It is a blustery, rainy day in Nashville as I make my way over to the Jarhole, Jars Of Clay’s rehearsal/recording space, housed in an old two-story brick building that is painted bubblegum pink. I am meeting up with Jake Goss, one of my best and closest friends who, since 2009, has held the drum spot with one of Christian music’s most respected, successful, and critically-lauded bands. Jake is one of Nashville’s brightest talents behind the kit - a rock-solid force of funky attitude combined with fluid, tasteful restraint that has led him to play with artists such as Steve Moakler, Ben Rector, Clemency, The Attack! (now known as The Deep Vibration), and of course, Jars Of Clay.
Jake is a joy to be around. You cannot help but be immediately won over by his upbeat personality, hysterical sense of humor, and humble, gracious demeanor. There are those few human beings in the world that can make you feel like a million dollars by simply being in the room with them, and Jake has that gift in spades. This interview was a thrill to conduct, and I hope you enjoy it as thoroughly as I did.
DR: Tell me about your upbringing, and more specifically, what your musical environment was like growing up. What were you hearing when you were a kid?
JG: Well, my mom grew up singing because of her mother, Ma Mary Shambarger (my soulful grandmother). She taught voice at Ouachita Baptist University for thirty-five years. Her claim to fame is that she coached Point Of Grace. So, I was exposed to my mom and grandma singing their hearts out (my grandma is the only person you can hear at church because she loves slow vibrato). I grew up in a CCM [Contemporary Christian Music] household, listening to Audio Adrenaline, Point Of Grace, Newsboys – all the goodie CCMs. When I started getting into drums, I was introduced to the youth band at our church. There was a guy named Zach Cameron playing drum set, and I thought he was awesome. He was my brother’s age, so I looked up to those guys. I was in fifth grade about that time, and became interested in band in middle school. That same year, That Thing You Do came out. That movie and Zach Cameron from our middle school worship band were pretty much the two reasons I started playing drums.
DR: What got your attention in watching That Thing You Do?
JG: I thought the movie was so awesome and hilarious. It’s one of my favorite comedies to this day. I really enjoy that era of music, all the jazzy, fun, Motown-y stuff. I remember loving Tom Everett Scott, who Billy Ward actually taught so he could play in the movie. There’s some really cool drumming in it. For me at the time, it was the coolest thing ever. I asked my parents for a drum set for my birthday, which they got me, and I ended up learning “That Thing You Do” for the fifth grade talent show. I wore the turtleneck and everything – I was Guy Patterson, which was the character’s name. That was my first drum set experience.
My parents hooked me up with a drum teacher named Kevin Bonner at a local music shop called Sigler Music. It was funny, he brought some of his drums to our first lesson because he knew I was left-handed and needed to switch them up. Most people were like, “Why don’t you just learn right-handed?” and I said, “Well…I’m left-handed and my drum teacher told me to play left-handed.” We started working out of Syncopation, Stick Control, and all the basic fundamentals that were vital in early development, and then we learned “That Thing You Do” for the talent show, Semisonic’s “Closing Time” and “3 A.M.” by Matchbox 20! (laughs)
I started doing middle school band in sixth grade, and I was also playing djembe in our youth group during the same time - no big deal. I got to play when Zach was playing drum set, so I got to rock the djembe, tambourine, cowbell, timbales – I had the whole get-up. By the time Zach graduated, when I was in eighth grade, I started playing drum set in our youth group.
DR: Tell me about when you first started hearing music outside of the CCM you grew up with, and when you started discovering particular artists/bands, as well as drummers, that moved you early on.
JG: I listened to a lot of what Chad, my brother, listened to, and so my first exposure to secular music was Pearl Jam. I remember he had either Vitalogy or Vs., which was when Dave Abbruzzese was playing with them. I just fell in love with the grunge scene – I loved Soundgarden, Pearl Jam – and then my other big influence was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Probably my biggest influence is Chad Smith. A group of friends and I started a band in ninth grade called Very Special Guests, or VSG, and we started covering Pearl Jam and Chili Peppers songs. Through those friends, I started getting into U2 and loved Larry Mullen Jr. Pearl Jam, U2, and the Chili Peppers all made up my first big exposure to secular music. I loved learning all those classic Pearl Jam and Chili Peppers songs, because both Dave Abbruzzese and Chad Smith had this attitude of “We’re just going to play whatever comes into our head and not think about anything,” whereas Larry had these really cool ideas and his parts were perfect for each song. I think anybody can just start singing the groove to “Sunday Bloody Sunday” because it’s so recognizable.
