Thursday, August 18, 2016

Volume 45 - Llavar Mindley

Llavar Mindley


Hello again my friends,
another great day brings us another great drummer.
I think when we all set out on this journey, we want to do as much as we can in the field. Playing in local bands, doing studio sessions, touring with big name artists, maybe getting a kool t.v. gig or even playing for a musical. Whatever the dream or discipline, we know that we have to study, practice and develop relationships in order to get where we want to go. Well, I found a guy who has been doing just that. He went to school for music and is cutting his teeth in the studio and playing live shows. Preparing himself to be a first call type of player to potentially get some coveted gigs. Using videos to aid in garnering work, showing his versatility and attention to detail, while showing his personality and creativity.
Llavar has already started making a name for himself and is navigating his way through this crazy industry, becoming a strong and dependable player. So, I'm glad he took the time to Talk a little Chop...

Name or Stage Name:
Llavar Mindley or Llavar On Drums

Where are you from?
I am from Kingston, Jamaica.

How long have you been in the states? 
I have been in the states for quite a while. I came to the United States at the age of six on Thanksgiving day in 1988. Our family lived in Florida for a year before we later settled in Maryland.

You're now living in Atlanta, how would you describe the live music scene there?
Atlanta is pretty stacked with many great musicians, so the live music scene is really popping here. Just about every night of the week you can find many venues with live music in any genre.
ATL, as you may know is also home to some of the biggest stars in R&B and Hip-Hop, Outkast, T.I., Usher, Janelle Monae, the late Whitney Houston, Monica, Musiq Soulchild, and TLC just to name a few, so that also has a role in the music scene here.

You went to the Atlanta Institute of Music & Media. What was your motivation for going that route?
I always wanted to play professionally, and knew I was destined for it. I considered myself a good drummer, but I wanted to be great. Part of being great as a musician is being well-rounded. While there is no substitute for regular practice at your craft, what AIMM offered was a versatile program that covered every aspect of live and studio music performance. Versatility as a musician was the motivation because that’s what it takes to make it in the mainstream music industry today.

Do you feel that experience was a big reason why you’re the player you are today?
Absolutely! Our lectures and performance classes were all taught by industry pros, who stressed the importance of just being a professional. It goes way beyond your ability to play. You have to work well with other people and know your role within the band.

Watching your vids, one can see you are a versatile drummer. Is that your approach to landing gigs? "Be whatever the artist needs me to be?"
Yes, being versatile enables me to land gigs with Artists of genres I had not grown up listening to, and I am able to quickly adapt to any musical situation.

Drum Covers - Genre Samples

How did you get where you are now?
This may sound cliché, but there is really no substitute for HARD WORK! But being a person of faith, I also pray a lot for guidance and overall success.

What are your goals, short & long term?
Short term, I would like to land a major tour with a mainstream iconic artist. I used to always dream of playing for Michael Jackson :-)
In the Long term, I want to be in the house band on one of the late night TV talk shows. I’ve been saying that since Jay Leno was still hosting the Tonight Show, but all of those gigs are cool to me.

I think most of us wanted to play behind Michael Jackson. What was your reasons for wanting that gig?
His music touched every continent, and he was such an iconic figure. I used to just watch videos of his performances and be in awe. He was so dynamic in many ways. He was just a musical genius, who was so in tune with his band. It was just one of those lifetime dreams. I would have probably played that gig for free...Lol

Did you ever see MJ live in concert?
I regrettably never got the chance to see him live in concert.

The late night shows or the new format competition shows seems to be a very coveted and kool gig.
I think your skills fit into that world.
Have you done anything like that on a local level?
I have not yet done that locally, but I think its a great career avenue. Some of those gigs have 10 year contracts, and a steady gig is a musician's best friend!

You've played for some kool people already, are there any other artists on your list, you would like to play for??
Wow, man I could go on for the days with this question right here. I don’t even know where to start. Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, Adele, Rihanna, Sade, Porcupine Tree, Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, The Rolling Stones, Eagles, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, Chicago, Ariana Grande, just to name a few.

Justin Timberlake - Mirrors (live) Drum Cover

List some of your accomplishments:
I would have to say some of my greatest accomplishments, Graduating w/ honors from music school after previously graduating with an engineering degree, and also representing the famed Recording Academy on a Grammy Experience Residency.

What projects are you currently working on?
I have teamed up with a voice-over artist/producer who does commercial jingles, and right now I am in the studio working on the first of its kind commercial jingle featuring drummer and drum set for two major brands. Stay tuned!

What are your touring experiences, if any?
I’ve done several cruise tours through a partnership with The Recording Academy and Norwegian Cruise Line. These tours featured Grammy nominated artists Carolyn Malachi, and Shannon McNally.

Do you like being on the road?
Love it, traveling and playing music is life!

Describe your current set up & gear - heads and sticks...etc.?
I play anywhere from a 3-6pc depending on the gig. Jazz gigs or small club gigs usually get the minimal requirements. Church and live shows usually have the larger setups and more accessories like triggers, sampling pads, and such.

Do you have multiple kits and snares? 
I currently have two main kits, Gretsch Catalina Birch, and a Pearl Reference. I have about 5 snares at the moment, but that number will likely increase soon.

