.
Absolutely. Speaking as a band member, I see a lot of drummers out there, great clinicians that I see bits of here and there, who can play all day long without the song, but that isn’t necessarily music, it’s rhythm. Being part of the band or part of the musical set-up where you’re adding your bit I think is far more rewarding.
It is easy for drummers – or any musician for that matter – to get their heads turned by another musician with outstanding technical skills and follow that path, but you seem to embody what a musician should be, i.e., you play for the song rather than to massage an attention-hungry ego.
It’s great to hear other people recognise that. Both of the albums I did recently for Mike Vernon (legendary English record producer), I felt a tendency to play less than I’ve ever played on anything, just to keep out of the way of everything else that was going on. I think that’s very important, especially when you’re recording. Playing live, there’s always a little bit of extra adrenalin and you may throw in something a little bit pushy, a little bit flash, it’s gone in a second and you can move on. You do that on a record and you live with it for the rest of your life! I really took on board something a bass playing friend of mine said to me years ago; he said when you go into a studio just play slightly underneath your means, just get it done and make it classic. My worst nightmare is to record something that I then listen to twenty years afterwards and get to a part where I know I messed up! So I just play it straight and it works.
For the benefits of the gear-heads out there, let’s talk a bit about the equipment you use! You’re playing a DW kit at the moment?
Yeah, it’s power-sizes so it’s a 22” x 18” Bass drum, 10” x 9” and I’ve got a 12” x 10” and a 16” Floor tom. Today you’ll see the 10” and the 16” but I find it works well in a number of different combinations. I really like the DW sound I must say, though it’s probably no better or worse than the Premier kits I was playing five years ago, or the Pearl kits I was playing five years before that. They’re just one of many you can choose from and they all do the job and I’ve kind of settled on that DW now. But who knows what it might be next year? I’m also endorsed by Zildjian Cymbals, Protection Racket cases and Vic Firth sticks.
Do you ever use any vintage gear?
I do use some vintage gear; I’ve got a great Ludwig 400 which I actually rediscovered.
I’ve had it in my basement for years and I did a couple of albums with it many years ago, took it on the road and for some reason, I don’t know – another Snare drum came along – I shelved it for a little while. Then I got it out for a session with a guy who specifically wanted a metal shelled Snare drum and I’ve just used it ever since! I’ve literally used it on everything; I even took it to the Caribbean with me! It’s great for live rooms because it’s really heavily dampened, so you get this “THUCK!” out of it; I really love that sound! I’ve recorded with it very dampened, very detuned and there’s a great vibe happening with it. I bought a kit off eBay a couple of years ago, purely because I liked the look of it and it would look great on TV etc, and it was an old 70’s Pearl wood and fibreglass kit which is obviously quite a thick shell. I had it shipped from America and restored it myself as best I could. I cut the 13” tom down and made it into a Snare drum! Funnily enough, I thought it looked great but wouldn’t be good on recordings; but one time I got stuck when my DW was on a truck on another tour and Sherman (Robertson) asked me to go and do a BBC recording at Maida Vale studios. So I said “yeah, I can do it but I’ll have to take my ‘Junker’!” – I call it ‘The Junker’ – so I took it to Maida Vale along with some cracked cymbals as it was all I could lay my hands on at the time, and that recording’s one of the best I’ve ever done! I mean the sound of that kit was just fabulous, really very, very good. So I do use little bits of vintage gear. I get a little bit frustrated with people who only use vintage gear because I don’t think it quite stands up to the rigours of the road like modern stuff and I find that unless it’s miked, vintage gear can be a little bit too quiet by today’s standards.
Especially with the old 3-ply mahogany/maple glue ring combination you find on old Ludwig kits. It’s very boomy, but as soon as you step away from the kit, it doesn’t project as well as modern kits do and you need to employ some decent overheads to compete with a band using modern backline.
What I liked about the vintage Pearl kit, not only did it look great, it was really loud! It’s the loudest thing I’ve got that kit, just because it’s got all this fibreglass coating on the inside. The Bass drum’s like a cannon, I’m really, really pleased with it.
All though you say you don’t have many chops, you’ve got some pretty fast Bass drum work that you throw in now and then, which would fool drummers into thinking that you’re actually using a double-pedal! Where did you get you’re inspiration from to get that facility in Bass drum technique.
