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Rich Redmond: The “Big Green Tractor” interview

In the world of music, there are few Big Yellow Taxi’s or Big Green Tractors.  Those types of hits don’t come along for an artist very often in life, unless you happen to be Jason Aldean, the beat he moves and makes music to, or the drummer that moves his music along at lightening speed on his lightening-speed country rockin’ rise to success.  Another thing that doesn't come along very often are interviews with drummers associated with superstar acts, drummers like Rich Redmond, the man I refer to in this song as either "Rockin' Rich Redmond" or, simply…

The Wheels (A Tribute to Rich Redmond)
Words and music by Dr BLT copyright 2009

He’s the wheels that move the tractor
And the man behind the wheel
Who takes a country song
Depicting just how we all feel
And takes it to a level
Where no one’s gone before
And the wheels that move the tractor
Make the drum tracks we adore…

The very first song that I attempted to write was called Six More Rows.  It was about my experience driving on my dad’s tractor as a teen-age boy of 14. Yes, it was about a tractor, but it was a train wreck. I still possess the copy, scribbled on my high school loose leaf in a tiny basement room at Evan Hardy Collegiate in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  I keep it because represents, not only my failure, but also my decision to get back on and ride the songwriter’s “tractor.”  That first one was a tough row to plough, but after that, songwriting came easy for me.

So years later, when I came across a song called Big Green Tractor, by country superstar, Jason Aldean, and began hearing it on virtually every country station, everywhere I traveled, it took me back to those days on my dad’s tractor, and those days when I became determined, in metaphorical terms, to “get back on the tractor and ride.”

But who would have guessed that years after I penned that disaster-of-a-song about a tractor ride, the drummer touring with the man who recorded Big Green Tractor would take a break from that touring, and from all of the other activities associated with his life as a stunningly successful musician, for an interview with the guy who penned “Six More Rows.” But the musical world is the very world where dreams come true, so let’s examine the “wheels” behind Jason Aldean, the man riding the Big Green Tractor towards mind-blowing success.    

Dr BLT: Being the busy guy that I am, I usually do my interviews the way Johnny Cash put that Cadillac together in the song, One Piece at a Time, only I don't steal anything. So here's the first piece:

What are you involved with, musically at this time?

Rich Redmond: I am in my 5th year of touring and recording with country rocker Jason Aldean.

Dr. BLT: Well, you get in the middle of more action than that. So, what’s a humble guy like you doing with a superstar like Jason Aldean?

Rich Redmond: We are having a blast as usual. Jason is on fire! We've been extra busy lately. We've been on the tour that never ends. Jason had a multi week #1 called 'She's Country' that has kept us booked.

Dr. BLT: I love that song, and I could understand why such a song could keep a person, and a band booked.  What else has been going on in your busy life?

Rich Redmond: First of all, there was the CMT Awards Show performance with special guest Keith Urban.  Second, there was a 'Crossroads' Show on CMT with Aldean, and pop icon, Bryan Adams.

Meanwhile, in the middle of all of that, Big Green Tractor shot like a bullet into the Top 10 and becoming the #1 ring tone in the world.

Dr. BLT: Yes, and what an awesome song that is.  I really should have that as my own ring tone.  Now, what about this music festival coming up on CMA? 

Rich Redmond: Well, I believe you’re referring to the CMA Music Festival Performance.  That’s coming up very soon and will be aired on ABC.

Dr. BLT: Great, we’ll look forward to that, and I understand that Jason’s songs are popping up all over the charts. 

Rich Redmond:  That’s right.  As a matter of fact, the 'Wide Open' record has become a #1 indie record (across all genres) on The Billboard charts.

Dr BLT: Wow. That’s awesome. And I understand that you’ve also been doing some other stuff on television. 

Rich Redmond:  That’s right, we recently performed on Jimmy Kimmel and The Tonight Show With Conan O Brian.

On top of that, has been release of the 'Club Remix' of 'She's Country' which my partners and I produced. First week sales on Itunes have been very good.

Dr. BLT: Whoa, you guys have really taken the country by storm (pun intended).  And what’s this I hear about a number of you getting together to form a production company?

Rich Redmond:  That’s true.  My partners in crime (Tully Kennedy, Kurt Allison, David Fanning) have a production company called New Voice Entertainment. Here are some links to the acts we are working with:;;;; 

Dr. BLT: So you’re not only doing lots of exciting stuff with Jason, you’re also teaming up with lots of other artists.

Rich Redmond: That’s right, Dr. BLT, I do tons of recording in Nashville for various other artists and publishers. Recent artists include Amy Dalley, Doc Walker, The Stellas, Steel Magnolia, Courtney Dickinson, Jalayne Tradler, Julie Forrester, Dave Bradley...

