It is rare in a lifetime you meet individuals who possess the true embodiment of talent. Everyone has something special to share and then there are those whose purpose is to take their gift and relentlessly develop it, and present it to the world. Drummer sensation Oscar Seaton is one whose talent is that to be seen and heard by the world.
This Oscar/Grammy nominated artist spends year in and year out enlightening the world with his undeniable talent, performing with world-wide international artists Lionel Richie and Terence Blanchard and a group of incredible musicians; this endeavor has heighten his career to the dreams he once envisioned as a child.
This Chicagoan is truly a child prodigy, born in a city known for their richness of electrifying musicians and vocalist, Oscar commenced his predestined musical flight very early on.
“Being a drummer was not a choice for me, it is my God-given talent - it’s part of me.” states Oscar Seaton.
Oscar began his musical journey at the age of 4 where banging on Mom’s pots and pans in the kitchen gave him his foundation and vision to know that playing drums is all he ever wanted to do!
His creativity was immediately birthed and enhanced in the church and later by local gigging around his hometown of Chicago, IL. As his skills progressed, he began to develop an immaculate, impeccable pocket, groove, and timing thus earning him the nickname “Seat Pocket”.
One of Oscar’s first traveling gigs was with R&B legend Junior Walker. Oscar states, “We traveled the country in an old school bus with no beds, driven by Mr. Walker himself.” Oscar’s commitment to mastering his talent started in his early years, when he moved into his first apartment, his bedroom hosted his drum kit, he states, “There was only room to slip through to the bed or sit down at the drum set.”
Oscar’s work ethic induced his ability to practice hours and hours, most days starting first thing in the morning for five hours a day. His commitment is still apparent; it is not uncommon when he happens to be in Los Angeles where he now resides, to find him studying at his practice spot. All of his hard work has truly paid off; he is now one of the busiest session and live performance drummers in the Los Angeles area.
He has toured with legendary greats such as Ramsey Lewis, Grover Washington Jr., David Sanborn, Joe Sample, Kirk Whalum, Phil Upchurch, Freed Hague, Yolanda Adams, Brian Cuberson, Michael Manson, Boz Scaggs, Don Grusin, Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour, and Mike Post to name a few.
As he continues his highly successful musical journey, he remains humble and grateful and definitely one of the most amazing musicians in today’s drumming world!
Oscar & Grammy Nominations:
Oscar: Best Original Score for Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman 2019
Grammy: Terence Blanchard Featuring The E-Collective/Best Jazz Instrumental Album “Absence” 2021
Grammy: Terence Blanchard Featuring The E-Collective/Best Improv Jazz Solo “Absence” 2021
Grammy: Terence Blanchard Featuring The E-Collective/Best Jazz Instrumental Album “Breathless” 2015
Oscar has another extremely unique accomplishment; he has been with his major endorsers for over 20 years!
Endorsements: Yamaha - Drums
Zildjian - Cymbals
Vic Firth - Drum Sticks
Remo - Drum Heads
Head First - Custom Bass Drum Heads
Lewitt Audio – Mics
Ahead - Drum Cases
Partial Discography List/Career Highlights:
4 Live Records with Lionel Richie
Encore CD DVD 2004
Live in Paris CD & DVD 2007
Symphonica Rosso Amsterdam Huge Solo 2008
Ar Rahman (India)
Live DVD to be Release
David Garfield 2013
Vinnie Calaiuta/ Oscar Seaton
Late great Jeff Bacarro
Lee Ritenour/Rhythm Sessions 2012
Smoking Mirrors 2006
DVD Overtime 2005
When You Know 2008
Grammy Nominated Don Grusin’s 2004
CD’s & DVD’s: Bill Boris’ "Hold Back"; Carl Burnett’s “Life Before Midi Naked”; HBO Film’s “Lackawanna Blues”; Spike Lee’s “Inside Man”; Michael O'Neill’s "Funky Fiesta”; Dino Soldo’s “Thread”; Chris Standring’s “Groovalicious”
Glenna Gaffney GFG Entertainment
I'm here with Oscar Seaton Jr , the drummer and Buck Burbury, the drum tech for the Lionel Richie band.
Mark : So how long have you been with Lionel?
Oscar: It has been 25 years, I was talking about that the other day, it was October, 1997. Prior to that I was out with Boz Scaggs . I accompanied him for two years. The opportunity to work with Lionel came from the Boz Scaggs gig as several of his musicians worked with Lionel. Yes, it’s been incredibly nice. I didn't think I'll be able to skate this long, it has been a sensational ride!
M: How long have you been his tech Buck?
Buck: 19 years now.
M: So how old were you when you started playing drums Oscar?
O: I was five. I didn't want to do anything else, I just loved playing the drums. My Sunday routine would be Sunday service to church, and there was a guy setting up his drums and played at church and I would be just mesmerized, in awe of him. He would bring his bass drum in, toms, bag of hardware and cymbals, this was so exciting to me. He didn't come every Sunday he would come maybe one Sunday out of the month, at most two. I was at church every Sunday I would be so excited when he would come from the back door bringing his drums and set up, and so from that I made my own set at home at like eight. I took a big paint can, a plunger (where I would put a cymbal), Then I made a little tom out of crate. Those were the good ole beginning days!
