As one of Nashville’s most in-demand and hard-working drummers, Paul Mabury has made a name for himself both in the U.S. and in his native Australia as not only an outstanding musician and producer, but as a man of personal integrity, humility, and wisdom. His unique playing style – a soulful, funky mix of undeniable feel and pocket with a seemingly endless vocabulary of creative grooves – is instantly recognizable, and often emulated by dozens of other drummers in the Nashville area and elsewhere. He has performed in the studio and/or on the stage with Hillsong, Brooke Fraser, Bebo Norman, Dave Barnes, Brandon Heath, Josh Wilson, Jason Gray, and many others, as well as One Sonic Society, a collaborative project between Mabury, songwriter and producer Jason Ingram, and former Delirious? guitarist and songwriter Stu Garrard. Personally speaking, I am unabashed about stating that Paul is my favorite drummer in the Nashville area, not only for his unbelievable groove and pocket, but also for his kindness, warmth, and transparency. He has a big heart for music and an even bigger heart for people, and I am thankful for his willingness to be a part of this interview. Enjoy.
DR: Tell me about your upbringing, and more specifically, what you were hearing when you were growing up. What first caught your ear?
PM: When I was born, and for the first five or six years of my life, my dad was a big band arranger and conductor. I grew up turning a Rhodes into a spaceship, sitting underneath it and imagining I was going to fly away in that! I grew up being around and listening to band rehearsals, horn sections, and drums. When I went home for Christmas this year, I saw a picture that surprised me actually, because I didn’t really remember having a love for the drums at an early age. I saw this picture of me around the age of three, and I’d set up a drum kit out of buckets and baskets. My brother was playing a bat or something as a guitar, and we’d set up all these soft toys, teddy bears and stuff, as our audience, of course. So I saw evidence of me loving the drums even before I can remember. I was born into music and had music around me.
I think most of my musical memories are of church, because it was just a consistent thing every Sunday. That was how I started to play the drums actually. It came out of being on a church camp – my dad was a speaker, pastor, a great communicator. He was speaking at a camp just like you did a lot, and I would get bored a lot. I’ve got a twin brother, and this was a moment where I wasn’t hanging out with him. I was just kind of on my own. I walk into a hall and there’s a drum kit there; I must have been about eleven or twelve. I sit on the drums, and just start playing a beat. I didn’t know where everyone was; I assumed I was a long way from where everyone else was at the camp. The drummer, the owner of the drum kit, came into the hall and I didn’t know. I had my eyes shut I guess, I was just playing away. He heard me playing, went and grabbed my dad, and said, “How long has your son been playing the drums?” and my dad said, “He doesn’t play the drums.” The drummer said, “Well, he does now! You should get him a drum kit and some lessons!” And that was kind of the beginning of the whole drum story. To be honest, my memories as a real little kid are big band and gospel music, and it just moved on from there.
DR: Was there any particular instance growing up that was a sort of “lightbulb” moment, where you felt like music was what you wanted to pursue?
PM: Yeah, it was probably Bill Maxwell on the Keith Green records. He produced and played drums on those records, and was such a dynamic musician like Keith was an accomplished pianist. His drum parts just used to leap out of the vinyl as my dad would listen to those records. The thing that drew me to the drums was the percussive nature of a needle on the record, where if you turned the volume all the way down, you can still hear and feel the drums. You can hear the hi-hats. I think the three things that made me want to go and play were 1) the sound the drums made - my ears were just drawn to it - 2) the sound of drums on a vinyl record, and 3) the fact that I got to see drums all the time. Let’s face it, for a little boy, that’s like candy.
So I just wanted to play, but for the most part as a little kid, I assumed that playing drums wasn’t going to be an option because they’re loud. I had been playing piano for five or six years at that point - my grandmother taught me to play, and I had lessons with her once a week. I thought, “Well, it’s going to be back to the piano,” but as soon as I could quit the piano I did, which was foolish, but I was twelve. Once I quit, I moved over to drums and haven’t stopped since.
DR: You mentioned something about beginning drum lessons. Tell me the story about how you started and what you started to pick up on in that setting.
PM: Well, my father said I could play the drums, but I had to play on a practice pad for six months. It happened to be the middle of the year, so if I made it to Christmas and I still wanted to play, I would get a drum kit. That’s what happened! My first teacher was a guy named Ray Thomas in Perth, Australia. He played drums in the big band my dad would run when I was little. I hadn’t seen him in years, but then he’s on the scene and he’s teaching me the drums. He taught me for six months, went through some stuff, and the lessons had to come to an end, and that was it. I didn’t get any more lessons or training on the drums until I decided I wanted to be drumming for a profession. That was when I was twenty, a long time later.
I went through all my teenage years, finished school, and then went to graphic design school for a year. I was actually in America with my parents at Disneyland, and a show band was playing. I watched the drummer and thought, “Well…why don’t I just do that?” In other words, “Why not play drums and get paid for it?” I hadn’t thought about doing that before that moment, because my parents had always told me, “There’s not much money in music. You should get a trade or something.” So I kind of resisted, but then had this epiphany, and that was it.
It was from then I wanted to ask the question, “How do I do this for real?” I was advised to go to music school. I had to work pretty hard, and I was cheating a lot while drumming. I used my wrists a lot, and my technique was shot. I was, on the whole, self-taught, so I humbled myself and went back to the beginning, and learned how to hold a stick. I mean, I had played a lot of drums – I’d been in bands, doing the thing, and I guess people were kind of considering me a good drummer or whatever. The reality was I felt like I was kind of faking it, and I was finding it difficult to go to the next level. My wrists were fast, but I couldn’t get any faster except to muscle my way through those things.
There’s an incredible music school in Perth, the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts. It has a conservatory there, and has both an incredible jazz school and classical school. Graeme Lyall, who is a very, very well-respected composer and musician, and Frank Gibson Jr., an incredible jazz drummer, were both there. And so they were drawing the best from all over the country to come and learn, churning out incredible musicians. I was fortunate to be accepted into that school and to go through my (laughs) one-year stint! What happened was I got in and simultaneously started getting gigs in working bands in town. I was doing that many gigs to where I couldn’t study and play, so I asked Frank, “Should I stay and study, or should I go and play?” He said, “Go and play,” and the rest is history.
DR: Once you decided that were going to pursue drums on a professional level, what influences started coming into your playing as far as artists, records, drummers, etc.?
