October 7, 2015
Rich Redmond’s eyes are closed, and he’s mouthing along to something, though not the words of the song he’s playing. He moves his head from side to side, quickly wipes sweat from his face and then brings both sticks down on his cymbals, the sounds reverberating as he returns to the snare drum.
If there is a zone, he is in it.
“I just play it like it’s the last time I’m ever going to play,” Redmond, a Texas Tech University alumnus, said.
Redmond graduated in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in music education. He spent four years in the Goin’ Band from Raiderland and ZIT, the university’s drumline, before going to the University of North Texas for a master’s degree and moving to Dallas to play the club scene. Five years after leaving Lubbock he realized if he wanted to be a big-time musician, he needed to go where the music producers were – New York, Los Angeles or Nashville. He chose Nashville.
It’s worked out rather well. Redmond has recorded and toured with country music superstar Jason Aldean for more than a decade and performed and recorded with dozens of other artists including Miranda Lambert, Eric Church, Bryan Adams, Bob Seger and Ludacris.
“It’s all fun,” Redmond said during a recent visit to Lubbock on Aldean’s Burnin’ It Down tour. “I just pinch myself every day thinking this is my life. I get to play drums all the time.”
From the time he heard a KISS record and hit his first drum at age 7, Redmond wanted to be a drummer. Through high school in El Paso and his years at Texas Tech, he knew his career was in drumming. In fact, he told percussion professor Alan Shinn he just wanted to play the drums all the time. Shinn was happy to make that happen.
“He had me playing drums, jazz and classical music, all day every day,” Redmond said. “He trained me to be overqualified for the majority of music situations I find myself in. The training I got here at Texas Tech laid the groundwork for my entire musical career.”
He played in all the bands and the drumline (Zeta Iota Tau, for those who’d rather not use the better-known acronym), even convincing then-band director Keith Bearden to let him write ZIT’s music his final year.
Rich Redmond (left)
Shinn recruited a teenage Redmond to Texas Tech at a band camp when the two met and discovered they were kindred spirits. Shinn recognized the love for drumming in Redmond the same as his parents had a decade earlier.
“Rich was a lot of fun to teach,” Shinn said.” He was super-talented with a great work ethic and a big personality. Rich had many performing opportunities at Texas Tech and he took advantage of all of them. I enjoyed working with him the most in jazz ensemble I, where I was the director. He played in that group all four years.”
From Lubbock he moved to Denton and earned a master’s degree in music performance, playing in the UNT lab band and as many side gigs as possible. From Denton he moved to Dallas and started working the music scene, meeting musicians, producers, club owners and anyone who may need a drummer – which, he is quick to point out, is everyone.
In every city, Redmond had to re-establish his brand, going to new clubs, meeting new producers, agents and guitarists. He’d been in Dallas a few years and had finally built up his reputation when he moved to Tennessee.
Still, Nashville is where people were making music, so he needed to be in Nashville. He started over, this time with the want ads. Redmond’s first job in Nashville came from a “drummer wanted” ad in Thrifty Nickel. Other drummers who’d hit the big time answered want ads, so he did too. The ads led to a gig, then another gig. During his time in Dallas he’d played with bands ranging from reggae to smooth jazz to Top 40 to commercial jingles, so he was ready to play anything.
Rich Redmond (right)
In between he spent his days doing whatever jobs he could – waiting tables, parking cars, substitute teaching, construction work – and his nights playing at the Nashville club scene then making the rounds at clubs and parties, shaking hands, introducing himself and handing out his business cards. He’d go to bed at 3 a.m. and be up at 7 a.m. to teach kindergarten.
Sound exhausting? It was, especially when no jobs were coming from all of his hard work. Although he’s living his dream life now, he’s had plenty of days when the phone didn’t ring, the offers didn’t come and those kindergartners would not behave. That’s the price an artist pays, Redmond said.
“Whether you want to be a poet or a dancer or an actor, it’s so, so tough. There’s so much competition,” he said. “You just have to totally believe in yourself and not give up, and I was never gonna give up.”
Eventually, though, the phone did ring. In 1999 Redmond met an up-and-coming country musician named Jason Aldean and started playing drums for him. Their band did showcases all over Nashville, recorded demo sessions and went on tours in vans and secondhand buses – what Redmond calls their “blood, sweat, tears and diesel fuel” phase. In 2004 Aldean got a record deal. He got the tour buses with his name on the side the next year and took his original band with him.
