Nick Campbell, a drummer from North Carolina, drum tech for the band Lynyrd Skynyrd since 2011. Nick has a Youtube channel youtube.com/user/analogbeatmaker with all his drumming videos. He started playing drums in 1985. Nick is now going to be the drummer for the band Jim Quick & Coastline. I sat down with Nick to chat about his upcoming gig. Words by Mark Schierholz, photo credit to Doltyn Snedden www.doltynsneddencreatives.com
I was given this interview prior to Nick making the announcement, which was pretty cool, he has also contributed to my drum tech book. If you ever watched a drummer, and wandered what would the band do if something happened to him/her, read this. It happens, and drum techs sometimes have to step in, and play the shows. I know many who have done it, just like Nick did.
Mark: Nick, you're currently the drum tech for Lynyrd Skynyrd, and you're getting ready for a new adventure. What do you have going on now?
Nick: Yeah, so, I've been hired by a band called Jim Quick & Coastline. They're marketed as a beach music band. But it's definitely, I think, probably more along the blues soul music line with a rock edge to it. They're very well established. They've been doing it for 20 plus years, and they do around 250 shows a year. I'm gonna start playing drums for those guys. The first gig is on September 5th.
Mark: How long have you been a drum tech for Lynyrd Skynyrd?
Nick: This was my ninth year.
Mark: You're currently training the replacement, and then you're also practicing for your new gig.
Nick: Yeah, that's right. I've been having to try to get over 50 songs in my head over the last couple of weeks or so, which is, for me at least, it's very difficult to get that much music crammed into my head. But I've been writing charts for everything. So, even though I don't know them all by memory, I can look at the charts and I can play to them all and get through them.
Mark: This isn't the first band you've played with, correct?
Nick: Correct. I've always been the drummer in bands up until I started teching for Skynyrd. I've been in bands since I was about 15 years old. I did that up until, I guess, mid 30s, I was in bands. And then I finally decided I was gonna take a break from it. I'd been in one band for about 14 years at that point and thought it was gonna do something for many years, and it just never could quite get that next thing going on. So, I finally made the decision to leave that band, and just take some time off. There was no other bands in the area that I was living that I thought I wanted to be in at the time. I was always big into original music. I've never been in a cover band or anything like that. That's kind of how I wanted to continue was in an original band. So, when I got offered the Skynyrd teching gig, my mind was like, well, I'll take the gig as a tech, and hopefully, maybe, some of the guys will hear me play, and if they like me they might at least throw my name in the hat for some auditions or something like that. In the first two or three years, a couple of them heard me at line checks. So, they knew I could play a little bit. And then we had a run of shows in Southern California, I think it was the third year I was here, maybe the fourth year that I was with Skynyrd. We had four shows in a row. The first one was in San Diego, and the show went like normal. And then we drove up to Los Angeles where the second show of the four was gonna be. And early that morning our tour manager pulled my bunk curtain back and he goes, "You awake?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Okay, put your clothes on and come outside of the bus." I kind of thought I was getting fired or something, 'cause they never wake you up like that. So, I got up and came outside of the bus and sat down on the curb, and he handed me the phone, and it was the singer from the band, Johnny Van Zant. And he told me that Michael had a family emergency, so Michael flew out and flew home. But he said that on the way out, Michael told him that I could play the show, to let me do it. He was calling me that morning to hear it out of my mouth if I could actually do it or not. So, I told him I could, and the band showed up that afternoon, and we did a few songs. They thought it sounded great, so I played the show that night. Then I played the next night in Laughlin, Nevada, and the fourth show in Paso Robles, California, filling in for Michael. After that point, they knew I could play. Rickey Medlocke used me as his drummer in his all-star jams on the cruises that Skynyrd did. And Peter Keys, the keyboard player, used me for a couple of his gigs around town in Nashville when I was living in that area. But I never really got an audition for any bands out it. I kind of thought