DR: It’s interesting that you mention Chad Smith as your biggest drumming influence. The Chili Peppers have made a niche for themselves in that they’ve been able to successfully pull from both old school and new school influences, and have made themselves accessible to people who grew up listening to P-Funk and James Brown, but are also able to resonate with a younger generation that grew up listening to modern rock and hip-hop. Even in the 80s they were, in many ways, an antithesis to what was going on in a very synthesizer-dominated era of music. I feel like your playing is an extremely similar and effective mix of old and new influences in your vocabulary, feel, and groove. Listening to you play, you’re able to go between those two worlds very easily.
After having developed your skills early on and having been exposed to the influences you mentioned, tell me about the process by which you ended up coming to Nashville to pursue music.
JG: Around the time I was in eighth grade, I started getting really intense about drumming. I was coming home from school and practicing one or two hours a day, then practicing for concert band, and All-Region and All-State Bands. I was reading through every Modern Drummer I could get my hands on, studying all these different drummers and really loving it.
In one issue, there was an article on Chester Thompson talking about going on tour with Phil Collins. I remember reading the article, and that night my mom told me that my great aunt, who is Marjorie Halbert, the director of musical theatre at Belmont University, had called and said, “You should really have Jake come to Nashville and take lessons with this guy Chester.” So my mom tells me (mimics her Southern accent) “Jake, Aunt Margie has some ties at Belmont and would like you to come take some lessons from the professors there. There’s a guy a named Chester Thompson—” and I said “What? Chester Thompson?! Who plays with Phil Collins?” She said, “Oh, you know who I’m talking about?” I said, “Yes!!” I was freaking out.
That spring break, my parents and I road-tripped to Nashville, and I got to take three one-hour lessons with Chester over three days. It was so awesome. He first sat me down and said, “Just play a little bit.” I was terrified. I have recordings of those lessons and I sound like an eight-year-old girl. My voice is so high (in really high voice) – “I’ve been practicing all these grooves, so I’ll just play something.” It’s so embarrassing to listen to. I sound like my mom, and I’m a guy. But Chester was so gracious and nice. I know I sucked, but he was really helpful and really pushed me to be a better player. We started working out of Jim Chapin’s Advanced Techniques book, developing jazz skills. He would have me play a pattern from that, and then a four-bar fill or whatever. He would play along with me, and then he’d play his four bars and I’d be thinking “Whaaat?!” We’d just go back and forth. He’d also go back to the fundamentals like Stick Control. Those first few lessons were focused on pretty basic, fundamental stuff.
After that, I started going to him every spring break and every summer throughout high school, so I knew I wanted to go to Belmont. I practiced a lot, especially my classical side of the audition. I would go once a week to Fayetteville where I was taking lessons with Chalon Ragsdale, the head of percussion at the University of Arkansas. I auditioned at U of A and Belmont, but I was pretty set on Belmont since U of A didn’t have much of a drum set program. Belmont had this Commercial Music program that sounded awesome. I got in, and ended up coming to Nashville!
DR: Very cool. After having discussed some of your biggest musical influences, I want to hear your perspective on things such as groove, time, “playing for the song,” and coming up with parts. How do you feel are able to translate things you’ve learned and been influenced by into a studio or live situation?
JG: When I was first being influenced by Chad Smith and all those guys, what I loved about them was the freedom and emotion they put into their playing. They had no reservations. So early on when I was practicing, I was doing all these crazy independence exercises, but really wouldn’t apply them in the ways I should have. I’d be playing a song and think, “Here comes a spot for a fill. I can do what I did in practice today.” Then I came to Nashville and realized that was not going to fly! So I started listening to big studio drummers like Jim Keltner, Dan Needham, Matt Chamberlain, Joey Waronker, all these guys that played such great parts for the song and knew their role, just like I had heard before listening to Larry Mullen play with U2.
When I got to Nashville, I started playing with a bunch of artists (you and I played together with some of them!) because it was just good to get out of a practice room. It’s great to practice all the crazy stuff though, because it helps with your confidence. That’s the thing about Chad Smith – that dude was just arrogant and confident, and you could tell that in his playing. He was never hesitant or insecure.
