Catching Up With…

Lady Antebellum’s Chris Tyrrell

After twenty years as a pro drummer, Lady Antebellum’s Chris Tyrrell has developed a certain worldview. “My strengths revolve around my desire for each song to feel good,” he says, “so my philosophy is that I want to be felt, not heard.”

Tyrrell, who has also worked with the contemporary country stars Luke Bryan, Love and Theft, and Josh Kelley, is equally passionate about creating the ideal parts for each unique situation. “I spend hours studying the physical movements and tendencies of every artist I work with,” he says. “That helps me immensely when problems arise or something happens on the fly.

“Following your artist’s lead on audible adjustments is heavily based on instinct,” Tyrrell continues, “and the more in tune you are to his or her tendencies, the smoother those adjustments will play out. Every musician has some area of focus, some aspect that they zero in on musically. I consider it my job to not only understand what each player is focused on, but to be the glue that ties all of those aspects together.”

Regarding his role in Lady Antebellum, which involves translating hits like the ubiquitous “Need You Now” to a live situation, Tyrrell says his focus is on the emotion of each song. “It’s much more important to translate the feeling and the movement of the song,” he explains, “than it is to get caught up trying to replicate every drum sound exactly.”

Not that Tyrrell is indifferent to sonic details—far from it. With the variety of drum sounds coming out of modern Nashville, Chris has learned that preparedness is huge in terms of earning a living. “I travel with multiple snare drums,” he says, “and I have two hi-hats set up on my touring kit. So I can get pretty close to mimicking the major sounds for each song by [doing things like] swapping snares between songs.

“There’s such a huge opportunity for the lines between musical genres to be blurred,” Tyrrell adds, “especially through drumming. The key is to be flexible and adaptable to each artist you’re working with, while maintaining your musical identity.”

Steven Douglas Losey