after I did those three shows, I was like, well, I just played three shows with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Surely, maybe, someone will call me for an audition if they need a drummer. No one ever did. And right before I moved away from Nashville, I had been invited to start attending these drummer jams that Tom Hurst would arrange and put on. He's a drummer for Tracy Lawrence and does other stuff as well. He had heard me play at a line check, 'cause Tracy Lawrence was opening a show with Skynyrd. He said, "Man, you know, you sound really good. "You should come to our drummer jams." So, I did that. On the second time of that, he approached me, and he asked me, "Hey, man. Do you want to be a tech, or do you want to be a drummer?" And I said, "Well, I want to be a drummer." He told me that he had a legitimate band that was looking for a drummer, and he would pass my number on to their drummer, who was kind of charged with finding his replacement. And I said, "Great." That night, the drummer called me. And at that point, I found out it was the drummer for The Charlie Daniels Band. I thought, okay, well, that's a legitimate gig for sure. We talked about it. He told me that Charlie had said, "Give me a short list, like four or five people. That's all we're gonna audition because we're not gonna go through this big ol' huge thing and take a long time." Pat MacDonald was his name. So, Pat says, "I'm giving Charlie this list of five dudes." He said, "I think it's really gonna be between you and this one other dude. At the end of the month is when we're gonna be doing the auditions when we have this week and a half break, and you should hear something." Then he told me what music to learn, so I started working on that. And then, at the end of the month, when that time came passed, I never heard anything. So, I got in touch with him again. I said, "Hey, what happened?" At that point, he informed me that the guitar player came with a dude. So, none of the people in his short four or five drummer list got to audition, including myself. This other guy just kind of came in and got the gig. The other guy was a name guy, and people knew him, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. You know, I'd spent a couple weeks really shedding that stuff. And, man, Pat was a hard drummer to try to cop his stuff. He was just an incredible player. So, that was a little disappointing. About a week after all that happened is when I moved away from Nashville. So, anyway, I never got a drumming gig out of the teching gig. I was hoping that's what would happen. So, now that Skynyrd is winding down and they're gonna be working a whole lot less next year, I had to find something. And whenever my friend called me and offered me a chance to audition for this band and told me how much they play and how much the pay would be, I just thought that makes a lot of sense. And it's about 80% original music, so it's not a lot of covers, thank goodness.
Mark: Have you practiced with them yet?
Nick: I did an audition. We played through eight or 10 songs. Then I went home that evening after the audition and started working on all the rest of the songs. And when I get back from this weekend of shows with Skynyrd, I have Monday off, and I'll have to go into Raleigh and get a couple of cases I was having refoamed, road cases to put the drums in to put in their truck, and pick up some heads and stuff from the local drum shop. Then, once I get home, I plan on, at least, trying to get through most if not all the songs at least one more time. Then Tuesday, I drive down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and we do a rehearsal that afternoon/evening. We do another rehearsal day on Wednesday. Then Thursday, we drive to their first gig.
Mark: That's gonna be a lot of stuff in a couple days. But you've already been practicing, and you've already been working on it. And you sound confident to me.
Nick: Yeah, I think I'm as confident as I can be. Of course, I would love to have more time to keep working on the stuff and get it just more ingrained.
Mark: Who's gonna be your drum tech?
Nick: You know, I won't have a drum tech per se. But they have, evidently, a two-person crew that sets up and tears everything down. I'll show them how to set the kit up, how to tear it down, pack it back up, and hopefully, they will try to not bang it up too bad when they're doing that. And then, of course, when I get there, I'm sure I'll have to sit at the drum set and try and tune stuff. That's to be expected. Of course, I'll have to do all the maintenance, like changing heads, tuning, polishing stuff, fixing things, if any of that stuff has to be done.
Mark: What kind of setup are you going to be playing on?