Playing with artists helped me kind of settle in with knowing groove and knowing my role. It also depends on the artist too, because I’ve played with artists that want me to play out and do crazy stuff and I’m thinking, “Eh, I don’t know…” But they thought it worked for the song, so I’d try and give the artist what they wanted. My teachers at Belmont, like Todd London, were huge on playing for the song and knowing your role, which really influenced me. I ended up going to the practice room and playing along to records where I was just playing a groove. For instance, playing along to John Bonham on Led Zeppelin records consists of playing some dirty rock grooves that were sweet for that era. Dirty grooves are the best.
I just really started getting into groove. Joel Wren [a friend of ours from Belmont] talked about how he would go into a practice room and start playing a simple groove with ‘1’ and ‘3’ on the kick, ‘2’ and ‘4’ on the snare, and eighths on the hi-hat, for ten minutes. Then after ten minutes, he would throw a little nuance into the groove, like a ghost note or something, until he felt the groove felt great. I remember hearing a story about Abe Laboriel Jr. where he would play a groove, and when it started feeling good, his dad would touch him on the shoulder and say, “It’s there.” I want to have that kind of groove!
I was fortunate enough to play with some pop artists like Steve Moakler and Ben Rector, where it was just straight-up pop-rock and I’d be playing some groovy, straightforward beats, but those guys would also hire me to kind of do my thing. Most of the time in my head, I just listen. That’s one of the things I learned a lot with Chester, in just listening to other players and feeding off of them, particularly after playing with jazz combos. I enjoy being able to throw my part into the song where it fits, where I’m not overplaying or stepping on anybody’s toes, and to just make it feel right.
DR: You are able, though, to put a lot of your personality into the song where it actually enhances it and yet still doesn’t take away from it. Obviously having seen and heard you play for years now, you have the ability to lay down a deep, solid groove yet put a lot of creativity and just overall tastefulness into it, where it gives both the song and the drum parts themselves a more unique and memorable flavor. How do you feel you’re able to balance those two worlds, where you’re in a servant role to meet the artistic needs of the artist, yet also simultaneously know that they specifically hired you for your voice to come out in their music?
JG: Sometimes I’ll come into those situations and someone will have an idea for me, and I’ll kind of mess around with it. But I have this style of playing where I think differently about playing just a straightforward groove. I’ll maybe throw in a weird accent or a hi-hat jab somewhere, or just something unique that I do quite a bit - I like to call those “tasties”. Many times I’ll have a groove skeleton in my head, but not think about it too much and just play what comes naturally. That stuff just comes out on the fly. If I start thinking about it, I get sloppy and insecure. I just try and come up with something through influences, experience, passion, and just playing what comes to my head.
DR: Is there any particular experience or experiences you’ve had in the studio or in a live setting that stick out above the others?
JG: The studio experience is probably recording Steve Moakler’s record All The Faint Lights. Me, Steve, and Jeb Holmes just drove out to Virginia to record with a producer friend of his named Paul Barber. We recorded at this studio where artists like Jason Mraz and Lifehouse had tracked, this barn-looking place that had been converted into this sweet studio with a really cool drum room. We ran through the songs one day with Paul, doing a little pre-production, then just went into the studio. It was really cool for me because I really believed in Steve’s music.
Tracking drums was a blast, and it was just a really cool, fun environment hanging out with Steve and Jeb while we were tracking. There was gear at the studio that I didn’t have that I was loving, like a 26-inch Ayotte kick drum that I used on a couple of the songs. My favorite song that I played on that record is “Run,” and I do just a train shuffle with some Ultraflex sticks, and I played that 26-inch kick on it. It was recorded at nighttime, we dimmed the lights, and even though it was a straight, simple shuffle groove, I had the time of my life. Making that record was definitely a gratifying experience, because that was my first exposure to a real professional studio environment.
My favorite live experience was with Jars Of Clay when we went to Europe a few months ago and played in Budapest, Hungary, at this club that held about 900 people. They had never played in Budapest, so they weren’t sure how the show was going to go. So thirty minutes before the show, we look out and there’s tons of people chanting “Jars Of Clay!” and we’re going “What is happening?!” It had sold out! I’m freaking out, and I’m always giddy at Jars Of Clay concerts, because those guys are heroes of mine. So when they’re excited, I’m just peeing my pants, because they were giddy about it too!
