Rodney and I met back in 2005 when he was playing on the debut tour with singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw. He has since gone on to play with the enigmatic Regina Spektor and pop megastar Avril Lavigne. In fact, Rodney played a very crucial part of my signing Avril to the Pearl roster during her 2008 Best Damn Tour.
Gavin is currently touring behind his latest CD Free and Rodney was gracious enough to do a short interview for the Pearl website. This was conducted backstage at the Exit/In after a sold-out show.
Rodney Howard Is Back "Where It Began"
Rodney Howard talks to us about his kit on the Gavin DeGraw's "Where It Began" Tour.
Platinum recording artist Gavin DeGraw released a new collection of songs, entitled FREE — a raw, organic-sounding recording that showcases his earthy charm and ever-evolving songwriting talent. In keeping with the stripped-down feel of FREE, DeGraw hit the road on March 27th for an extensive spring tour he has dubbed his “Where It Began” tour, in which audiences will be taken on a musical journey back to his roots for a series of intimate full band and solo performances. “We’ll take a similar approach to the live shows as we did on the album,” he says. “This tour is all about creating that very close connection with the audience.” Drummer Rodney Howard had to translate this new sound to a live setting and told us how he did it.
Pearl Drums: How is this tour different from the first tour you did with Gavin?
Rodney Howard: The first album was delivering a new artist's pop record to the public. The way I played, the way he sang, and everything else was high energy but this tour is very different. I'm using much smaller drums tuned much more tonally, lots of brushes, shakers, and rods. My choice of drums was really specific because I have to make the sounds unlike a rock show where it can be dialed in at the soundboard.
PD: Could you tell us about your touring kit?
Sure, it's a MRP Masters Series Premium Maple 20x16 bass drum and 14x5.5 snare drum, BSX Masters Series Birch 12x8 tom and 16x16 floor tom all in #407 Red Glass finish with a 12x7 snare drum tuned open and more "charming" than you would for most pop gigs. I'm also using much larger cymbals like the Sabian Artisan 18" crashes as high hats which aren't as loud as you think... in fact, it's just the opposite. They're very soft, mellow, and vibey. There's another 18" crash, 22" Legacy ride, 20" ozone crash, and a 20" Legacy HHX ride used for softer songs. I'm using larger cymbals than usual because they're softer and I need to get a lot of vibe whether I'm hitting them with rods, shakers, or hands... and they sound pretty great when you lay into them too! (laughs)
PD: This tour you get to stretch out more than your previous gig with Avril. Do you enjoy the diversity?
Oh yeah! It's very different in the sense that this tour for Gavin is less structured and we take a lot of liberties with the songs. There's a drum solo, loads of guitar solos, parts that Gavin sings outside the form... very loose but still with the context of the songs. With Avril's tour, you knew that if there was a guitar solo that was two choruses long... it was always two choruses long. However, it was interesting that inside that form I was the only guy to have some freedom. So it wasn't the Pop gig where you couldn't play unauthorized 8th notes, it was the exact opposite. She trusted me not to abuse that freedom and to still play the signature fills that really have to be there.
PD: And that was on a much bigger kit as well.
Yeah, a much bigger kit! 24" bass drum, 13" bass drum (yes i said 13"), three snare drums, three hi-hats, four toms, and Sabian Choppers which helped me reproduce the drum machine sounds.
PD: There were lots of really nice groove moments tonight... the reggae feel on "Wait a Minute Sister", the subtleties in "Mountains To Move", and not to forget the drum solo in "Chemicial Party".
"Chemical Party" is an older tune that has kind of a straighter 8th note feel... kind of a Stones or Bad Company thing... we did the feel on the Stripped record tonight but just LOUDER. Gavin surprised me by really opening that song up and saying 'You need to take a drum solo in there''
PD: So what's coming up next?
We're wrapping up this leg of the tour which is the "looser acoustic tour" which turned out to be nothing like that (laughs) on May 9th and then we're going to Europe for a month with the Rock version. We'll keep that going for the rest of the year and possibly recording some Rock versions of the FREE songs later in the year.