Nick: Actually, I just got, this morning, before I went to the airport, the UPS man dropped off a new drum set at the house. So, I took it out of the boxes and switched the heads on it and set it up. They call it their Music City Custom. It's a Pearl drum set. If there's any drummers that read this that know about Pearl drums, back in the mid-90s they had a series of drums called the MMXs, which was a thin maple, I think it was four play with reinforcing rings at the top and bottom. So, they did that for many years, and they quit making that for a long time. Now they've reintroduced that shell, and they're calling it, I think it's the MRV. So, that's what the toms and the bass drum are. It's a 10-inch mounted tom, 14-inch floor tom, 22 inch bass drum. When I did the audition for the band, I had a Tama snare with me that was made out of all bubinga wood. It's a Starclassic drum which they released many years ago. They did it for a few years and then they discontinued them. But they sound great. A couple of guys in the band at the audition commented on how good the snare sounded. So, I knew I would want to use that type of snare, but I didn't want to take the one that I had because it was a collector's model. So, I did some scouring, and I think I found the one that I got on reverb.com. It was from the same era. It's a used one. So, that'll be the snare drum. Then I got a 17, 18 inch Sabian explosion crashes that I got for the gig, a 22 inch Zildjian K Custom medium ride, and a pair of 14 inch Sabian AA hi-hats, and a single foot pedal, hi-hat stand, a couple cymbal stands and a throne, and that's gonna be pretty much it. Real basic.
Mark: Do you have any drum endorsements?
Nick: I've been on Pearl's regional artist roster since that band I was in for many years a long time ago. So, that's why I got the Pearl drums. I ordered them straight from Pearl. But that's the only endorsee program that I'm affiliated with. I did send a letter to Sabian to try to see if they would work with me, 'cause I like their cymbals, and that's mostly what I use anymore. I know that doing 250 shows, I'm gonna be breaking cymbals. So, if I can get some kind of line on getting those a little cheaper than going to a store and paying those higher store prices, that will be an amazing thing. So, hopefully, they'll consider bringing me on at some level so I can get some help with the cymbals.
Mark: 250 shows, that's a lot of exposure for cymbals too.
Nick: That's kind of what I would hope they would think. But then again, they might look at it and go, "Yeah, but he's not playing those kinds of gigs we really would like," or there could be all kinds of reasons why they still would go, "We're gonna pass." But, hopefully, they won't pass. Hopefully, they'll bring me on. If they bring me on, then I'm gonna try to send a letter or a package out to Vic Firth and see if I can get something happening with drumsticks, because I'll be going through a lot of sticks too.
Mark: You're putting a lot into this one.
Nick: Yeah. I've never been in a band that played nearly that much. So, trying to get gear together that's gonna be easy for those crew guys to set up and tear down and be durable and sound good. Then trying to have my ducks in a row so when I do have issues and need replacement stuff, I can, hopefully, get a better deal than just going into a music store. The other part of having and endorsement deal is, if you know you're gonna need something, you can email your person at the factory and go, "Hey, I need this. Can you ship it to here?" and they do that, and they just charge you, and you don't have to try to find a music store, and hope they have it when they usually don't.
Mark: So, now you're gonna be doing 250 shows. As you told me previously, you carried double pedals and a pad with you as a tech and practiced as much as you can to keep everything going, right? So, you're not just jumping into this cold. You've been looking forward to this.
Nick: I've been playing since I was 13 and playing pretty much every day until this teching gig, and then even still as much as I could with that. I've always wanted to be the drummer in a band. I didn't practice and do all that for all those years to be a tech, necessarily. It just happens that I learned a lot about drums. Also, I've managed a drum department at a Sam Ash music store for about eight years. So, I had my hands on a lot of gear for a long time and such that I learned the gear really well. So, that helped me go into the teching thing because I had a lot of experience with gear. Even doing the teching thing, my goal was to always still try and find a band to get into somehow. Rickey Medlocke is using me to record the new Blackfoot record that he's gonna be putting out real soon. So, I've already cut two tracks for that. I've got a third song right now that I'm listening to, I'll be cutting it in the next week or two, hopefully. That will continue on until I get all the album tracks cut. And at one point he actually offered me that gig, but I'd have to move to Florida to play with that band, and they don't do nearly 250 shows. They're only doing like 70 a year right now, and I couldn’t survive on that, I had to pass on it. He sometimes talks about, when Skynyrd slows down, he wants to put together a band and call it “Rickey Medlocke and Friends” and go tour Europe and the UK and stuff. He's mentioned using me as a drummer for that. Whether he would or I could even do it, with this band I'm getting into now, who's to say? At least he's using me to record this Blackfoot stuff which is a lot of fun and will get me on a record that will be national, international release kind of thing. So, that'll be cool.