Dr. BLT: Well, I must say, that’s quite an impressive list. And I understand you’ve also done a lot to help other drummers learn and perfect their own drum skills.  

Rich Redmond: That’s right. I have a clinic called The Drummer's CRASH Course For Success that I perform at music stores, high schools and colleges.

It focuses on the musical, mental and business skills necessary for success in the music business.

Dr. BLT: Hmmm, and I thought I was a busy guy.  Now that’s a lot to have on your plate at one time.  What a wild ride!  Now, how did all of this begin for you, Rich?  How did you get started in music?

Rich Redmond: I started studying the drums at age 8. I was beating on everything in the house and my Dad asked if I had any interest in playing the drums. I said 'yes' and immediately started taking lessons. My passion for percussion inspired me to play in a million bands and to pursue my Master's Degree in Music Education and Percussion, which I received from The University of North Texas.

Dr. BLT: That’s so cool, you’re not only an incredibly successful drummer--you’re also a scholar.  So tell me, Rich, what are some of your musical influences?

Rich Redmond: I fell in love with bands like The Police, Van Halen and John Mellencamp when I was younger. I've studied many of the world's greatest drummers by LISTENING tons and even transcribing and playing to their recordings.

It's all invaluable stuff. I find inspiration in the best and worst music and musicians!! You can learn from everyone. Remember the old

adage: 'Good composers borrow but great composers steal.' So true.

Dr BLT: Do you have any personal experiences that have shaped your or influenced you as artist?

Rich Redmond: I always knew that practice makes perfect, so I jumped on that train at a young age. There is a theory that is becoming more and more accepted that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to make someone any expert at anything. I agree totally. I never counted the hours I practiced, but I'm sure it's very close. My dad took me to see Buddy Rich and Carmine Appice (at separate shows) and I knew that this was something I wanted to do. I always had very encouraging teachers and I always tried to play with musicians that were more experienced so I could grow as a player.

Dr. BLT: And let’s talk for a moment about geography, what did moving to Nashville do for you, and for your career?

Rich Redmond: Moving to Nashville helped refine my ability to truly understand song forms and the art of shaping songs.

But in terms of my influences, I must also include your own geographical region, as I was shaped both Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.

Also, now that we’re on the subject of geography, I've noticed that all my musician friends who were raised in New York or Los Angeles got connected in the industry at a very young age. It sure does help to be networking in a healthy music scene as you learn your craft.

Dr. BLT: And were did it all begin to take off for you?

Rich Redmond: I started playing in Connecticut, and then moved to El Paso, Texas. I eventually made a name for myself in the Dallas music scene and then had to start over again when I moved to Nashville. It was humbling and challenging. I'm always up for a good challenge. My career has been a slow steps all the way, but I've never missed a meal and I spend everyday doing what I love! Nashville has been great to me, despite its southern conservative spirit. I'm working on expanding my circles to the LA music scene. LA is a city of ambition and restless energy, and it inspires me.

Dr. BLT: Well, Bakersfield’s own Penny Marie is also gradually becoming more connected over there in Nashville, so I’m sure she will come across an experience, similar in some ways to that of your own.

Now, let me get back to putting on my psychologist hat, and we’ll approach the old nature/nurture debate.

In your opinion, were you born with a good sense of rhythm, is it something you learned through practice, or is it a little of both?

Rich Redmond: Controlling rhythm and developing one's 'internal clock' can be developed with practice, but it sure does help to have a natural instinct for it. Rhythm is in my blood. I just took the right steps to develop and nurture it. I sought out the right information and I made it second nature through repeated practice. Learning the rudiments, learning to read music, learning four way coordination and then learning to speak the many dialects of musical styles are all important and necessary skills.

Dr BLT: That makes a lot of sense, from my own perspective.  Now, here's a psychological question for you.
Being a part of such a successful act that has risen to such great heights in such a short time, do you ever get overwhelmed by it, or is the sudden success something you've adapted to and grown comfortable with?

Rich Redmond: I think about it all of the time from a position of gratitude. I feel as though I have been a massive success for years because I get to play the drums everyday for a living. I would say less than 0.1% of people that play music get to do it at the level that I do. I achieved that goal through persistence, determination and tenacity.

I had a dream as a young man and I went after it with my heart and soul. It's a risky proposition, but failure was never an option for me. When you have that kind of a mind set, you can't fail.

Dr BLT: And how did you end up meeting Jason?

Rich Redmond: I met Jason in 2000 and played with him on and off until we cut a record in 2004. After that, it's been non stop touring, recording and television appearances.