Maple or Birch?
Hmm…I like both to be honest, although I prefer Birch for studio recordings.

Do you have a “Dream Kit”? 
That would have to be the Yamaha PHX kit, just a sweet all-around drum set.

How do you describe your drumming style?
I consider myself a disciplined pocket player who focuses on laying the foundation for the other musicians to vibe off of. I also offer versatility over a broad range of styles.

I noticed you like to do these kool cymbal swells, is that something that came naturally and is part of your signature?
I guess it depends on what I’m playing at the time. A great sounding cymbal when swelled adds so much color to a song or piece. It just has to fit the musical situation.

Rihanna - Diamonds (live) Drum Cover

Being from Jamaica, how much has that music culture developed your style?
Music in Jamaica, particularly our noted Reggae is absolutely world music. So many of the different rhythms ranging from the distinctive rhythms heard in Ska, Rocksteady, and Reggae can be translated well in other genres. For my style of play it allows me to lay down that distinct groove that moves a crowd.

Why the drums?
The drummer was always my favorite musician to watch and listen to growing up. It always seemed fun, and requires a lot more coordination than most people think. If the rest of the music stops, all the crowd needs is a beat to keep them going. It’s just overall a fun instrument to play.

If you weren’t playing drums, what would you be doing?
I’d be a professional athlete (I think…Lol) or a sportscaster

How has drumming impacted or changed your life?
Playing drums has opened a lot of doors, especially for the opportunity to travel to different parts of the world cost-free, and experience different cultures.

Are you playing music full time??
I recently came off a full time contract, and am currently freelancing in and around Atlanta, GA until the next full time opp.

Name 5 of your drumming influences? why?
This is a tough one, and in no particular order but, Will Kennedy, Lil' John Roberts, Tom Knight, Abe Laboriel Jr., Ari Hoenig. These guys are all geniuses in their own right. They are all known for their ‘musical’ approach to playing. I think that being musical as a drummer is such an underestimated skill, and these guys are all what I like to call industry standard.

Name an inspiring concert that made you want to go home and start shedding?
Mary J. Blige was on tour, and I caught a show in Baltimore. Everything musically was awesome, the band was so locked in and everyone shined in their own right. There have been quite a few others, but that show certainly made me go home and practice that night.

How much time do you practice?
When not gigging, I practice daily, 5-6 hours typically, 6-7 if I have a lot of new material to learn.

What types of things do you work on, in those sessions?
For starters I always try to learn new music in a genre or rhythmic style that is not as familiar to me This allows me to grow as a musician. Other things I work on are the fundamentals, and building up what I consider the weaker areas of play.

You have a nice collection of drum vids. How has it helped you as a drummer?
Whenever I apply to, or am referred to an opportunity, people always look for examples to determine whether to bring you in for an audition or a show. The videos have helped me because it gives the potential music director confidence in the abilities you can display without having to bring you in first for a blind audition. I certainly highly recommend it in this day and age. Everything and everybody is on YouTube or any other internet media.

Foo Fighters - Learn to Fly Drum Cover

Do like being a freelance musician or would you like to be in an artist situation or both?
Overall I like both. Freelancing is great, but I have found more consistency in an artist situation. Freelancing gives way to these artist situations, because you always meet people while playing, and eventually turns into a referral for a permanent opportunity.

Do you have a crazy or interesting gig you can share with us?
Once while I was on a cruise ship gig, we sailed pretty close to a hurricane, and needless to say, the ship rocked almost non-stop during that evenings’ show. Luckily as a drummer, I of course sit down to play. The lead guitarist and singer weren’t so fortunate, and mid-song they started to stumble across the stage, but didn’t stop playing! Moral of the story: The show must go on!

What are your words of wisdom for your fellow drummers out there?
Always stay ready! Always be professional, but have fun at the same time. You never know who is in the audience watching, and being influenced by you, or evening looking for someone with your energy and skill.

Last Words, Links, Hashtags and Thank You’s???
I just want to give a shout out to DeHaven Carrington, and Talkin’Chop for this platform that aims to provide exposure to all the serious musicians out there interested in going to the next level. To learn more about me, or to connect please visit my website,, or connect with me @LlavarOnDrums on all social media.


Ladies and Gents...Llavar Mindley in the house!
This kat is definitely going places. Embracing the new technology with good ol' fashioned hard work, dedication and professionalism.
It's good to know that the future is in good hands with kats like this around.
Thx Llavar for sharing a little bit of your drum life with us.
I wish you nothing but continued success.

Hey guys, make sure you go check out Llavar at his soc. med. sites or his website and drop a "Hello" on him.

Remember, if you or someone you know would like to be a part of Talkin' Chop...all you you gotta do is contact me:
DeHaven -

#DrummersSupportDrummers  #TalkinChop  #DrumLife


DeHaven is sponsored by
Soultone Cymbals, SilverFox Drumsticks, Cympad, Cymbag, Phatfoot Drum Harness


  1. I had the pleasure of working with Llavar and besides the great musicianship his vibe was awesome from day one! Jazz ain't easy but I was comfortable in his hands! A great gig and I look forward to working with him again.