M: Are you totally self-taught?
O: Yes, totally self-taught. It’s dope when drummers like Todd, studied music and were in marching bands. But I am totally self-taught, and extremely grateful for my gift.
M: Buck when did you start playing drums?
B: I started when I was seven, Marching and Bugle Corps, and did that for 10 years till I graduated high school. But other than that, I never really took set lessons. I was self-taught, doing set.
M: Did you play in any bands?
B: Yeah, I played a lot of local bands, a lot of garage bands back home. While I was playing, basically right when I turned 20, I started working for a local band. And they would sneak me into clubs, because I was teching and the percussionist in the band was actually a guitar tech with touring bands, so he taught me everything, from marking everything up, spiking everything, and what to do in different situations. When I turned 21, I started working in clubs, I played behind many band. A good friend of mine was producing an album for Boston. And they hadn't toured in almost 10 years. They wanted to do a lot of promos to push the new album. Their crew was already booked so the guy that was producing it was going to mix the shows front of house for these promos, and radio and stuff like that. He was going to pre-mix it and then it would go to air. We worked really well together because he had recorded my band before, and I actually built the recording studio for him. Fortunately he brought me in. And the one offs turned into a full tour which turned into another tour. Somebody I met on the 2004 tour, was actually the tour manager here with Lionel. I was out with Boston for four months. When we were down to 2-3 weeks left on the tour, he called me and said, what are you doing after the tour ends? How's your passport? I said, fine. He says, Okay, I need you in Europe for three months. So I finished that tour, I went home for a week and I went to California and met up with them. We did a week of rehearsals in California. Got all the gear sorted out, and off to Europe I went for three months with Lionel Richie!
O: What year was that, 2004?
B: Yes, because Joe Dorosz had just left to do Backstreet Boys.
M: Oscar, when did you get your first real drum set, trade up from the pots and pans?
O: My father was the catalyst, it was for the holiday Christmas, my whole thought about drum sets was, I had no idea they cost that much, in my mind, I'm thinking I’ll get a kit like the drummer at church. I was so buzzed with this thought! My father, didn't know what the cost was as well. We went to a drum store, and I saw these blue Ludwig Vistalites, they were $1,300. My dad was like 1300 dollars?? We were thinking like maybe 100. We had no idea what drums cost, so I made my little drum set. Dad ended up buying the snare drum and a cymbal, it was a real snare drum, with a stand, I made my own seat. I played that for years, like years until the purchase of my first kit which was a Pearl Export for $299. By this time, I was like, 18 and I was playing at my church. I used to go down to the church and practice at the church. Church helped me build my skill. I just kept getting better and better.
M: How did Church mold you as a drummer?
O: I'm a church guy, I'm not sure if you Kevin Bronson, or Gerald Heyward in New York, and a couple more guys. We came up with a Gospel Drum Plan. It was a bunch of us that took the gospel drummer from just drumming a bar. We started thinking, let's feel after the four bar, we got it to be the way Gospel got played. Kevin was a big church guy. It was about five of us in Chicago. When you see the show tonight, I'm not going to sound like a rock drummer, I'm going to sound more like a pop drummer, a groove player, but my feels are not, I don't play fields like pop fields my feels are a combination of gospel sprinkled with r&b, wherein it still has to make sense and it needs to be heard. Like I get to play feels that need to be heard, so they can hear it you know, if you play a 10,000 seat place, those feels make sense and not the gospel feels. Gospel feels don't make sense planning big venues, you got 10,000 people you got to play to so I learned how to play gospely, but still play pop, and still make the feels make sense. But I'm not going to sound like Todd or any of those guys, that's going to be a rock feel. I am, you know, a hybrid kind of guy, I'm a hybrid drummer, when I have a jazz band, I play jazz. But when I come here, I don't sound like I'm playing my jazz gig. I sound like I'm playing r&b/pop music and that's the whole deal to be able to be versatile and play this music, like jazz has a very free sensation, you're totally creative on the spot in jazz. But pop is like, man, you got a singer to sing it. You can’t play all these nutty feels to throw him off and it just won’t make sense. It's just not going to line up. So you got to know how to have jazz feel and pop/r&b feel. Those are two different worlds.
B: And that's what Lionel likes.
O: I have to be honest, sometimes you can throw him off, so I keep it simple for him. But he likes the fact that it's still hybrid. He likes that I don't sound like an old 70’s drummer playing loud music in 2023. We want young people to come and you want to establish new fans but you must maintain and respect this amazing music. You have to update your shit. You got to update your show you got to give your shit some new life. It’s important that they can still identify with the music for our forever fans and that the music is intriguing to alert and attract new fans! We still play “All Night Long”, it’s an old song but it feels new to me. So that's where the hybrid part comes in because there's something that I do different every night on the song. Even though it's pop I still plan differently a little bit every night, which is fun for me. But it's still the same, it's still the same song but just a little different. I keep it fresh.