PM: The first record that really grabbed me was probably Andraé Crouch’s Live At Carnegie Hall, which I think came out in 1974, which was the year I was born. There are a number of great records from that year - Rufusized by Rufus and Chaka Khan is another one. But Live At Carnegie Hall was one of the first records in my dad’s record collection that I wanted to listen to, and the drumming on that was obviously just incredibly soulful and musical. You could tell that everybody who was playing was making it about the vocal and the melody. From that, if I think back to when I started studying music and studying jazz as a twenty, twenty-one-year-old, it was the jazz guys that really started to form my thinking, listening to the melody, chord changes, and how important theme and variation was. I think the greatest thing that listening to jazz and learning how to play jazz drums does for you is that it forms vocabulary. You gain an ability to speak and to say things. That was something it did for me, but at the same time as listening to Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and this incredible history, I started listening to soul records, Motown records, and I just got addicted to the groove and the way that music made you feel. I remember my teacher talking about Steve Gadd, and when I was twelve or thirteen, I remember watching Up Close. So I remembered Gadd, and would find anything Gadd did. His playing with Chick Corea was ridiculous on records like The Leprechaun.
DR: Three Quartets.
PM: Oh yeah, all that stuff’s just crazy. But Andy Newmark with Sly And The Family Stone was one of the most influential drummers to me, and I immediately wanted to get his right hand and start working on how he made the hi-hats speak. [There’s a lot of] power in opening it up in a funky way, a groovy way. I had listened to Art Blakey and drummers like him just slam on those hats, or Buddy Rich, who played with this incredible stamina and strength. But listening to these guys like Andy Newmark and Jeff Porcaro, they seemed to come at it at a slightly different angle. It was a little more fluid and, for the want of a better word, more commercial. That whole world swallowed me up, and I was listening to any records that those drummers were on.
I think that was the beginning of a very long season for me. I was playing in funk bands every night of the week, playing in blues bands, and started going through this love for the backbeat. I made a very deliberate departure from jazz. I was talking with one of the bass players in town last week after we were out playing a show, and we got talking about jazz. We talked for hours. That world will swallow you up, but it’s just such a massive, beautiful world. Still to this day, if I’m producing a record or playing a bunch of sessions, I’ll throw on Kind Of Blue or Bill Evans Trio’s Waltz For Debby to kind of reset and clear the palette. Stuff like that will always be in my life, and I’ll always have a love for that kind of music. But ultimately man, I’m just a sucker for the groove.
DR: It’s interesting – as you know, I’m self-admittedly a huge fan of your playing. The thing I feel you have that a lot of guys don’t tend to find until much later, or at least don’t take the time to develop, is the same thing that guys like Earl Palmer, Hal Blaine, and Jim Keltner had, who all came out of heavy jazz backgrounds. They ended up making names for themselves in playing backbeats, and yet still had swing built into their playing. There was lean in their playing. That’s what I think sets you apart from so many other guys. You’re able to pull in that great, thick, right-down-the-middle pocket that can sit anywhere you want it to, and it feels great all the way around. There’s a freshness to your playing that is informed by other players from many previous generations. Oddly enough, that pocket sits incredibly well with pop records now. You’ve worked with artists like Dave Barnes or Brandon Heath where it’s more of pop setting, but the groove is relatable. Someone twenty years older than you could hear some of the stuff you’re playing and say, “Wow, I know this, that sounds familiar.”
PM: Thank you very much! It’s interesting, at the end of last year, I was called up and asked to go down to Music Row and track a soul record for Jackie Wilson, who’s a singer in town, and the players on that record were smokin’. I was the baby on that session, and I could tell by some of the looks that it was like, “Who’s this dude?” We started to track these songs, and this is my music, man. This is the music I listen to and try and emulate with everything. It’s funny, a couple of songs go down and the guys start saying, “Man, where did you come from?” One of the guys was saying, “It’s real.” That made me feel really good, but I think the difference is that I stayed in that music. I wasn’t trying to dig on it for a minute, going, “Oh cool, that’s funky, let me try and play ‘funky drums’” or something.
DR: Like it’s an obligation.
PM: No! It wasn’t something where I was thinking, “Oh, this would be fun for a minute.” I lived there and I wanted to stay there. I love soulful music, whether you’re talking about folk, hard rock, blues, or hip-hop. For me, I feel like really good music is soulful music, and so I try to bring that to whatever style of music I’m playing. Those soul records had a very, very deep impact on me. I think that’s the difference. As I was playing this session for Jackie, I was enjoying a bit of a harvest. The music was throwback, but that’s my passion and my first love. If I had to play one kind of music for the rest of my life, it’d be soul.
DR: I’m in total agreement with you on that one.
PM: And to speak on hip-hop man, I think it’s one of the greatest things that’s happened to drummers as far as the history of drums and pop music. It’s a very exciting time to be in the studio because there’s this collision of genres and musical approaches. For a drummer, it’s nothing but fun and possibility.
DR: I think even to a certain degree it’s given a name and face to lot of drummers who played massive grooves that nobody knows about that got sampled literally hundreds of times.
PM: That’s right!
DR: Even beyond that, it has helped give a name and a face to really obscure but killin’ soul and funk records that some hip-hop artist found somewhere and thought would work for their next single or something.
PM: Yeah man. I remember one time before a James Brown show I went to, Arthur Dickson was standing on the street and no one knew who he was. What his playing meant to me, Clyde Stubblefield, the funky drummers – just being able to meet and be around these players [was huge for me], because they had such a massive impact on my playing and my love for music in general. I can’t remember enough of that story for it to be any good part of an interview!
DR: (laughs) I think I sense where you’re going though. From my own experience, I was fortunate enough to study with huge influences of mine when I was in school. Again, it puts a name and a face to something. I feel like you’re better able to relate to that individual. There’s something to be said for hearing somebody play something on a record and being able to literally pinpoint seconds in a song that may have changed your life.
PM: That’s right!
DR: There’s something really spectacular about having that experience and to then to be able to get together with that person for coffee or breakfast, knowing that something they did, say thirty years ago, still moves you and only helps to inform those types of personal dynamics that come after.
PM: I think that one of the greatest influences on my drumming – it’s almost comical how much I rip this guy off – is Phil Collins. His pop sensibilities, songwriting, to the way he played the drums – to me it’s all inseparable. He’s one of the reasons why I started to play. I was getting on a gig, going to Japan, and I meet the guy who’s playing keys. It’s Brad Cole, who’s basically played every single Phil Collins show. Getting to play with him and being in his life was a big deal. He kept telling me stories and I had to keep reminding myself, “Wow, this is for real.”
DR: Man, it’s bizarre. I mean, I’ve eaten fried chicken at Chester Thompson’s house, if that tells you anything.
PM: Yeah! (laughs) That’s great!
DR: It’s unbelievable sometimes to think about where these guys have been.
