Hello, everybody! My name is Devin Gray. I am a drummer, composer, and improviser living in Brooklyn, New York. (Six years going strong!) I’m glad to have this opportunity to share some thoughts through this great MD blog. It’s been great reading and catching up with fellow NYC drummers Ches Smith, Evan Howard, and Brian Woodruff!
Life has been increasingly challenging for me, with many things to balance. As a full-time musician, it’s becoming very important for me to budget and use my time productively. This proves to be hard, especially in a city such as New York. My response has been to take a laser approach to accomplishing my goals, be it weekly, daily, monthly, or yearly. This means I have to accomplish multiple things in uncomfortably small blocks of time. I find this very hard because I like to take my time with most things, like practice slowly and thoroughly, and read carefully. So I’m constantly looking for ways to save time and catch up.
Sometimes this means responding to five emails while on the express train (since I’m stuck there anyway) before I get to a station with cell phone service so I can send them all in thirty seconds. Other times it means forcing myself to write or draft (and often print/play) a new piece of music in one and a half hours, before the rehearsal, session, or gig. Or simply practicing one idea (rudiment/groove) on the drums for thirty minutes and keeping the focus and quality level as high as possible.
Believe it or not, this added pressure has helped develop certain aspects of my musical thinking. With less time, I am able to face my compositional process and drumming philosophy with a more realistic approach. This forces me to prioritize the work, conclude, and make my best choices for each situation. (I don’t like to say “problem.”) I believe I’m getting better at this process, and I’m starting to notice musical benefits. Not to mention I’m getting more done and my life is more organized. (Just something to think about.)
This spring I am releasing my first album as a leader. I’m very excited about this project, as the group has been working for about two years since the first gigs and compositions. It’s a great feeling to follow through and be in the final stages. The group is really inspiring, and I look forward to making music every time! My quartet features my compositions written for Ellery Eskelin (tenor sax), Dave Ballou (trumpet), and Michael Formanek (bass). We will release our CD, Dirigo Rataplan, on Thursday, April 12 (8:30 p.m.) at the Cornelia Street Cafe in NYC’s West Village!
In addition to this date, the band is playing some out-of-town concerts, more to be announced throughout the year, as well as a European tour in the spring of 2013! I’m excited that this project will be released by my friend, great musician, and label owner Chris Speed. As a Brooklynite, Skirl Records means a lot to me and continues to showcase great work from many Brooklyn/NYC musicians, such as Kurt Rosenwinkel, Jim Black, Andrew D’Angelo, Mary Halvorson, Oscar Noriega, John Hollenbeck, Ches Smith, and Travis Laplante.
As for me as a sideman, at the end of April I am spending two days in the studio with one of my oldest NYC friends, guitarist/band leader Ryan Pate. We’ve been playing and rehearsing his music, and I’m excited to get the chance to help Ryan document his music! I’m also excited to be going to Europe in May to record an album and be on tour for three weeks with the Daniel Guggenheim Quartet.
Speaking of budgeting my time—I’ve gotta get back to more music! See you out there.
For more on Devin Gray, go to devingraymusic.com.