M: Buck, when did you get your first drum set?
B: I think I was 12. I hounded my dad so much. He got it for Christmas. And it was a used 60 Slingerland piece of crap, and I played it for years that I kept it until Geez, that was probably 1975, and I kept it until 1989 when I first bought my first brand new kit. And yeah, sometimes I kick myself forever getting rid of that kit.
O: Never get rid of that first kit.
B: I sold the Tama to my best friend's brother because he wanted to get back into playing and I had since bought a DW kit and a Yamaha kit and then I found a red Vistalite kit.
M: Which favorite place to play?
O: I don't really have a favorite place to play. I love the energy from the fans all over the world. I don't take pictures, nor shoot video, I don't do any of that, I enjoy every moment to its fullest whilst it is happening! I have my kit, I have my sound, that's really all it takes, there's some places you play, that the audience is not as laid back, you know, having fun or livelier than others. I wouldn't say if I play in Chicago, or Atlanta that I would rather play those places. Once I get to the show, it's all about the show, doesn't matter where I play. It’s always cool, where ever I play, I make it cool. The crowd can dictate how you feel, depending on if they are in to it or not, that can determine if you like playing there. However, if you get out of that, and just get in to the songs and music and try to make it sound better than yesterday or trying to, like, you know, hear it a different way today, then every show is always you just trying to get to something. I don't have a favorite song because I always just want the show to be better the next day. I want to bring something new, because I don't want to play it quite the same. So that's my topic of the day, It's not about where it is. It could be we could do that in Lionel’s room, I'm still going to try to make it sound different and interesting, but still make it sound the same. Like that's what my deal is. So I'm getting to like where it is. Even here, the crowd vibe is different.
It sounds differently. Some nights are crazier than others. And it all feeds off the crowd.
B: Last night was kind of a weird show, because the crowd really wasn't loud. They weren't. They were into it, but it wasn't as crazy as it was Wednesday. Yeah, well, Wednesday, was a crazy show.
O: Lionel likes to play off the crowd, so if he's screwing around with the crowd, then they get to screw around with each other more, have fun with the show, and that’s what makes it cool.
So playing here, because we play here so much. This is like a job. This is sort of job on tour, it's fun on tour because everyone is together, everybody has fun. But, I will say playing in Vegas is a job, it’s work, so I have to be on my own vibe here.
M: Buck, do you have a favorite place for first aid setups?
B: Setups the same every day. So it's a matter of well, we just finished this big tour with Earth Wind and Fire and it was a total nightmare. Because of the production, the lighting and the video and all of that it took so long to set up every day that it affected backline you know, and audio, because some days I would have to wait, we couldn't set up on the on the stage. So some days I would have to build the risers on the thrust, which was you know, the riser was eight by 12. And the thrust was only 10 feet wide, so I would have a foot to walk around with the cases on one side trying to set up everything. Other days we would build on the floor and then forklift the whole riser as it was built onto the thrust.
And that's because of the production.
O: With the production there's certain things that had to be in place first before we began because of all of that, most days we didn't get a soundcheck for these guys.
B: Because we would just roll the risers on the stage not even in place, and tie everything together to do a line check to make sure everything worked. And then we would have to unplug it again and then move it off, move it behind the video wall, so Earth Wind and Fire could do their setup time and most of the time that they didn't even get a soundcheck either. Oh, that's crazy. Yeah, thanks for being and they weren't a lift off the back of the stage. As I was as we're trying to get ours out from behind, you know, with a hole in the video wall. They built it a trust system on wheels. So the middle of it was 12 feet wide, and eight feet tall, that would pull back and move to the side. And that was the on off access point for most of the venues. Otherwise it would have to go stage right. But it pretty much went that way every show, it was probably a half dozen shows where it had to go off stage right because there was no hole. There was no volume upstage center. So that would screw up even more because that's where our Guitar World and Keyboard World and everything else is controlled from so it was it was crazy.
O: Not enough people, not enough production to set this up So yeah, it was a little bit of a nightmare. Hopefully, next year if we do this again, it's going to be better, hopefully be done a little differently.
M: So what are the upcoming tour plans?
B: So they are talking another five, six weeks next year to do the same thing in different markets than we just did because we just did the major markets. We started in Minneapolis and went up into Canada came down. Did the East Coast went the bottom into Texas, into Colorado to California and then Vancouver in the back and then back to LA . The whole middle section of the country hasn’t experienced this amazing show but hopefully 2024!
M: Last questions, what is the drum head change schedule for Oscar’s kit, and what is the board behind Oscar’s drums?
B: The board is Oscar’s sound board, he controls it during the show, head change is snare every day, 8” tom every other day, and the toms every day.
B: Audio is done on the stage, so let’s go do some photos!