PM: Oh yeah. I’ll be playing sessions with Akil and thinking, “Dude, your dad has had a massive influence on my drumming.” I mean, he must have heard that a ton of times. That’s the greatest thing about living in this town though, in that we’re really around a great host of incredible musicians. To just be a small part of that, to play, and to get paid for it – it’s a wonderful thing! I don’t think I’ve ever been as musically excited as I am right now. It’s a really good time.
DR: On the heels of that discussion, let’s talk a little bit about Nashville. Tell me the story about how you ended up moving here and how you began making a name for yourself and getting work once you made the move.
PM: My story here is interesting. I was working a lot as a musician in Australia, and doing a lot of Australasian touring and traveling. I’d started working with a girl from New Zealand called Brooke Fraser, was putting her band together, and working together on her stuff. She thought it was a good time in her career and in her relationship with Sony/BMG to move to Sydney, and that is where I was based. I was going to a church called Hillsong, and it’s a big musical environment. I was reluctant to get involved there musically because I was working in music during the week, and when I went to church on Sunday, I didn’t want to have to play again. But I had a lot of great friends there, was really connected, and loved life there, so I was able to introduce Brooke to a lot of these friends. The rest is history for her - she became incredibly connected at that place.
As for me, I started getting involved there. I was asked quite a few times, and started to feel like it would be a good time for me to get involved, so I started playing and teaching there and playing on things that were being recorded, and ended up co-producing the All Of The Above record with Joel [Houston] and the boys, basically hung around to record the Saviour King record in 2007, and then we moved here. I brought my wife, who I met in LAX on tour with Brooke, which is crazy, but the rest is history for us. We got to know each other while I was on the tour with Brooke in New Zealand. We got married, long story short, and had our first-born, Miller. He was three months old when Maggie and I moved to Nashville.
It’s a hard part of the story man, it’s really hard to describe. There’s a guy called Bill Armstrong, who is a very successful businessman, and he kind of wanted to get into music and see what could happen. That was kind of short-lived, but it was my ticket to get here, because it’s expensive. So for a year, I was pretty tired and kept to myself, but then after a couple of years, I started to have a desire to play. I came over here really unsure of what I wanted to do. I just knew I could do this music thing, I could play the drums, I liked to produce records, and I had a bit of experience in that, but I was really unsure of how it would pan out. I didn’t feel like Nashville needed another good musician!
It took me a while, but after about a year and a half, I started feeling like, “No, I really want to play.” I set a drum kit up, came downstairs, and played the drums. I remember walking up to Maggie in the kitchen and saying, “I’m a drummer. And I love to play.” That was kind of a turning point for me. It was like, “You know what? I want to do this.” So it was from that point that I started going out and meeting people, and it kind of just went from there. I’d get asked to do a session, and they would dig it, and ask me to come back. I’ve been really fortunate. There are a lot of great players in this town, and there are a lot of people who have a lot to bring. I’ve been one of the fortunate ones who have been invited to bring some things, and I’m really enjoying that journey. But to tell you the truth man, I’ve never been happier musically than I am now. This city holds so much opportunity creatively.
The other thing I would say as an artist is that a painter paints on his or her own, and they get to share it with people afterwards. In music, we get to share the creating of the image. What people get to listen to is, and to me should be, community. That’s one of the things I love about this town is that we get to meet each other and communicate in music usually before we’ve even communicated verbally. That’s such a great way to get to know each other, and it starts to knock down walls that we can sometimes put up. For me, that’s the whole reason I’m doing what I’m doing. I love drumming, I love music, and I love listening to music, but it’s the fact that music and the drums take me to people. That’s where the beauty is. We get to create together. It’s an incredible privilege to be a part of that. It’s the power of the song.
The funny thing for me is that I’m drumming a bunch, I’m playing on a bunch of stuff, and I really feel fortunate, but I’m very, very rarely found in a drum shop. I never really even took note of what kind of wood my drums were made of. I’m just not one of those guys, and it’s been embarrassing, you know? I’ll be playing a gig, and there’s a line of drummers there all watching, and the second there’s down time or whatever where I go and get a beer and they’ll be like, “What kind of snare drum is that?! What kind of drum is that?! What year was it made?!” and I’m like, “Man, I’ve got to tell you, I have no idea. I just tune them until they sound good and then away we go.” It’s been recently where I’ve started to get into that kind of thing and work some things out as far as what kind of drums I want to use and what kind of sticks I want to play, because I’ve always just been kind of a grip-it-and-rip-it kind of guy. So it’s kind of weird for me even to be talking to you about this stuff, because it’s a very natural part of who I am. It’s never something where even now I go, “I’m a drummer drummer drummer!” I’m just a guy who loves the song, and the drum kit’s the way I come into that environment.
DR: That’s honestly how it should be. If you’re a “drummer,” nobody’s ever going to call you. You have to go into it seeing the bigger picture.
PM: Yeah man! It’s so funny you say that. I remember this guy, who’s an incredible drummer that puts on clinics – the stuff he does on drum kit is stuff where I have no idea what’s going on – coming up to me one night after a gig and he goes, “Man, how do you make it feel like where you’re putting it?” I don’t know, to tell the truth! But one thing that is something I do, that I would say to drummers that I think can be helpful, is record yourself and listen to it. Play a feel at a tempo that doesn’t feel comfortable until it feels comfortable, and become more aware of how long a quarter note is at that tempo. Enjoy the space. Be conscious of your left hand if you’re right-handed, be conscious of your right hand if you’re left-handed. I think that’s something that recording does - it makes you aware, painfully aware, of what’s going on. I think that was the greatest thing for my playing, in that earlier in my career, I got the opportunity to record. It was from that point where I started going, “Man, I suck,” and when I realized that, it was a turning point! (laughs) A moment of truth! It’s clarity. There’s no greater clarity as musician than to listen back to what you’re saying. To tell you the truth, I’m kind of addicted to it now, playing and listening back to it.
So play to the click for ten minutes without doing any fills. Just play that feel. Then turn the click off, play that feel for another ten minutes, and then turn the click on and see if you finished where the click still is. You start to work on your internal body clock and getting that stronger. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m still doing that. For me, that’s still most important thing when I practice. It might be on a session, where I put the song down and I’m like, “Man, I was having to think and focus during that take because, for whatever reason, that tempo was working me out.” So I’ll immediately come home and dig deeper into that. Instead of going, “Oh, I was fine, I played fine, everyone’s happy, everyone’s high fiving,” I’ll immediately come home and jump on that. To me man, it’s all about how you make it feel. Meaning every single note, putting every note exactly where it should be – that’s what I think about. It’s what sometimes actually messes me up.
