“You didn’t play anything worth a damn.” This was my first lesson from master drummer Michael Carvin. His instructions were simple: Play a drum solo. What I played was loud, fast, and meaningless. What I did not play was the first lesson of many that Mr. Carvin taught me. He was absolutely right, and I knew it as soon as I heard his stoic reaction to what I had played.
“If you don’t respect yourself, why should you expect others to respect you”? I happened to be wearing a wrinkled polo shirt on the day of our third lesson. I was indifferent to the fact that my shirt was wrinkled at the time, but I left the lesson that afternoon with a fresh sense of how my appearance reflected my self-respect. The shirt had sparked an hour-long discussion about professional attitude and comportment. There were lessons when I would not pick up a drumstick, yet everything we discussed was related to being a successful drummer. Even though I had not played a single note, I would emerge from those lessons an improved, more confident musician and person. It was clear that Mr. Carvin was as much of a force intellectually, socially, and philosophically as he was behind the drumset.
“I’m not here to teach you how to play the drums. I’m here to introduce you to yourself.” Each lesson was crafted with a specific purpose, but the overarching theme was self-discovery. I was able to distance myself from being an imitative casting of a drummer with each successive week. My breakthrough moment occurred during a lesson when I was assigned to play a drum solo referencing a painting that I had seen the previous day. Mr. Carvin’s encouraging reaction to it was the first hint that I was finding my own voice as a drummer, and his enthusiasm was absolutely sincere. He would sometimes be moved to tears waxing passionately about not only music, but life in general, for he believed that his purpose as a teacher was to prepare each of his students, in every respect, to be successful drummers.
“These drums will take you around the world and never ask for anything in return.” While I have yet to perform around the world (I’m pretty sure that touring the U.S. and Canada does not qualify), I am absolutely grateful for all of my past musical experiences. Currently, I play in the rock ’n’ roll outfit Lily & the Parlour Tricks, a modern take on harmony-driven American pop music from the ’60s. The band is aptly named: Lily is the brain behind the operation, writing all of the songs and vocal harmonies. All of the arranging is done as a full band, however; her instructions for the drum parts can be summed up with phrases like “less jungle, more country,” which define explicitly what she wants, without limiting my creativity.
We had the fortunate opportunity to record our debut EP at Daptone Studios in Brooklyn. The recording was done live, directly to 8-track tape (which meant that there were only two microphones recording the drums), and mixed without any digital interference. It was an absolute joy to record in such a relaxed and warm environment, and we could not be happier with the result. I look forward, with much anticipation, to discovering what will lie ahead for us as a band. And it is with great humility that I add my share to the expansive musical fabric woven by each great drummer who has preceded me.
For more on Terry Moore and Lily & the Parlour Tricks, go to www.lilyandtheparlourtricks.com.