Monday, February 22, 2016

Volume 12 - Nicholas Gray

Volume 12 - Nicholas Gray

I hope you guys are ready for a fun one. I found this kat through a friends post on FB. It was a very interesting drum video and after watching it, I contacted him right away and said "you gotta let me feature you on Talkin' Chop".

You Must go to this link and watch the video first and then you'll understand...

So, then I proceeded to watch other vids and listen to his work. My conclusion was, this is the kinda guy people need to work with. He's Pro, he's solid and he's gonna keep things interesting. After I tracked him down, Nick agreed to Talk Chop with me!

Name or Stage Name: Nicholas Gray! I go by Nick though.

Where are you from? I am from a backwards town in Kentucky called Owensboro about 2 hours north of Nashville

How long have you been playing? All my life, technically  but only seriously for the past 3 years. 

What is or are your main genre of playing? I love straight up classic rock along with indie rock and blues, however, I mainly play “new” country as it pays the most and has the most work where I live. 

How did you get where you are now? Making and continuing to make huge mistakes. Also my mentor, David Parks, and mom and pop!

What are your goals, short & long term? Short term is to get back out and on a gig which is why I made this ridiculous video! Long term is the same! I belong on the road.

Artists you would like to play for? I would kill to play for Manchester Orchestra 

List some of your accomplishments: 150,000 people have watched me not play the drums. 

Are You in a band?  Details…. I am not in a band, and I never have been, really. I played for a small indie outfit from my hometown briefly, but my bread and butter is freelancing work doing fill-ins and studio stuff! I very rarely play for the same artist twice - I love learning new music, reading and making new charts, and feeling out the scene(s) before I settle into something!

Do you play any other instruments? I do! I play bass, piano, guitar, and most brass instruments. Knowing just enough theory to diagnose and then play top 40 hits allows me to impress chicks at parties, so I’ll always have that. 

What are your touring experiences, if any? I’ve not been on a bus tour, although I’ve spent enough time sleeping in vans and SUV’s to know bunking it on a bus is the way to go eventually!

Describe your current set up & gear - heads and sticks included and why you choose these items? I have to list my ’76 Ludwig Supra-sensitive first. It’s my bread winner! There’s something about the classic honk of a supra phonic that feels like home. As I’m not endorsed by a head company, I use two brands. All my snares have Evans heavyweight batters and hazy 500’s on the bottom with pure sound 42 strand snares. Thick and large, kind of like me. This setup allows me to have super loud drums, which is my playing style. Toms rotate between Remo Emperors and Ebonies on both batters and reso’s. I play loudly, so I need a warm tone in my toms to combat the harshness of my playing. My kick is a Evans heavyweight batter, and virgin “whatever is cheapest” resonant with no pillows. If you can’t tune a virgin pillow-less kick to sound good…well you should. Ha. Cymbals wise, I’m a K Hybrid guy. You can find me rocking a 19” 20” and 24” most nights. David Parks always told me to get “man sizes”. I try to do him proud. I use Cympads. I love my Ludwig stands, I use a combination of classic and atlas stands. I use a DW 4000 on my gigging rig. Currently my night-to-night is a DDrum reflex kit blacked out. I have it because I was tired of my Ludwig X-overs being destroyed from 2a.m. tear downs in bars. I use Promark 5A’s. They break the least often. 

Do you have multiple kits and snares? There’s no doubting Ludwig’s snares are the best of the best (according to me - hah) so I have used a 4” supraphonic, 6” supra, 5” super sensitive, and a 5” acrolite. I also rocked a DDrum Vintone. The most interesting Kit I owned was a 70’s Whitehall kit. It was bop sized and was so warm you could roast a stew in it. I rocked some Tama superstars for a while when I still thought long-ass bridge style lugs were cool. My Ludwig X-overs still reign supreme, with a close second being my daily driver DDrums. 

Would you consider yourself a drum geek? I love talking about drums although I know very little. So no? maybe yes? next question? ha

Do you have a “Dream Kit”? Amber Vista’s in Bonham sizes. (I said the B word!)

How do you describe your drumming style? Loose. I like to have fun. My appeal is that I am a performer first and a drummer second, meaning my #1 goal is to make sure the crowd has fun. I’ve been told “MAN, you’re one of the GREATEST drummers I’ve ever seen!”, and while I appreciate the sentiment, I know it’s not because I played 4-on-the-floor to a Jason Aldean tune, but because I put on a show while I play, and people REALLY dig it. Doing the bar thing, you learn to feed off the crowd. In fact, in gigs where I use a click, I usually ditch the in-ears during the last chorus to help the feel and flex a bit more if the crowd is eating it up .

Why the drums? I only play accurately when I can really beat the living snot out of something. I tried with a piano, but it turns out the hammer has a loudness limit and WILL break. 

If you weren’t playing drums, what would you be doing? I had a full ride scholarship to a private college where I was to major in elementary education. So probably working at Starbucks. 

How has drumming impacted or changed your life? It has humbled me. I really am no good at the drums, and after growing up with an inflated ego, being in a community where everyone is immeasurably better than you has taught me to learn, always, and lift others up, always. 

Is the music business your career? Technically. I still have a gig at a rock station in my hometown (Hey 97X!) but growing up with a dad who is in the industry (engineer, producer) I certainly expect it won’t be long before I am out on the road 100% of the time. 