I tell you what, when I actually started doing those funk gigs, there was this guitarist named Percy Robinson, a New Zealander, who just had this incredible feel when he played guitar and had a wonderful voice. He was one of the biggest influences on my musical career. He was a very dynamic guy, right up in your grill, and he had a lot of belief in me, but man, he let me know when it didn’t feel right. He was the most confrontational and the most helpful musician I’ve had in my life. He kind of helped me to become an ambassador for groove and for how the music makes you feel. I feel like I could work on that for the rest of my life without taking on anything else. It’s a massive world. These players that people speak of like Steve Jordan, Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, John Robinson, Andy Newmark, Mike Clark, Steve Ferrone, the list goes on – it’s how those players made it feel. Bonham! The way he made it feel. It sounded like he was hitting the drums with baseball bats. That to me is where I want to live – I have no desire to depart to anywhere else. It’s a love affair for me. I really have fallen in love with the concentration and the focus element of the groove, and the way it takes your mind and places it on something simple – make it feel good. That’s it!
DR: Having gotten to that point, I want to hear your perspective on your own playing. Tell me more about your personal philosophies on things such as groove, feel, time, coming up with parts in the studio, playing for the song – all the raw, basic essentials to playing drums and playing drums well.
PM: As far as the way I feel about my own playing, if I had to have a title about this topic, it would be “Tortured Soul,” because I generally can’t stand my playing, but I guess that’s part of the reason why I want to keep improving, and maybe why someone else may like my playing. It’s because I’m just not settling. There’s a fine line between dysfunctionally crucifying yourself over what you’re not getting right or whatever, and then something like the desire I have for the perfect pocket, which is what keeps me moving forward.
As far as playing drums on songs and playing drums in the studio, there are two things that are really important to me. One is the sound – what am I playing? How am I playing it? How am I striking the drum? Confession: I’ve never set up three cymbals on a session in Nashville. It’s always two rides, with one as a crash, and the hi-hats.
PM: Whenever I’m on sessions in town, there’s always a crash stand empty, and it’s certainly not because I’m trying to do that. It’s just that I believe you can get so many colors out of one cymbal. Really, I think that’s the jazz world that’s taught me that. Look, if I have the need for a third cymbal, I’m just going to go ahead and throw it on there, man. It’s not like I’m trying to make a point. It’s just that I’ve never needed something over my right shoulder. I just kind of feel like sound and tone comes out of the elements which I normally set up, which are very few. I think that’s an important thing – what you bring as far your sound, quickly getting to those tones that are going to match the song, and that you see yourself and the engineer working together as a team. You ask questions. I’ll ask questions like, “Is that sounding good to you in there? Is there something I can do that you think would make it sound better?” Having an attitude of “team” [is very important]. Working with the producer, you ask things like “Dude, are you digging this?” “I’m going for a darker sound here, is that what you’re after?” “Do you want me to listen to anything you’ve been listening to so I know what sounds you’re going after?” I’ll often even check in with producers before I come and ask, “Can you give me some references?” You know, “What kind of snare drums am I bringing? What kind of cymbals am I bringing?” That stuff is really important to me.
The other thing is song compatibility. What am I bringing to the song that’s going to make the melody pop? Listening to the melody, looking at the chart, thinking, “How do I pick everybody up on this song and carry them to the end?” That’s what I think about. The thing that I’m listening to more than anything is the melody. A good example of this is on the Andrew Ripp record. There’s a song on there called “Growing Old Too Young” that starts with me doing hi-hats and a one-drop – putting the kick on ‘2’ and ‘4’. When they played it to me, I heard the song and I was like, “This just needs to be huge! The drums just need to sound big!” I’m usually using 16-inch crashes as hi-hats anyway, so they’re on there, and I think the smallest cymbal I had on the kit was a 22”. I was just like, “This has got to sound really big!” I’m playing the hi-hats with the sticks coming over my shoulders – I was playing hard! I guess what I’m trying to say is that when I listen to a song, I try to place myself in an emotion – “What is the emotion of this song? What is the mood? What are the colors? What’s the season? Is it summer, spring, winter?” You go in and try and play that emotion or that season or that temperature or those colors. Man, it’s so enjoyable. It’s what we love doing. It’s like bringing something to the story of the songwriter and the person who’s performing the song, and bringing something to ourselves that edifies and holds up and says, “Here’s the message. This is what we’re trying to say here corporately.”
Obviously from a session point of view, you’ve got to be able to do all these things, generally speaking, quickly, and also be able to play the song nineteen times in a row if that’s what everyone wants. It’s funny man, you’ve got to be kind of careful with what you play in the studio, because if it’s something that’s difficult to keep up for a long period of time, and you’re on one of those sessions where the producer likes to play the song over and over and over again, you’d better be able to do it for that long. I’ve said on a couple sessions too that, “Look, I’m playing really hard to get this thing sounding like this, so I’ve probably got five or six takes in me.” It’s kind of like, “Let’s just be aware of that. I can either back it off and track it differently, or we can keep on tracking the way we’re tracking right now, and I’ll hit the drums the way I’m hitting them right now, and then I’m going to be done.”
DR: Do you have any particular experience in the studio or in a live setting that sticks out to you above the rest?
PM: Hmm. That’s a good question. I think from a live point of view, playing Berlin Stadium in Germany two weeks after the World Cup with Hillsong – that was pretty crazy. Another was opening for David Bowie in Wellington, New Zealand with Brooke. I think the best gig I’ve ever played was my first time to Tokyo with Brooke Fraser. We played a twenty-minute show. We were there for five days in a beautiful, big apartment, and just surfed the subway all over Tokyo for five days, played the show, and I was like, “Are you kidding me? This is what I do for a job.” I’d just met my wife, and so I spent most of what I earned on the phone with her, telling her about how much fun I was having. Those would be the gigs that stick out off the top of my head, but there are a lot of experiences that keep coming to mind.
In the studio, working with Jeremy Allom – he did some work with Massive Attack and Incognito, the whole acid jazz movement. He came up under George Martin at Abbey Road, and was the guy who gave me the courage to even think of myself as a producer. I was playing drums on something he was producing and I kept saying, “Well, how about this? How about that?” He took me out for coffee later on and said, “You’ve got a real producer’s head and this is definitely something you should be considering.” I didn’t even know what a producer was; I was just doing what I was told and playing drums on songs. That’s an old memory from back in Australia.