“We have a blast,” Redmond said. “We’re like a band of brothers. It’s really difficult to get a steady job in the music industry, so we’re all very happy and very grateful to be making good music and doing it with our friends.”
Redmond devotes about half of his week to touring and recording with Aldean. The week they came to Lubbock the band had already spent several hours recording the music video for “Gonna Know We Were Here,” Aldean’s latest hit.
He played that song at a speech he gave to a few dozen South Plains College drummers. Audience members needed about five seconds to realize how passionate Redmond was. He moves to his beat, shifting his whole body on the throne behind a minimalist drumset. His head moves back and forth, up and down; he might be singing along but he might just be moving his mouth. His eyes scrunch closed and then open as he alternates between the drums and cymbals. When he’s playing the drums, everything else fades away.
That’s true every time, Redmond said, whether he’s playing for 80,000 people at a sold-out Houston Rodeo, for U.S. troops in Cairo, Egypt, or for a drum clinic at a high school. Every audience, every performance matters. He does this because he never knows if a musician or performer is in the audience and thinking about hiring him, but also because he believes if he phones in a performance, he is cheating someone out of a life-altering musical experience.
“Music is probably our greatest gift,” he said. “It’s our highest form of communication between people.
“Yeah, I play the drums, but we have the ability to change lives and I see it. I see what music does for people. It gives them a break from their everyday worries.”
His success in music has led to other opportunities as well. Redmond’s bachelor’s degree is in music education, and he enjoys educating. He teaches drum lessons via videoconferencing and recently coauthored a book, “FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids,” aimed at teaching drums to 5- to 10-year-olds.
He is a member of a production company, New Voice Entertainment, with other members of Aldean’s band, and they produce groups like Thompson Square and Parmalee. Redmond also writes songs and he’s thinking about artist management one day. Music keeps him plenty busy, one would think.
“The good thing is I’m spending a lot of time in rooms with people who I enjoy their company,” he said. “I respect their musicianship but also enjoy them as human beings, which is a real luxury at this point in my career.”
Yet he’s still made time for even more ventures. Redmond does voiceovers for commercials and he flies to Los Angeles once a month for acting lessons so one day he can be on screen. He already has his first on-screen credit – Lt. Paxton in soon-to-be-released horror movie “Reawakened” – and his life goals including being a regular on a sitcom – maybe the next Joey Tribbiani from “Friends,” he said.
Redmond does not credit his success to his talent. Sure, he’s talented, but so are hundreds of other drummers who aren’t on stage with megastars. His success is built largely on two factors: how hard he worked and the relationships he built. When he auditioned for artists in his younger years, instead of learning the five songs the producer asked for, he learned the artist’s entire repertoire, just in case anybody wanted to mix things up. As a student at Texas Tech he went to the library every day to read a different music chart. The library had about 2,000. He read them all.
Even now that he is, by any measure, successful, he still works 15-16 hours a day either recording music, writing songs, producing other artists’ work or speaking. He still goes to clubs to meet new people because he never knows where the next big opportunity will come from. Plus, the more people he knows, the more people he can help. Redmond remembered auditioning for 1990s country crooner Pam Tillis, and he got the job because the exiting drummer told the band leader to hire him.
“The music business is based solely on handshakes and human relationships that are sincere,” he said.
Almost a decade ago, Redmond realized he wanted to use what he’d learned, step outside of music just a little bit and help others find success. He thought up his C.R.A.S.H Course for Success, designed to help anyone from fellow musicians to elementary school children to Fortune 500 executives at Cisco, Johnson & Johnson and others be successful in their lives.
“I tried to come up with a concept people from all walks of life could use to attract success to their lives,” he said.
C.R.A.S.H., which stands for Commitment, Relationships, Attitude, Skill and Hunger, is a loud, fun, involved seminar – if a performance that involves Redmond rocking out on his drums can be called a seminar – that invites people to consider what they’re doing now to reach success and how they can get closer to it.
It starts, he says, with identifying dreams and figuring out the best way to get there.
“This is my calling, this is my passion, and I want to be able to pay my bills doing it,” Redmond said.