We get onstage and play and everybody is just so into the music, throwing their hands up in the air and so excited that Jars Of Clay is there. I was smiling the whole time! These people genuinely loved music, and were so thankful we were there just to play some tunes. It was a blessing.
DR: On the flip side of that question, what is most gratifying to you as player after you’ve been a part of so many situations? What do you take away from them?
JG: I come away with a better understanding of what elements it takes to make a song come alive, whether it’s what not to play or what to play, but a lot of it’s what not to play. When I’m playing with a straightforward pop artist, the goal is to be transparent and have no one notice you. You just serve the song well. It’s different with other artists. Some want a bunch of rhythmic patterns and a lot of kick drum math with the bass player. It’s really about being in a setting and figuring out what works to make it come alive, in really listening to the other musicians and the lyrics.
A lot of it is that I just really enjoy trying to connect emotionally with artists and their songs. That’s definitely been the case with Jars Of Clay, especially in the stories they tell through their songs. I try to listen to melodies, which is how I come up with parts too. Todd London talked about one of his favorite players having the lyrics in front of him at a session so he can get emotionally attached to them and can play to the meaning of the song.
I’m really inspired when artists write great tunes, because it motivates me to be a better player. When Jars works on new music, they’ll have an idea, and they’ll all gather around and throw parts at each other. It’s really inspiring for me to use that behind a kit in some way, to be able to show them my ideas.
DR: How did you end up getting the gig with Jars?
JG: Being in Nashville, it came down to just meeting the right people and building relationships. Around the start of my sophomore year at Belmont, there was a girl I was playing with named Colleen McCarron, a fun, poppy, artsy artist, and I played with her all throughout college. She was really hoping to make an EP, so she was shopping around, looking at some different producers. It came down to either Neilson Hubbard or Mitch Dane, and Mitch has produced a lot of Jars’ records. Neilson had a really good budget that would have been cheaper for her, but Mitch Dane came to a show at 12th and Porter, took her aside, and said, “I know your budget’s kind of tight, but I’ll work with it because I definitely believe in your music and I really think there is something great here. I’d love to make your EP.”
Mitch was going to use his players, but she was still really tight on her budget, so she sent him some roughs that we had played on at Belmont’s studios, and fortunately he said, “Sure, you can use your players.” I knew of Mitch Dane, so when I found that out, I was so excited but nervous too, because it was my first time to work with a producer at that caliber. So me and my friend Blake Stratton, who’s an insanely talented bass player, got to come into Sputnik Studios that Mitch co-owns with Vance Powell and track with Colleen for her EP. I was nervous, because I knew Mitch was super talented. I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, but I knew there was a possibility that it would be a relationship in the future.
After I did the EP, he got my info and said he’d really like to work with me again. I was like, “Sure! That’d be awesome!” So a month later, he hired me for a session, and I ended up doing a couple of records over the next six months with him. During one session, he got an email about how Jars Of Clay needed a fill-in drummer for a weekend. This was right after Jeremy Lutito quit, and they were originally going to use Will Sayles for the summer, but this was the unfortunate weekend when his father-in-law passed away, and so he was going to be gone. Mitch looked at me and said, “Dude. I’m going to try and get you on this Jars Of Clay thing.” I was like, “What?! Stop it.” I honestly didn’t think much about it, because I didn’t know if that would ever happen.
That night, I was at McDougal’s with the Clemency guys, Jason and Paul Watkins, and I get a call from this random 615 number. It’s Charlie Lowell, keyboard player for Jars! He just said, “I’ve heard some great things about you from Mitch, and we’re just looking for a guy to fill in for a weekend. We’ve got about twenty songs, and we’re going to rehearse in a couple of days. We were just wondering if you were available.” I said, “Absolutely.”
So I went and charted all those songs out, and went and practiced them in the practice rooms. A lot of my teachers at Belmont were great, because they understood that kind of thing, so I worked it out with all my classes to be gone for a few days. I came into rehearsal on Thursday morning, two days after I got the call. I had never met the guys, and I was just star-struck, because – I’m going to take you back a little bit – I played “Flood” in the seventh grade talent show. It was with my buddy Jordan Carpenter, who was in VSG, and my friend Ryan Key, and our band name was Circle Town Drive. Aaaaand we all took solos of course, like you do in “Flood.” What? So it was crazy for it to come full circle and rehearse that song with Jars Of Clay that day.