Recording the All Of The Above record with Hillsong United was another one. There are a couple of moments there that really happened in the moment that weren’t touched or changed. They were just pure musical experiences. That’s a group of people who do life together. There’s a song called “Hosanna” where at the end, Joel and I and the guys were like, “Let’s just keep playing at the end and just see what happens,” and people who know that record know what happened. It’s just exactly as it went down. Another song on that record, “Lead Me To The Cross,” was a track where Brooke brought it in really late. We were taking a while to work it out, some dudes were stressed out, and then all of a sudden we were like, “Let’s just track it!” We went through it once, and then it was the second take that everyone heard. What I hear when I listen to that song is just history and relationships manifested in togetherness as it’s going down.
I loved the experience of working with Dan Muckala on Brandon Heath’s record - that was a lot of fun. I love working with Dan. Man, I’ve got to tell you, on most sessions I’m playing lately I’m just having a ball. I love it. Even if the music’s not really my cup of tea, the hang, the players I’m getting to play with, everything – I don’t take it for granted. I absolutely love every minute I get to do this. I think if I wasn’t loving it, I’d just stop doing it and do something else. There are too many people who can do it and love it for me to be complaining or whatever. Do you know what I mean? Sometimes I’m in a session and one of the guys will be complaining, getting upset about this or that, and I’m like, “Man, there are too many people who want to do this,” and I don’t want to be that guy, but man, it’s pretty good what we get to do. I’m just really fortunate to be a part of it.
DR: What do you find is most gratifying to you as player, as someone who is asked to come into so many different situations both in the studio and in a live setting?
PM: I think it’s the opportunity that we have to contribute to something that is very dear to someone’s heart. A songwriter or performer comes in and they’re basically handing you their baby, their vision, something that is incredibly important to them. I love seeing the transition between that happening and the vulnerability to the reward, where they’re just so happy with the way the track’s sounding. It’s so in the moment, and we get to witness that as session musicians and people involved in this process. We get to be a part of that really special moment. I think that’s the most rewarding thing. As a producer, it’s even more so, because it’s more tiring since you’re on the whole journey. But it’s two-fold as a producer, because you are serving the artist’s vision, and so you get to see the pre-production happen, which is like putting the first splashes of paint on a blank canvas. Then you get to see this story evolve, you get to hand it to them at the end, and the whole time you’re just serving the vision that they have. Man, I love that. For me, it takes me out of myself and places me in, as much I can be, their hopes and their dreams for the project. That’s an incredible opportunity. I think that’s the thing where I gain the most satisfaction.
The other thing that I really kind of enjoy is seeing myself improve. It’s such a labor of love. When you care about how you sound as much I care about how I’m sounding on the drums, it’s the tiny things that have a massive impact on me, the kind of things where someone else may be like, “Oh, I can’t even tell the difference.” You live in the minutia of the skill. I’ll come in [the control room] and be like, “Yeah, that feels good,” and I’ll feel like I just want to be happy that it’s feeling like I want it to feel. The problem is that sometimes I’ll be sitting in the room hating what I did, hating the way it feels, and people around me are going, “Whoo! Yeah! Yeah!” That kind of makes me start to feel like I’m some sort of lunatic or something. I’m going nuts because of some little thing that’s not right, but I’ll say it again, man – I’m not listening to anything more than the way the rhythm just sets up the melody. For me, if it’s not feeling quite right, it drives me nuts. So yeah, those are the areas where I get the most satisfaction.
DR: What do you feel you end up taking away from those scenarios after they are finished, beyond what you experience while they are actually happening? What do you feel you come away with that has the ability to translate into all sorts of things, particularly your playing?
PM: Right, that’s a really good question, and I think it’s very relevant for drummers who are wanting to get into this world. I think I hold what I do pretty loosely – I at least like to think I do! (laughs) When I come out of a session and I’ve played on a record with my peers, where Tony Lucido or James Gregory or Brent Milligan’s playing bass, and they’re like, “Dang, that was great man!” or “How much fun was that?” or “What a great couple of days,” I’ve come away from that experience feeling like I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. I’m doing what I’m good at, like it’s a hand in a glove. I feel like I’m where I’m meant to be. When the artist comes away and they say, “Man, I love what you brought to this project,” you come away feeling like you’ve contributed something that was worthwhile. I like to think of it as adding to the conviction that you have, the reasons you do what you do, and the reasons why I’m still playing a drum kit.
When I first played a drum kit, I didn’t know if I was going to do that for a job or anything. It still kind of feels weird. You know what man, it’s probably going to change, but still to this day, I don’t have one endorsement. I’m not endorsed by anything, and it’s because I don’t go after that stuff. I still don’t wake up and go, “I’m a professional drummer!” but I do it almost every day and it is how I’m paying the bills. So what’s left? (laughs) It’s kind of weird. To kind of tie that up, I have drummers email me or they’ll get me on Facebook or send me a message on Twitter and they’ll say, “Man, can we hook up and chat? I just want to pick your brain on how to get into this thing.” My answer for anyone in that position is, “I don’t know how you get into this thing.” You know? The only thing I can think to say is you get an opportunity, you deliver, and you get asked again, or maybe do something else. To me, it’s not a complicated situation. I mean, maybe some of the other guys know how. You asked me that question, “When something goes really well, what do you take away from that?” [The answer is] “Maybe I’m meant to be doing this.” That’s what I’d say to someone who isn’t doing it yet. Just take it a day at a time. Work really hard. Work on two and four. Make it feel good, because that’s what pays the bills. Write songs. If you can’t play the piano, play the piano. If you can’t play a chord on guitar, play the guitar. Pick one, do one, whatever. If you’re like yourself, just play everything really well. The truth is if you want to play drums professionally, then it’s going to be like any trade. You do one job well and you get hired again, and it’s just one job at a time. That’s all it’s been for me.
One thing has always led to another, and I’m still just trusting that it’s going to continue. It just sounds painfully simple, but I don’t know how to see it any other way. All the other boys in town that I know who are playing great are busy, you know? There’s a lot of music being recorded. There was a time when I was here when I wasn’t busy and I was getting a gig every now and then, but then I’d get another one and that would lead to another one. It is what it is, man. I had to turn down a couple of records over the winter, and it was painful, but you know what? Someone else stepped in and played their pants off. That’s the greatest thing and the most intimidating thing about this town.
(At this point, the recording stopped for just a few minutes before we both realized it. The conversation went into how there is a close community of drummers in Nashville who can step in and play on a record when another is unable to do so, and there remains a sense of brotherhood and friendship as opposed to envy and bitterness. Paul also began discussing the reasons behind posting videos of drum tracks he has played in the studio to websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, which is where the recording begins again.)