Mark: Have you done any kind of clinics or lessons in the past?
Nick: Yeah, I've taught off and on. I did privately out of my house for a while. I taught at 2112 Percussion in Raleigh for a while. I've done a couple of clinics. I did one at Guitar Center in Raleigh. I did two at Sam Ash in Raleigh, and I did one at a music store in, I think it was, New Bern North Carolina, called Fuller's Music, if I remember correctly. Matter of fact, that particular clinic, I've got the whole solo I did on my YouTube channel from that. But yes, I've done a few clinics. They're cool. I don't really think that I could do a clinic right now just because being on the road for the last nine years, I feel like my chops have kind of gone down from what they used to be. And so, I'd be struggling, and I don't think I'd be up to it right now. But I'll tell you, these last couple of weeks, playing so much, learning all these songs, a lot of stuff is coming back and getting stronger again. So, maybe a few months into this band, I'll be back up to the point I'll feel like I could do a clinic again and not embarrass myself.
Mark: Your YouTube channel has videos of yourself. Is that also some videos with you playing in the band?
Nick: Yeah, there's videos of me just in my studio recording stuff. There's videos that I have linked. There's Skynyrd shows that I filled in. There was someone in the crowd who had a phone that recorded pretty good video and pretty good audio, and they put up a bunch of songs on their YouTube channel, so I linked off of that to mine.
Mark: What's your YouTube channel?
Nick: It's YouTube.com/user/analogbeatmaker. I've got a video when Skynyrd did their live DVD out of Florida a couple years ago. They had me play congas on Give Me Three Steps and they put a little blip of me on the DVD. They've got that video up on the internet on Vivo. So, I've linked that to my channel. I think there's a video of me playing with George Lynch on my channel, a couple other things, other bands I've done stuff with. It's got a fair amount of stuff. There are some videos of me playing with Rickey Medlocke's all-star jam on there. There's a fair amount of stuff on there actually.
Mark: Good luck with this new gig, and I appreciate being kind of the first one to get to you.
Nick: Yeah, man. I hate that I'm not gonna be teching to meet you when the band plays out your way.
Mark: It's all good. We'll see each other eventually.
Nick: Yeah, absolutely.
Mark: What are you looking forward most here coming up?
Nick: I am looking forward to just playing drums for a living. I've never done it. I've wanted to my whole life and I've tried to my whole life, and nothing I've done has ever really made it to that point. Even though this is already established, they're telling me that they consider it a band, not a quote "band". So, when they do new music, which they're working on right now, I'm gonna get to play on the recordings, and I may even have a little creative input. Right now, the two main guys that have been doing it for over 20 years, one's the singer, one's the main guitar player, and I think they're both song writers or share that duty, they're both living in Myrtle Beach, but the singer is moving to Nashville next month. The reason he's doing that is because, over the course of doing the band, he's met a lot of producers and song writers, et cetera, that are in the Nashville area now. Since they're wanting to take the band in a more Americana sound direction, and then they want to try to expand out of North and South Carolina. So, I'm looking forward to getting into a working situation that I can increase my annual income and, hopefully, keep expanding it and growing it, and hopefully, maybe have a career that will go on for many years and I'll go to make some actual money playing drums finally. That's really what I'm looking forward to. Of course, if we can get to the point where we're traveling nationally and maybe even internationally, that will be great because I love to travel. That's one of the things I miss about the Skynyrd gig is getting to go all over the country and getting to go to other countries. That's been great. Hopefully, this band will get to do that stuff too at some point.
Mark: Good luck to you on this. We'll be following you.
Nick: Cool, man. Well, I appreciate it. Thank you so much, Mark.