We rehearsed and everything clicked. The songs were great, they were happy with my playing, and said, “Alright. See you at bus call tonight!” I was so giddy. All the guys were super nice and really happy and thankful to have me out for that weekend. They’re top-notch dudes, with some top-notch hearts - whoa, that was a little girly of me to say.
After that weekend, they told me that Will Sayles’ wife had a big surgery coming up, and that he was hesitant about being out on the road because he wanted to be with her. So Charlie showed me some dates they had booked throughout the year and asked if I could do them. I was about to graduate from Belmont, and just told him, “I’ll make it work!” He called Will and said, “Hey man, if you need to stay with your wife, we had a guy fill in this weekend and it really worked out.” The guys talked through it for a while and came to me and said, “Yeah man, we think it would be a good fit. Do you want to play these shows?” Then I saw him write an email with the words “our new drummer Jake” and I was like, “Get outta tooooown!”
I somehow made it work with school. I almost didn’t graduate because of convocation credits - death. I think I had to write six humongous papers, ended up graduating, and was immediately out on the road with Jars, and I’ve been doing it for almost two years now. It’s been so awesome. Those dudes are great to be around and so inspiring. They’re awesome musicians, amazing writers, and just super passionate about life and music, creatively and emotionally.
DR: After having had so many experiences that have led you to where you are now, what do you feel are the most important things for drummers to do who are trying to make it in Nashville and get work and be in demand?
JG: Always have a good attitude and be respectful to the artists who are hiring you. One thing I think I bring to the table is that I bring light to situations, in that I like to have a good time, kind of goof around and not be too serious, but if I need to be serious, I’ll put my game face on. Giving the artist what they want and taking direction well is crucial. If they want something, they are hiring me, and I’ll do it. If it’s just completely ridiculous, I’ll give my opinion, and then we can figure something out.
Being prepared and taking interest is super important, in being able to believe in the music you’re playing. When I first started with Jars, I geeked out because they do stuff differently live, and I would go on YouTube to watch how they do the songs live. So at rehearsal, they didn’t say anything about it because they were used to how they did those songs during shows, so I’d just watch it and play it like it was on YouTube! I just want to know all about the artist, to study them and know their tendencies and instincts. And the talent of course is a huge factor. Don’t slack off on learning songs and whatnot. I really do my best to come in prepared and have a good attitude, and it’s worked out a lot. With Jars I get in their head by listening to 80s music. They love it slash I was seven when their first record came out, WHAT?!
DR: What are you currently involved with or working on, and what do you have coming up in the near future?
JG: Right now, I’m still out on tour with Jars Of Clay, and we just finished our Christmas tour with Audrey Assad. If you haven’t heard her, check her out, because she is incredible. That’s the thing about Jars, in that they’ll often tour with another artist, so that allows me Gabe [Ruschival], the bass player for Jars, to accompany the artist. We got to play with Audrey and with Brandon Heath on the past two tours. I especially love that, because on tour you’re playing the same set, and even though I get to be creative each night with Jars, it’s fun to play a completely different set. I’ve been fortunate to play with different artists because of Jars.
I’ve been doing some session stuff – tonight I’ve actually got a session over at Sputnik. I want to really get into session work down the road, but I really enjoy touring and hope I can keep doing that. I’ve been able to tour with my buddy Steve Moakler, Ben Rector, Jars, and a guy named Andrew Ripp. But I really hope to one day really be heavily involved in studio work. I really enjoy creatively being there, coming up with parts – I really love when a song comes together and a drum part fits. I like being in there with other musicians, hacking away at a song and making it feel good. That’s probably my favorite experience, in being in the studio.
Jake’s setup for Jars Of Clay’s 2010 Christmas Tour
DR: What do you see for yourself as far as long-term aspirations? Where do you feel you would like to end up years from now?
JG: Years from now, I would like to be a guy like Dan Needham, doing sessions every day and producing, which I’d like to get into eventually. If I have a family with kids, I’d like to just be in town, go do my work, produce or play on a record, come home and hang out with my family. And if my friends are still out touring, it’d great to do a little bit of touring here and there.
DR: One more question. Tell me about James Brown.