I’ll upload YouTube videos, or sometimes an artist or an artist’s manager will do so, of me playing. I don’t think it gets me work. You get work through relationships and through doing really well for a producer. One of the things you want to do as a player is impress another drummer, so that when he can’t do a session (it rarely happens), the producer will say, “Who do you think I should get?” Or more importantly, impress a bass player. I’ve gotten sessions from bass players, and I’ve gotten sessions for bass players. What I would say is impress musicians, and what will happen is work will come if they’re working, so impress working musicians.
But that’s not why I upload videos, and I have on a couple of occasions thought of pulling the videos down and stopping, because the last thing I would want is for people to think that I’m showing off or something. The sole reason why I do it and I haven’t taken them off is for the young people who are thinking one day they could do this. I want to do anything I can to inspire them to believing in that, and to kind of lift the curtain back and say, “This is actually what it’s kind of like. For what it’s worth, here’s a session. Here’s a song going down.”
To inspire young players like that is important to me. Like I was saying, people will send me a message on Twitter or whatever and say, “That was great! Keep the posts coming!” Little things like that cause me to think that I need to keep uploading these things, because I know young players are looking forward to the next one, or not young players, just players in general - people who love music. I know that when I was young, I would have wanted drummers to do that. I’d have been hanging out for the next video, you know? Like I was saying to you earlier, when I was growing up and learning to play, there was no such thing as YouTube. I couldn’t type in “paradiddle” and then two hundred videos would come up. I had to go out and buy a video of Steve Gadd or another great player and sit and watch that whole thing. When you were done with the video, that was it. That’s all you’re getting, whereas now there’s such an incredible access to information that I think we owe it to that whole world to be plugging into that. It’s not for everyone and I get that, but I like using social media and the social networking system to keep the musical community as connected as possible. That’s what I love about what you’re doing.
DR: Thanks man!
PM: There’s a saying – “You lose what you don’t celebrate.” What you’re doing is choosing to celebrate what’s happening in this city.
DR: I just think you guys are great – that’s it!
PM: The truth is, I guarantee you that every single player that you’ve interviewed felt encouraged. That’s important, man. I think an important element to a good result in music is artists being able to say, “I’m feeling encouraged in what I’m doing and I’m being well-received by my peers.” That’s why I’ll upload videos of what’s been going on during one in every four sessions or whatever.
DR: Man, if this any encouragement to you, for one, I love when you post videos, and secondly, through either showing them videos of you or they just saw them on their own, a lot of people have really been inspired by them. The first video I ever watched of yours was you tracking drums on “Someone’s Somebody” by Dave Barnes, and occasionally I still go back to it to watch you show how it’s done. You play a song down that feels great, it’s tasteful, and you put your spin on it. It’s not stick twirls and double-bass patterns in 15/16. I mean, I’ll do YouTube searches for friends of mine who are playing regularly, just to see what’s out there and see what they’re up to. It comes down to just holding each other up.
PM: I think there’s a pressure in the music world to be “cool,” or to be obscure. I think there’s an element of humility that comes with, “You know what? I’m going to involve other people. I’m going to video this and put it up there so people can be involved in what I’m doing.” I’m not going to be this guy sitting in a green room with everyone pushed “out there.” I want to reply to people. I want to tear down the walls between someone who’s doing well and someone who wants to be doing well. Ultimately, the most effective thing a musician can do is to watch someone being effective. How do you get better at your golf swing? You watch a really good golf swing over and over again, then video yourself swinging a golf club, then get it looking better. Get it looking like the other guy! You know what I mean? That’s the way I like to drum. I love to find footage of players doing stuff that I haven’t done and then get on it. Just get on it and try and make it feel like that other player was making it feel. If you liked it, get on that. There are just no excuses anymore because it’s so easy to find information now.
That’s what I’m saying that I think is so exciting about music right now. I can listen to a record and go, “Man, that drum part’s beautiful. It feels so good,” and then immediately go online and find stuff out. It never used to be like that. It’s a very, very new situation and it’s such a useful situation. I was listening to the new Adele record, and from the downbeat, I was just totally enjoying every minute of it. And then when it got to track six, “He Won’t Go,” I have to say I couldn’t believe how much I was like, “Dude, that is my vibe right there! This guy must have listened to the same records and must have been influenced by the same gear.” I mean, the sound of the stick on the hat and the way he had the snare drum tuned, all that stuff. It’s that community aspect – I guarantee you that if I was able to hang out with that guy, I know we would have a lot of stuff in common. It’s those little things about music. I remember this guy calling me up and saying, “Dude, I’ve been listening to this record. You’re playing awesome on it!” and I said, “It’s not me on that record!” but it’s another guy from L.A., and we have similarities in how we play.
Honestly man, I really love that stuff. I love that we’re all bringing something different, but there are plenty of things you find in common. As much as I can get online and find stuff that’ll inspire me, I want to do it. I’m just doing my best to contribute to that. I think what you’re doing with this site is killer. It looks killer and the interviews are smokin’, man! It’s cool because we don’t often get to connect. Jeremy Lutito and I will bump into each other in coffee shops from time to time, but unless we make a hang happen, it’s never going to happen. He’s on a session, I’m on a session, we’re always on two different sessions. Both of us on the same session? Now that’d be freaking cool, man! I’m never going to get to hang with these other guys where a lot of the time we’re sharing records. If anything can be done to bring the community together, let it be done, and you’re one of the people who are actually doing it. Well done, man. It’s good times!
DR: Thanks man, I really appreciate that! Tell me about what you’re involved in right now, especially with One Sonic Society, along with the producing and playing you’re doing.
PM: The story behind One Sonic Society is that I’ve known Jason Ingram since 2004. I was coming here finishing records and producing and involved in mixing them here. We met, and apparently the mix engineer said, “This guy wants to come and take some of your time and sit and chat,” and I was like, “Yeah man, cool.” We connected and really just felt like we wanted to keep this relationship going. So every single time I was in town, we’d catch up and connect. Between 2004 and 2007 when I moved here, we just stayed in touch, and I was here a bunch. We got to know each and we always felt at some point we’d love to do something together, but we weren’t trying to fast-track that or make that happen. So OSS really came out of his drive. Jason thought, “If there’s anyone I could work with, who would it be?” and thank the Lord I was one of them, and the other one was Stu Garrard. To put it simply, we’re just writing songs and recording them for the church to hopefully inspire the arts in that environment. It’s really not anymore complicated than that. We kind of see it as a way we can give to the community and try to inspire artistically as well, but we are all very conscious and deliberate about the fact that we want it to serve the people and not serve us. It’s something that I’m really excited about and thoroughly enjoying. They’re some of my closest friends, and it’s great that I get to work with them in different settings as well on other records and situations, but OSS is kind of like our professional baby, if you like, that we’re all enjoying. It’s certainly not as artistic as we could go, but it has a very clear purpose. Our latest EP is I think our strongest and has really good songs on there that some churches are already singing.
