Tikyra Jackson of Southern Avenue

Tikyra Jackson

Explains Her Inspiration, Education, and Gear

Hello MD! Growing up in a musical family, I had the luxury of watching my parents, brother, and sisters perform gospel music every week at our family church. My sisters and I would sing our hearts out every Sunday morning while my big brother would beat the Holy Ghost out of some skins. We also had a music room in the house with a full kit, keys, and amps. While I started on piano and singing early on, it wasn’t until I was nine that I found my passion in drumming.

One afternoon I sat on the drum throne of my brother’s kit and stared at the sticks for a minute contemplating. I wasn’t supposed to touch anything but I just had to try even though my feet could barely reach the pedals! A few minutes into me smacking away, my brother came downstairs and instead of kicking me off his drums, he showed me a few things and told me to keep practicing and that’s exactly what I did. In fact, I practiced so much pretty soon I could hold my own during the church services. It was super challenging and an incredibly rewarding way to learn drums in real-time around my family and friends. I learned to play from the heart and how to listen and understand the energy and music around me.

When I was in eighth grade, I had my first real exposure to secular music and it moved me as much as playing in church. I was given The Beyonce Experience live concert DVD and watched it almost every day for a year! Beyonce had an all female band that I just fell in love with, especially one of her drummers, Nikki Glaspie. Watching Nikki inspired and pushed me to play and perform music professionally and it came full-circle when I got to meet and play with her on Jam Cruise 2019. Advertisement

My formal training was in high school and at the University of Memphis where I was a part of the school drumline and pep band. It was here where I learned the fundamentals of music and drumming that later helped prepare me for the real gigs beyond school. While still in college, Southern Avenue became my focus and every ounce of knowledge and experience I gained has served purpose in my career.

With Southern Avenue, we’ve been fortunate to tour the world and to record two albums, the first on Stax and the new one on Concord Records (Keep On, due May 10, 2019). Working with the band has afforded me the ability to write and record drum parts, background vocals, help with arrangements, and co-write songs. It’s amazing to work with my peers and to understand my own voice and identity through drumming. I hope that my playing and writing will continue to evolve and I aspire to set a new standard for what it means to be not just a drummer, a female drummer.

Our band has a very versatile range of sound and I love to reflect that in my setup. My favorite kit I have ever owned is my Gretsch Catalina maple. With a solid and full sound on a live stage and in a studio, I would keep this kit in my back pocket if it could fit. Advertisement

I love the feel of the deep but punchy sound from my 22″ bass drum. For my rack and floor toms, I love to play the way I sing but I don’t want to be too present above the actual lead vocals or my own vocals so I tend to deep tune just enough to still retain tone, but without interference with the melodic instruments on stage.

I will switch back and forth between Remo Ambassador 2-ply Coated and 2-ply Clear heads depending on the stage or the room. I personally love the sound of a deep snare, whether it is steel or wood. With my style of playing, I love that soulful laid-back sound within our genre of music and because I’m also a heavy hitter, the sound produced from a rimshot or power stroke is still pleasing and tasteful to the ear. I go with a Tama 8×14 deep wooden snare with a Remo Coated Pinstripe snare head for a dry but dense sound.

Cymbals are like shoes; you can never have enough of them. I love having two Meinl 22″ rides, one dark and one medium, two Meinl crash cymbals medium to bright with a 10″ splash for my quick accents and interjections between phrases. Bringing it on home to my hi-hats—I love 16″ medium to bright hi-hats to highlight the intricate and dynamic parts of my music. Advertisement

Sturdy hardware is a must because I’m not very forgiving with my output force so I love to use DW cymbals stands and a DW 900 foot pedal. I’ve been playing with Promark’s 5A Forward Balance drumsticks. The weight distribution of the stick helps me react to the rebound from the head a bit quicker and more controlled.

Thanks to Modern Drummer and thank you for reading!

Watch Southern Avenue performing “Rock Steady” here: 

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Photo Credit: Dave Arnold –