JG: Oooh baby! Why have I not talked about James Brown yet? I’m embarrassed everyone, because James Brown is my everything. So the band I was a part of in high school, Very Special Guests, we were…let me see if I can describe this in a word…sloppalicious. We were a sloppy grunge band that loved James Brown. I don’t know where our obsession with James Brown came from, but we just thought he was hilarious and so funky. When we got into this funk scene, we were always listening to James Brown. We loved his antics on stage, because (laughs) we just loved the way he would dance. He was so tight with his band too. He was a great leader. We just loved how funky fresh he was. It didn’t hurt that Clyde Stubblefield and John “Jabo” Starks changed my life.
So we would always play some James Brown songs at our concerts, and I played a James Brown song at my Belmont senior recital! We would always have the little James Brown doll up there with us, and we’d press the button and he’d dance around. We’d play a song called “James Brown” where our lead singer would say “James Brown!” and the audience would say “JAMES BROWN!” just back and forth, over and over. We would write our papers about James Brown in school. We just had this crazy phase in our lives where James Brown was our everything.
And then my first bud at Belmont, Mr. Dustin Ransom, during our first audition, we bonded because we talked about how much we loved James Brown, and our friendship went from there! I’d also like to say that a lot of the influences I have are those monster drummers I mentioned earlier, but at college, Alex Nixon, Richard Scott, and Dustin Ransom were probably my biggest influences. Alex was always singing basslines, so I was always getting into basslines because of him. Richard was our father. Then you knew every song there was, and so I just started listening to all these records and it helped me find out about all this music that was out there to take from. So thank you!
DR: You’re welcome! Thank you too!
JG: I’ve just been influenced by a bunch of friends too, but James Brown – the Godfather – that’s my man. (laughs)
DR: I think that’s it man! Thank you very much!
JG: Sweeeeet! Thank you wooorrrld!
Shortly after I left the Jarhole, Jake called me to tell me that he felt he wanted to go into more detail about the Nashville drumming community, and how those individuals have influenced and inspired him during his time in Nashville. I was thrilled that there was more he wanted to include in his interview and I gladly obliged. So after sending me a few voice memos, I compiled them into a kind of extra interview, or a “Part Two,” if you will. Here, in his own words, is Mr. Jake Clifford Goss.
The Nashville drumming community is just a big brotherhood. It’s really nice to be here in this community, because a lot of times you can get in situations where it feels like a competition and it makes you feel insecure. But here in Nashville, so many friends of mine are really supportive. We’ll all try and come out to each other’s shows, or listen to records we’ve played on and get feedback from each other. I just wanted to talk about some of the guys in town who have really influenced me. When I first got to Belmont, I met Dustin Ransom, Richard Scott, and Alex Nixon. Those were my buds. We ran around a lot together and became a close group of friends, and I want to talk about all three of those guys, because they had a big influence on my playing and just my overall approach to music and life. The four of us were all really close.
Dustin was the first guy I met at Belmont. I met him at auditions, and he auditioned for the Rock Ensemble and destroyed it. I was like, “That guy is a freaking stud, and I know I can learn from him,” and we became fast friends. He and I got to play in a band together called The Attack!, and we had some fun experiences together. Dustin’s playing and approach is so musical and creative. He knows this plethora of music and musical instruments, playing-wise. He brings so much to the table, and I love being in musical settings with him because he’s got great ideas, plays passionately, writes great parts and great melodies because he plays so many instruments. If you go to a show and you see Dustin playing keys, you’ll think “Oh my gosh, best keys player ever,” and then you’re like, “Knock knock, who’s there? Yeah, he majored in drums.” Stud muffin. Somebody will be like, “Hey, have you ever heard of this instrument?” “Nope.” “Well Dustin plays it!” Eyeoo! Dustin’s just a stud. It’s been great to be around him - someone who’s so good at everything, and so humble about it all.
I already knew my buddy Alex from Arkansas because we were in All-State together, so I was really excited to dive back into that relationship and become better friends with him. He’s a goofball - love him. When we were playing in the All-State Jazz Band together, I was always so intimidated by him because he was so good, and he used to rock a ponytail. I just thought he was awesome. Then I saw him at Belmont at Towering Traditions one day, and so I was like, “Sweet, we get to hang out at Belmont and rock some drums!” He’s got such a classic, smooth approach. A lot of people at Belmont come in just hard-hitting, whereas Alex comes in with this finesse, a classic-rock approach that’s really influenced by Steve Gadd, Joe Morello – a group of guys that had great finesse and played great parts. He’s got a great feel and has developed a great sound which shows in the gigs he’s been playing the past few years. He’s been owning them. He used to be kind of a quiet guy, and now he’s been super mature about developing as a musician and as a person. He’s become really personable, and it’s great to go out and get to see him play because he’s such a killer player with such a cool and classic feel.