I’m getting to produce a lot of music for a group called Sons And Daughters, which is David Leonard and Leslie Jordan. They’re incredibly gifted singers and songwriters. I got to produce their first EP, and we’re about to get busy on the second one. It is a really beautiful project.
There’s a bunch of stuff on the books, like a lot of records I’m getting to play on over the next couple of months, as well as things opening up in L.A. It’s great! I’m writing a lot more now. I’m excited about songwriting, and really enjoying that. Anything and all things music, man. I’m just really happy and excited to be involved in the community here. I feel really privileged to be a part of it.
It’s funny man, there’s this quote that keeps coming back to me from when I studied jazz under Frank Gibson Jr. I remember sitting in his “office,” which was two drum kits facing each other and then a wall of vinyl, so you think of the most inspiring room for us and it was pretty much that. I was sitting there one day, and sometimes we wouldn’t play, we’d sit and chat like we’re doing now. He said, “Man, look at this quote right here,” and he pointed above him and behind his head was a white board that he’d always just draw stuff on. There was this quote on it that said, “Music isn’t about being competitive. It’s about being creative and not letting the instrument get in the way of the music.” That quote has stayed with me ever since then. It’s like it was engraved on my soul. I think that when we get competitive, we have a breakdown in community. The ideas stiffen up, the expressions stiffen up, and we hold the sticks too tight, if you will. When we stop being competitive and deliberately make a decision to be creative and also deliberately find people to go be creative with, we find great ideas and a river of flow in terms of great ideas. We hold the sticks loosely. It’s the quote that I try to keep in front of me at all times as I’m navigating through one of the most competitive environments in the music industry. Look, we’re here in Music City and there’s only so much work. There’s a lot of work, but there’s only so much, and there’s an incredible amount of people moving here to be successful. My advice to anyone, including myself, in every moment is forget competitiveness and just go after creativity.
DR: What do you aspire to or, should I say, where do you aspire to be in a year, five years, ten years, and even longer?
PM: (speaks slyly) I’d say my greatest aspiration would be to get a stick endorsement. (laughs)
DR: All right, we’re good to go, that’s the interview. (laughs)
PM: So I wouldn’t have to buy sticks anymore! I’m totally kidding. I think Jason Ingram, myself, and Stu G. have a number of things percolating that I’m really excited about, and there’s a bunch of artists that I’m really excited to get to work with and see how that pans out. I’m really enjoying the producing, and I’ve got a number of opportunities coming up to be producing a lot. It’ll probably mean that I’m going to be doing less drumming. I’ll still be drumming a lot, but will have more producing, and that excites me. While I play the drums and I love the drums, I love making songs, and so anytime I get to be more a part of the full process, I’m really happy to be doing that. I think my wife would rather me just play the drums, because I come home after a session and I’m sitting on the couch with her, and generally speaking, when you’re producing, it’s all-encompassing. But the producing thing is something I really love. I think short-term, that’s what I’m really excited about. And you know what, mate? When I am producing a fair bit, I go and play the drum sessions I get with this freshness, because I’m like, “Awesome, tomorrow I’ve just got to rock out and play the drums,” and you enter into that situation with a lightness ‘cause it’s like, “This is awesome! I’m just getting to play the drums today.” I’m able to kind of bring something to a project since I haven’t heard the song until I walk in the room. So I’m really excited about the producing.
As far the long-term goes, it’s really interesting that you asked that question, because I’ve been thinking a lot about that. Where do I want to be in five years? Where do I want to be in ten years? How’s it going to look? You never want to assume anything. I think a great goal would be to be an established music maker in this city, and to be making great records. In five to ten years from now, to still be an integral part of the music scene, to have moved deeper in that experience, and to have become more effective and more useful [is what I aspire to]. That’s the knee-jerk reaction.
I’m a parent now. I’ve got two boys, Miller and George, and another one on the way, and so with every day that goes by, there’s more pressure on success in music. Like I’ve said countless times, I feel really grateful and really fortunate. I think one of the main reasons I’m repeating that is in light of being a father – you know, I’m not a single guy, I’m married – I’m still making music for a living, and that’s why I’m so grateful. At this point, I’m providing for a family and still getting to do what I love, and I feel really fortunate about that. I think in simply looking forward, I just want to be able to improve and maintain forward motion in my career in music and be grateful for every opportunity that I get, be able to be involved in music, and be a great dad and a great husband. There are a lot of taxed families in the music industry.
DR: You hinted at some things I wanted to address, because I don’t think I’ve had a lot of opportunities in these interviews to touch on this subject, and I feel like it’s vitally important. Tell me, as best you can, how you’ve been able to balance the workload you have and the nature of being a professional musician with maintaining a healthy family relationship, along with other important relationships.
PM: The middle of last year, I remember I was on a record, and it was a big record with a big budget. Every single player on that record was a producer, and I mean regularly producing records. From a production point of view, I was a newcomer, having only had a couple of opportunities here to date. All the other guys were just throwing out the records. One of the first conversations that we had was about the “magic” that happens between 10 and 2 – 10 PM and 2 AM.
As I was sitting pretty quiet in this conversation listening to this, I became painfully aware that that had been my life. My single life had been discovering this silence, where as the day is winding to an end, your creative flow increases. You end up in this space where great things happen. That was the conversation.
They didn’t know, and I didn’t say anything, but two days before that record started, I was in conversation with Maggie, saying, “This is not working. Me staying up working on music, you going to bed on your own - it’s just not working,” and she was like, “Absolutely.” I was sorry for that and I wanted to turn that around. I just made a decision in that moment that we would, as best we could, go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time with the kids, and therefore I’d get to work a few hours in my home studio right here before I’d have to get to a session for a ten o’clock start or whatever. So instead of saying, “No, I’m creative, I’m going to stay up late and work,” or whatever, I just say I’m not going to do that, for the sake of our marriage and for the sake of our parenting. Whenever it comes to the time when I’m leaving this planet man, I’m not going to be thinking, “I wished I’d worked longer hours that night on those records,” but I know I’m going to be thinking, “Man, I wished I’d spent more time with my boys. I wished I’d hung out and talked with my wife more.”