What has been your father's influence on your musical career? My father really was the constant in my life that told me it's OK to be a musician. He was always told he couldn't make a living doing it. Owning a studio for the last 20 years has proved otherwise. 

What do you do at the radio station?
I'm a producer! I've had a couple of brief shows in my career, but I now create social media content and do production work for imaging, spots, and rotators for the stick. 

Are you involved in the local music scene in your hometown? Ha. 

Name 5 of your drumming influences? why? David Parks will always come first. He gave me my first ever drum lesson. He constantly picks me up, builds me up, and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be confident in ANY capacity. Then Bonzo (clichè?), Bermuda Schwartz from Weird Al because dude has to play every style of drumming ever every night and on every record, Brad Davis because he embodies the “performer first” way of playing, and the Reverend himself, Alex VanHalen because, VanHalen

Name an inspiring concert that made you want to go home and start shedding? My first concert was Tesla. I went to dinner with Troy Lucketta and he had me play piano for him backstage. We talked about everything BUT drums. I think it’s that experience where I really started to “get it”. If you “get it”, you know what I’m saying. 

How much time do you practice? Not enough.

What types of things do you like to work on? Being loose and solid at the same time. Some people call it “groove” and say it’s way more important than chops. Other people are wrong. 

Are you involved in local Shedding sessions? I was JUST talking about this with another drummer I look up to (Jesse French - Jesse French Drums on Facebook). There really isn’t a community in Owensboro. I’ve leeched onto the Nashville scene a bit and have made friends there. The thing about the drumming community is, you have to be a likable good dude. The drumming part comes second. Good thing I’m great at first impressions. 

Describe your current gig(s) Currently I’m not playing drums to Death Cab for Cutie covers because I am not playing with anyone, although a fantastic alternative outfit in Chicago recently reached out. We’ll see how it goes. (which is a good time to plug - please hire me? ha). Usually you can find me cranking out Florida Georgia Line tunes covered in sweat playing to the sound guy in some bar at midnight. 

Is there a healthy live music scene in Owensboro? It depends on who you ask. Owensboro is experiencing its boom currently, which means because of the advent of the internet,  a lot of people are seeing how other cities do a “real” music scene for the first time. This could be good, because maybe musicians can for the first time earn a livable income playing music here. I am a HUGE supporter of getting paid to play, which is why I have to look to play in bands and take gigs out of Owensboro. I’ve taken a lot of flak for campaigning to get paid to play, which actually cost me my last “gig”. We’ll see how it goes. 

I know you do drum videos, how has it helped you? I actually only have a handful of footage of me playing; most of it is really old. It’s helped me get my brand out there. It’s also helped me land gigs. Nearly every artist I’ve played for hired me because of a drum video I have. 

After watching one of your videos, I noticed you have a unique take on drumming and the drum video culture. You are quite the personality. Where does that come from? I really want this. I mean I REALLY want this. Some people got it (drumming) and some people don’t. I don’t. For some reason I still REALLY want this. So I had to turn to being energetic and really performing when I play - it’s becoming part of my brand. 

Are you into electronic drums at all? Yes! if they were more accepted in the “elite” drum community, I would use electric kits all day! The stage volume isn’t a problem, the drums are always tuned, and I can fake some really fast hands on a rubber pad!

Are you a songwriter? I try. I try so hard. I can write a mean guitar riff. That’s about it. Which sucks because I really really enjoy the songwriting process. 

Do you sing and play? I tried once. Turns out I can’t sing. Who knew?

Do you prefer studio sessions, local live gigs or touring? Touring, studio, and local gigs, in that order. 

Do you prefer being in a band (artist) or being a sideman? Hired gun mainly. I’m getting paid to read a chart and look cool doing it, and that’s neat. Although being the “artist” means I can suck and say “it’s just our style, man”.

Do you have a crazy or interesting gig you can share with us? I once played a gig where the other hired guns and I vowed never to speak about it. So really, I guess I can’t share it. I CAN tell you that the stage manager told me not to go behind the (outdoor) stage because the “crocs might get ya”. 

What do you want your legacy to be? I want to be to other musicians what my father and other influences are to me. When guys who looked up to me are being interviewed by DeHaven in 10 years, I want them to say "Special thanks to Nick Gray for helping me get here".

What are your words of wisdom for your fellow drummers out there? Just do it. I’m making it work and I know like 2 rudiments. 

Last Words, Links, Hashtags and Thank You’s??? 
I seriously got this interview by not playing the drums. What a time to be alive. 
@nickgrayiscool on ALL media (Insta, Twitter, Snapchat, Periscope, Gamertag, whatever)

Thanks to, DeHaven (you ROCK dude), David Parks, Mom and Pop, Christian for the encouragement on the video, Jesse, Travis, other Jesse, and Sam for jamming, Ludwig Drums, Cympad, Zildjian pies, and everyone who’s ever jammed with me and said “hey, you weren’t completely horrific”. 

Well, that was fun! Gotta love this guy and his personality to go along with his love for music and drumming. I want to wish Nick all the best and I know he will be working a lot in this industry and bringing a great attitude and fun to every project he's involved with.

Thanks Nick!!

If you would like to be interviewed on Talkin' Chop...

Contact: DeHaven at

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