Then there’s my daddy, Richard Scott. Richard is sort of our father of the group because he’s a little older than us, so we just call him our dad! He was our go-to guy/dad. He’s perfect and he’s precious. He’s one of my best friends, and I got to know him really well throughout college. As far as playing goes, he has improved so much, because he started when he was older, and came to Belmont after having spent some time at Auburn pursuing another degree. We got to play in Bass Ensemble together, which had two drummers, and we’d just throw ideas to each other and feed off each other. It was so great, because he had so many cool ideas and a cool approach with coming up with a groove, in hearing these great grooves line up with melodies. It was great for us to able to go back and forth with each other, being in this ensemble together. That was one of the most enjoyable semesters I had a Belmont. Now he’s out on the road playing with Addison Road. I’m so happy for him, because he’s such a great drummer. I remember about a month ago, I was playing a gig where Risen Drums was backlining. I was just talking with them about some friends of mine that have played Risen Drums and enjoy them, and mentioned Richard and they said, “Oh yeah, we know him! You remind us a lot of him.” I was like, “Yes.” I love being in the same sentence as Richard, because he is my father and has such a killer groove. He has done some cool stuff in the studio. He always seem to come up with these bad to the bone signature grooves. I want that!!!! Be sure and check him out.
One of my favorite things about being in the Belmont ensembles and jazz combos was that I knew I’d be in there with another drummer. I was so inspired by every single drummer I was in a combo with. I was in one with a guy named Kyle McCarter, who’s out in L.A. now. He was this beastly funk player who loved gospel chops. I was in another with a guy named Scott Shirock, who was one of my favorite drummers at Belmont - just super tasteful. I also loved watching Joel Wren, who was one of my favorites when I first came to Belmont. He was a junior when I was a freshman. Another guy named Nate Onstott, who was Joel’s age - Nate plays with Mikeschair - and a guy named Tyler Ritter, who was a year younger than those guys. These guys were super cool to me. I loved listening to all those guys play. Other Belmont guys that are great are Marcus Hill, Noah Denney, Chad Currie, who have all been doing well. It’s great that this community has done so well after being at Belmont, and we can still get together and pour into those relationships. It never becomes where someone’s jealous of someone else’s gig and wished they had it. It’s a smaller community, so we’ll all recommend each other and end up playing with a lot of the same artists since all those guys are killer players.
Outside of Belmont, Jeremy Lutito is one of my favorites to listen to. You know when it’s him playing a record, because you immediately know his sound and feel. It’s just amazing. I’m so lucky to be learning his parts playing for Jars Of Clay and kind of doing my own thing with them, because I obviously can’t play like him. I wish I could. He’s a stud. Will Sayles is another killer player, and has played on some killer records. When I first came to Belmont, I was in love with guys like Dan Needham and Scott Williamson, these giants. I remember emailing Dan Needham one time and I was being so goofy and weird, saying stuff like, “Hey, your groove changed my life,” and he emailed me back and was like, “Dude, you’re hilarious!” and I thought, “Oh, this guy doesn’t hate me!” I’ve definitely emailed someone with a similar email and they responded, saying “Oh good. Weirdo. See ya later.”
Another guy is Jacob Schrodt, who I met when he first came to town. I went to see him play at the Cannery Ballroom with Ben Rector, and remember thinking, “That guy has a ridiculous feel and groove.” We met up afterwards, swapped emails, and he said, “Dude, send me some tracks you’ve played on.” I was like, “Yeah, sounds awesome, ‘cause I suck.” He sent me some that he played on and I was like, “Oh my gosh, this dude is legit.” I highly recommend checking out some of the records he’s played on, like Ben Rector’s Into The Morning andChris August’s No Far Away. Those are some of the highlights. He’s going to be a beastly studio musician, and has a great approach to studio drumming. He’s just super solid. Be careful - he’s going to steal all of your work because he’s the best drummer ever. Jacob Schrodt – stud.
So those are some of the drummers in Nashville I’ve really been inspired by and look up to. They’ve all really played a big part in my life. Those guys are the best. And James Brown? Love him. And Scott Stapp? Is there a better vocalist? I think not.