You know, we’re talking drums and stuff, but this is part of life and to me, it’s what is going to make me a better player, so that when I rock out to play on a record, I’m healthy in myself. I’m not divided inside. I’m connected to my wife, I’m connected to my boys, and I’m bringing that environment into the studio. Unfortunately, the studio can be a place of really broken relationships, and so early on, I’ve made a deliberate choice to really work on that. Every now and then I have to burn the midnight oil, then get up early with the kids. It’s one of those things where every now and then, you’ve just got to work hard. My wife is amazing and incredibly gracious and sometimes goes, “I’m going to let him sleep because he’s been up all night turning that project in.”
But man, I just think it’s a decision. That’s what keeps you healthy. A lot of the musical scene is based on the hang time and stuff, and I’ve just already resigned to the fact that I’m not going to hang out a bunch. If I’m out in town and hanging out or whatever, it’s going to be very deliberate and from time to time, but this is what I do man, this is my job, so I get up with this very 9-to-5 attitude. I want the exception to be that I work late and that I’m away from my family.
I don’t get out much on the road anymore. That’s another real big practical thing. I came off the road gigs I was doing and, generally speaking, people know now that I just don’t go out on the road. For an exception, I’ll go out and do something, but I just trust that the money and the success will come in other areas. You know, I’ll still go out from time to time on this and that, but the general rule is I’m home. The studio is my focus now. I had to make deliberate decisions. I was out on a couple of road trips and was turning down a fair amount of sessions. I was like, “I’m a dad and I’m a husband, and I don’t want to be out on the road making money when I could be home making money.” That was simple decision to make.
I would say to musicians, especially the guys who have just gotten married, to be careful what you decide to do. Establish boundaries that protect your wife and protect yourself, and make sure you don’t put it all on the line for success, at least not the things that matter, anyway. Work really hard and trust that good things will come within the boundaries you’ve established. The most important thing in my life is my family, then music. That’s where I’m at man, and I’m really grateful that I’m involved within those boundaries. All that said, it’s real tough.
DR: I think the struggle that I’ve faced in many instances has been, “This thing I’m involved with could lead somewhere, so it needs to happen.” For instance, I had a possible slot on a tour that would have gone on for about six months straight, which would have started about a month before I get married. I would have basically spent the first five months of my marriage away from my wife, who would be here by herself trying to start a life for us without me. It would have been great money, but thank God I didn’t get it. I would have been shipping tons of money home, but why would I dedicate myself to spending the rest of my life with someone only to be apart from them for the first five months of that? And for what? To take two pieces of wood and hit things each night? Is that it? I mean, I love what I do, but at the same time, if my arms and legs got cut off, at the end of the day, I’m still going to have a wife who loves me. I’m still going to be who I am.
PM: People ask me about this, and I think the disclaimer that I usually put out there is everyone’s different. Everyone has a pattern that works for them. I’m good friends with some guys who are just road dogs, and they’ve been married for over twenty years. Their wives got used to them being away a lot. It sounds crazy, but if they come off the road for a little while, they have to have this huge adjustment period where suddenly it’s like, “Hang on there a minute, you’re home all the time? What?” So I get it, and who I am to say anything about that? I just know when I’m away for extended periods of time, Maggie doesn’t like it, and I don’t like it, and my kids don’t like it. My oldest son doesn’t cope. I’m not going to injure my sons, particularly my oldest, or my wife for the sake of my career. I’d stack shelves before that. It’s just not a negotiable situation. It’s not something you entertain. I would encourage musicians who are married to talk about it with their wives. Those who are engaged or thinking about getting engaged? Talk about it. Don’t let it just be, “Well, that’s just the way it is,” and don’t let the conversation be, “Well, I thought it was going to be different.” Talk about what it is and go from there.
The reality is the road is contagious, especially here. The tour bus lifestyle is pretty sweet. Your responsibilities are pretty minimal, you’re pampered, you’re really well looked after, especially if you’re on a good gig, and it’s a lifestyle you can pretty well get used to for very little work to do. I remember I finished a record on the road. I did all the tracking, I knew the tour was happening – it was a bus tour, so it was perfect. I tracked everything in a couple of days and jumped on the bus with a hard drive full of tunes and tracks. I finished the whole thing on that tour, because there’s just nothing to do. I got up in the morning, sat on the bus, set up my laptop and inbox and went and did the whole thing. I did soundcheck, went back on the bus, worked on things, did the show, came back, worked some more. I’m saying that because most of the time, there’s really not much to do at all. You can finish a record! There are really obvious reasons why musicians get stuck in that life, because they really don’t go well together in being a dad and looking after kids, then getting on a bus and hanging out with a bunch of blokes, sitting around on your bum all day and playing the drums.
These are not very popular things to say, but I don’t mind saying them for a second. It’s a big freaking deal in the music industry. I mean, heck man, this may be the only drum interview where this has ever been talked about, I don’t know. The truth is, for me, my family’s more important. The funny thing is I’m working with a bunch of people who feel the same way, and that helps. My experiences in working in studios after moving here were very much nocturnal experiences. I think one of the things I love about this place is that it’s got a very business-like approach to recording music.
DR: It’s not seedy.
PM: No! When it gets to like six o’clock on a session, everyone’s looking at their watch. Everyone’s like, “Weellll….” Some of them are getting calls from their wives and saying, “Hey, let me get this.” It’s just a town that really embraces that. You’ve got to have your family, so you’ll say, “See you tomorrow.” Every now and then, you get people who are like, “We’re going to track late. I hope that’s ok,” and their managers will send you an email letting you know that, and then still most of the time, you never do. You just get it done and you go home, so that’s a great thing about Nashville. You get to be involved in music and have a family. There are a lot of people moving here from L.A. right now because of that. Generally, at 9:30 or 10 AM, that’s the downbeat, and you’re tracking, and then come 6 o’clock, you’re heading home. It’s business-like. It’s cool man, when I’m doing drum sessions for a record, something I love to do is to say hey, “Give me the hard drive and I’ll whack percussion on tonight or loops or anything that you can take or leave.” On most of the sessions I do that. Even then, if there’s a real time pressure, I’ll bathe the kids, hang out with my wife, have dinner, then I’ll go downstairs, do a couple of hours’ worth, and go to bed. I’m still kind of sealing up the day at the same time. You just learn to manage it.
It’s a big deal. It’s interesting, we talked about, “What kind of music did you listen to?” and “What inspires you?” and “How do you make a career out of this thing?” Well, if you want to get married, you’re in love, and you want to be a dad, or you want to be a mom, this kind of stuff is really important. You want to find other musicians who are in a good marriage and they’re good parents and are playing music for a living. It’s doable, but you’ve got to rage against the machine. That’s for sure. It’s not easy, but it’s just like I said, it’s following through on strong and simple decisions.