This article focuses on the fifth and final portion of my CRASH concept. CRASH is an acronym that stands for “commitment, relationships, attitude, skill, and hunger.” These five global topics can be used by anyone to attract success to his or her life. If you’re a regular reader of this magazine, you’re probably looking for insight into how to improve your drumming and career prospects. These concepts are perfect for helping you achieve those goals. (Find out more at crashcourseforsuccess.com.)
Nashville has been my home for more than ten years now, but when I first arrived in town I was literally hungry. The pursuit of my dream of drumming professionally left me with credit cards nearly maxed out, and all I could afford to eat was ramen noodles and Balance Bars. It was a leaner time, but it was a special time. I was feverishly and enthusiastically working to make my dreams a reality.
After graduating from the University of North Texas with a master’s degree in music education, I moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area to freelance, save a bit of money, and make plans for my next big move. Was I going to carve out my future in New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville? I was starving to play my instrument at a higher level. I wanted to play on records, hear myself on the radio, make music videos, travel the world on someone else’s dime, and be part of the crazy culture that is the music business.
My bags were packed for sunny Los Angeles when I received a call to audition for a major-label recording artist in Nashville. Two other auditions for major-label artists followed. Airline tickets, rental cars, and hotel expenses all went on my ever-expanding credit card bill, but I was willing to do whatever it took to get my career to the next level. Bills could always be paid, but it was my time to make something happen. I was hungry.
You can minimize the starvation process by saving some money and doing some detailed research and deep thinking about exactly what you want to do and where you want to be. I didn’t research the way Nashville worked. I didn’t even know many people before I moved there. I was operating on pure desire, blind faith in myself, and a burning need to taste success. Even if I was just playing clubs, pickup gigs, honky-tonks, weddings, free demo sessions, and showcases when I got to town, I knew I was doing it in a place where there were endless possibilities for advancement. In Nashville, I could get that “big gig.”
I kept physical hunger from getting the best of me by waiting tables, substitute teaching, and taking every gig that came across my path. It was a very exciting time—one o endless possibilities, massive setbacks, and countless victories. Remember that it’s almost impossible to succeed at anything without failing many times first. Learn from your setbacks, and use them to fuel future success—and don’t forget to celebrate every little victory!
My early years in Nashville were during the era of the pager. A good drummer pal of mine and I used to search for pay phones to return pages from potential employers. It was like Christmas morning every time that thing started buzzing. Most of the time it was just our mothers calling to check on us, but sometimes the call went something like this: “Hey, Rich. I got your number from John Smith. Are you available to play from 10 to 2:30 on Monday night for $40 and free beer?” The answer was always yes. Eventually I started getting calls like this: “Paul gave me your number and said you might be available to head to Korea and Japan for a month. We’ll be using backline gear with comfortable accommodations, and meals are provided. Interested?” I said yes before I found out what it paid, even when it ended up being a well-paying job. Patience and persistence were starting to pay off. I’d stayed in the game when things got tough, and now the gig offers were getting better and better.
My father used to tell me that cream always rises. You are the cream; you just have to be patient. I played—and continue to play—every gig like it’s the last, and word eventually got around.
BUILD IT UP
It’s never been easy for an artist to break through to the masses. A music superstar I know personally started his career by cutting a record on a shoestring budget. That record happened to produce a breakthrough single that fought its way up the charts over the course of a year. The artist then hired a close-knit band and hit the road. The band toured in a van at first and then graduated to a secondhand bus. They showered at YMCAs and nibbled on backstage vegetable trays for years. The band opened for every act in the business with smiles on their faces. The artist built a fan base one performance at a time and eventually made the transition to becoming a top-tier headliner. “It” happened for this artist because of the collective hunger and hard work of the team of people on stage and behind the scenes. Everyone was hungry.
STUDY SUCCESS—AND STAY HUNGRY
I make it a point to examine the habits and actions of successful people from many different fields and businesses. I’ve noticed a common denominator for individuals and companies that achieve a high level of success and notoriety. At a certain point, things can start to become comfortable. People begin to take things for granted. They lose that spark, and the quality of their work starts to decline. Don’t let this happen to you!
The individuals and companies that continue to push hard and consistently reinvent themselves, by developing new skill sets or creating new products, are the ones that survive and thrive. I’ve also noticed that people respect those who never rest on past accomplishments. When you fan the flames of hunger and keep pushing, you’ll be rewarded with new and exciting opportunities. In other words, you get back what you put in.
Musicians that I respect and model myself after are the ones who sound and look like they’re literally playing for their supper. No matter what stage their career is in, they always play at the top of their game.
I hold dear to my heart the feeling of playing my first blue-sparkle snare and bass drum combo, which I got in 1977. It was magic. When I finally got a five-piece cherry-red pro-level drumset, I was ecstatic. I practiced to records and worked out Bonhamesque hand-and-foot combinations every day after school. I was hungry to get good, play with bands, and improve. Fast-forward many years, and countless hours have been spent in recording studios, rehearsal halls, tour buses, hotels, and backstage areas. These experiences could all run together, but they don’t. I make sure that I drink it in, express gratitude, and stay hungry.
When I think of hunger, I think of inspirational movie characters like Rocky Balboa, the students in the film Stand and Deliver, and Tom Hanks in Cast Away. To me the word hunger, as it relates to pursuing a dream, conjures positive images of someone passionately, purposefully, and relentlessly working to achieve his or her goal. What’s your dream, and are you willing to go hungry for it? These are important questions to ask yourself, and they’re even more important to answer. You know that cream on top of your favorite coffeehouse latte? That can be you!
Rich Redmond is a Nashville-based touring/ recording drummer with the multiplatinum country rocker Jason Aldean. He has also worked with Kelly Clarkson, Bryan Adams, Jewel, Ludacris, Lit, Joe Perry, Miranda Lambert, Steel Magnolia, Thompson Square, Rushlow, and others. For more info, visit richredmond.com.