It actually happens faster for many artists, but Jason has done it the right way...the slow and steady climb. That's what you want to have in this business, a slow climb.

Dr. BLT: I’ll have to tell that to some of my friends like Hank Ray, Rockwell, Alyssa Kaess, and Brian Benson. While I’m at it, I should also probably remind myself of the same thing. I agree that it’s very important to take that slow, steady approach.  

Rich Redmond: It feels very natural to me because this is what I do. It's like wearing an old pair of Chuck Taylor's because this is the vision I have always had for me life that I held so dearly in my mind's eye.

If I wasn't doing it with Jason, I would be doing it with someone else. I'm sure I'll be doing it with someone else after Jason. Everyone needs a good drummer. Ha!

Dr BLT: Absolutely, I don’t know what I’d do myself without my, Pat Frase. 

Now, if you don’t mind, Rich, let’s get back to the Bakersfield sound.  To what extent, if any, has the Bakersfield sound, involving Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and others influenced your music, your attitude, or your motivation?

Rich Redmond: The first thing I did when I moved to Nashville was go to the used record store and purchase greatest hits packages from all of country's greatest artists. Remember, I was coming from rock, pop, fusion and jazz. All musical forms have a dialect and you have to be able to speak that language. I did my homework and learned the Merle, Buck, Waylon and Willie catalog.

I'm a self motivated individual, so I put the time in to learn the things I need to learn to breed success. Traditional country music was not my first love, but I learned to see the beauty in it. I've played with Gene Watson, Earl Thomas Conley, Pam Tillis, Marty Stuart and many other traditionalists, so I can play the role to a tee. It's very satisfying to be bringing my multi cultural rock n' roll influences to contemporary country radio and literally help impact a change on Music Row. It's powerful stuff.

Dr BLT: Those are some great artists, and some of those very artists that you’ve mentioned and studied still get airplay, thanks to shows like Bakersfield and Beyond on KWMR out of Marin County.  

Now, Merle Haggard recently suffered from lung cancer. They seem to have gotten all of it, but he took a break just before the surgery, and recently had to take a break again from his current tour due to health problems. Do you have anything you'd like to pass on to him in the way of wishes for his health?

Rich Redmond: I wish him the best for a speedy recovery. I assume he will quit smoking if he hasn't already.

Dr. BLT: Yes, as a matter of fact, I recently read that he did just that.

Rich Redmond:  Great. My mother is a 23 year survivor of cancer, so I know about that struggle. He'll most likely, make a triumphant return.

The main thing we have to remember is that the word 'disease' can be thought of as 'dis' 'ease'. It comes from not taking care of ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually. Striving for balance in those three areas is challenging but necessary.

Dr. BLT: I couldn’t agree more.  And I agree, that Merle is one that most likely will bounce back in a big way. Over here in Kern County, we can never get enough Merle.  One of the things I like about his songs is that he shares lots of his memories, and his songs bring up memories in those who listen to his songs as well.

Merle Haggard once said in Sing Me Back Home, "…make my old memories come alive." To what extent does music make memories come alive for you?

Rich Redmond: I take lots of pictures and do lots of journalizing, because I know the things I am doing, the people that I meet and the places that I visit are all special. Some people never make it out of their small town and I get paid to travel the world. It's a special gift. I'm going to want to remember all of these things, so I do lots of archiving.

Dr BLT: Well, that nearly wraps up our interview. Do you have any final words of advice for musicians who are struggling to gain even a fraction of the success you seem to have attained?

Rich Redmond: I do.  I tell people to remember the 'The Three P's": Playing, People Skills and Personality. In this business your playing has to be exceptional, but more importantly, the way you interact with people is paramount. No one wants to be around negative people. I try to always stay on the positive side of the street.

Artists, producers and bands all want to work with someone that really wants to be there and who brings positive energy to the table. To play the drums everyday, I have had to create a large network of people that champion what I do. That's the only way to create consistent revenue streams for yourself.

So get out and start shaking lots of hands. Make fans! Stay focused, set goals and keep practicing. Be sure to have great gear, be on time, be professional, stay sober, and focused. Pay attention to your grooming and imaging as well. It all works together to create a 'professional image'. Don't be afraid to promote yourself, Always have a demo reel and business cards. Get out there and make it happen. You don't want to be a member of the 'would, shoulda, coulda' club!

Thank you!

Dr. BLT: You’re welcome, and thank you, Rich, very much for taking a break from all of that, taking a moment to climb off of that Big Green Tractor to do this interview!

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Rich is the touring and recording drummer with country superstar JASON ALDEAN and a staple of the Nashville recording scene.

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