I’ll tell you where it came from; it’s based on the double-pedal lick that everyone gets down – you know, the fast thing. I actually got it from a drummer called Jerry Gaskill who’s the drummer for ‘Kings X’, who are an amazing band. Unlike all the Rock drummers of the time, he had a Yamaha 4-piece kit – in fact, he might have had two Floor toms – and he used a single Ludwig Speedking pedal with a nylon belt and I tell you, he sounded like a Tommy gun, absolutely amazing! It was in one of their videos that they zoomed the camera into his pedal when he played this hand-foot triplet fill and I saw the way his foot moved and realised it was the heel-toe technique. So I kind of got it from that really.
No doubt he’d been studying the Bonham stuff then! Going back to what you were saying earlier about not really being into drummers for the sake of drumming, are there any particular drummers who stand out to you today for their contribution to drumming a musical approach rather than a ‘drummer’s drummer’ approach?
Well, Steve Jordan’s very trendy at the moment and I have to say, I’ve only ever bought one drum tuition DVD and it was his, because I’d heard the John Mayer Trio ‘Try’ album and the John Schofield Ray Charles tribute album that he played on. So I bought the tuition DVD, but although what he played was very good, I was more knocked out by the amount of times he changed his clothes – I just love him for that! But seriously, I love Steve Jordan, I love Steve Ferrone, Steve Gadd – there’s three Steve’s there! Billy Cobham I grew up with, Michael Narada Walden doing all that weird jazz stuff, David Garibaldi, Bernard Purdie, Chad Smith – wicked, fabulous player. One of my really formative albums was ‘Head Hunters’ by Herbie Hancock with Harvey Mason; that was an amazing thing for me.
Are there any new artists that musically influence you right now?
One of my favourite artists at the moment is a guy called Marc Broussard from Louisiana, and a friend of mine brought his album back over and it went around Birmingham like wildfire. I don’t think he’s been over to England yet, but a lot of the Birmingham Blues scene people love him because it’s just this amazing new music that’s again, mainly Blues based, but more with a country tip to it because his Dad was a Nashville guitar player I believe. His drummer – and just the whole production of it, they’re doing old music with new gear and new techniques and it just sounds absolutely fabulous. There’s another guy called Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed who, if you put his stuff on now, everybody would think it’s a 60’s track, but he’s 22 and from Boston! It sounds like Otis Reading and Otis Reading’s band and it’s great! I’m really behind all this ‘new-old Soul’ I guess you’d have to call it, because it’s really digging back to Muscle Shoals, Stax and those sort of studio sounds.
So are there any artists or songwriters you’d particularly like to play with?
Marc Broussard. He’s pretty amazing. I’d love to have a knock with John Mayer, I’d love to have a knock with Prince and I’d love to have a knock with a guy called Lewis Taylor who did the rounds a few years ago. Bonnie Raitt; one of my favourite albums of hers is ‘Home Plate’ and the drums, again, very simple. There’s one tune that’s got no Snare drum in it at all, it’s a full-on tune, and it’s like everywhere there should be a Snare drum there’s a pair of Hi-Hats that go “Tshhhh!” I love that kind of thing, very simple, very soulful.
Do you see yourself staying in England or do you think you’ll ever make the move over to the States?
I don’t know really; I’ve been over to the States on a few occasions, I went over with ‘B*witched’ (Irish girl band) and ‘A1’ and played Greenwich Village in New York; I’ve done the ‘Tonight’ show in L.A. as well as Rosie O’Donnell and that’s all very well, but I’ve also been there doing Blues gigs out of the back of a van and it’s all much of a much-ness really. Things are certainly more focused in England, they’re more condensed down into a smaller patch, it’s easier to get about and I think it’s easier to work in England than it is in the States. It’s a very big place and unless you want to be driving around for the rest of your life…But then again, I might get over there again and they go, “hey man, we love your British accent, we want to hire you for the rest of your life!” I don’t know, I’m quite happy in Birmingham in England. I really respect Steve Barney for the fact that he’s from Norwich, he refused to move to London and still did ok. I had the opportunity to move to London a few times but I’ve seen a lot of my counterparts in London struggling with the high rent, the high standard of living and the great thing about being in Birmingham is that I’m so well placed to work all over the country! On this tour for example, we’re all around the south and all around the north and I can get to either place equidistantly. You call a guy up in London to do a show in Manchester and he’d probably turn his nose up at it! I can go to London or Manchester as easily because I’m in the middle of the country. So certainly as far as England’s concerned, I wouldn’t want to move anywhere else. As far as the rest of the world’s concerned I don’t know, I really don’t know – make me an offer!
For more information about Jamie please visit his website.
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