Be unique. I wish this was emphasized to me much more when I was younger. It’s important in general life to just be yourself, but in art and music it is hugely important and one of the keys to real success. Not everyone, even if they are unique, can be pioneers and change their industry, but if you copy other people you’re doomed. Whoever is your favourite musician, comedian, writer, etc has already done that thing and they’ll have done it better than anyone else because it’s them. There’s only one of you and that makes you unique by default so expand on that and not on what someone else has already done.
As part of my series featuring the rising stars in the music industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Louie Palmer. Louie is a world-renowned jazz rock drummer originally from the UK and is now living in Los Angeles. Now age 33, Palmer began playing drums at the age of 5 after being introduced to the instrument by his father who is also a drummer. With a career spanning almost three decades, he’s played and recorded with legendary artists such as Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, Luis Conte, Mitch Forman, John Patitucci and many others. In addition to performing around the world, Palmer is the founder of the online drum school PlayBetterDrums.com. With more than 250 lesson videos, PlayBetterDrums.com is utilized by thousands of professional and aspiring musicians from around the world to improve their ability on the drums.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started playing the drums around age 5 after an introduction to music from my father, who’s also a drummer. There were always drums around the house and I was just drawn to them. After hassling him to let me play, he set up one of his small sets for me and the rest is history. 28 years later and a move to the US, I’m still doing it.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?
My most interesting and EXCITING story is, shortly after moving to the US, having the opportunity to play with my favourite musician on the planet, Mike Stern. I grew up listening to all of Mike’s records and saw him live countless times with some of my drum idols occupying the drum chair. To travel to NYC and play with him and play his music at the historic 55 Bar was one of the best moments of my life! As a kid I used to read magazine articles about my favourite drummers and how they got to play with all the musical heroes they grew up listening to, so for me to do the same was such a rewarding feeling.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I run my own online drum school — PlayBetterDrums.com.com — which has developed into a huge library of more than 250 online video lessons. It’s very satisfying and exciting to see so many drummers around the world benefit from the content and see their own playing improve! On the performance side of things, I have an exciting project coming up with US guitar-giant Mike Stern in early 2020 and more gigs throughout the rest of the year with my own band including at the Baked Potato in Los Angeles.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I think one positive aspect of being a musician is the wide variety of people you get to meet on and off the bandstand; people you’d never normally interact with if it weren’t for music. I’ve been lucky to travel all around the world and meet lots of interesting people but, for me, the most interesting people have been the people I grew up listening to, admiring and whose careers and music I followed incessantly when I was young. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to make it to a place where you can play music with the very people who inspired you to pursue and dedicate your life to music in the first place. These people were enigmas for so many years; faces on album covers, names on liner notes. I would daydream about what it would be like to be in their band. Then I got to meet them, play music with them and have dinner with them. The music business can be an epic struggle, sometimes with very few rewards but that is definitely one of them.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
People that really did dedicate their life to something. I used to think I was on that path, I used to think I knew what it took, but as you get older things change. You think you know how you’ll feel when you’re 20, 25, 35, but you don’t. Life gets in the way and actually, the better you become at your craft the more you discover what you don’t know and you realise what it really takes to get to, and remain at, the very highest level. To dedicate your entire life to one pursuit and become one of the greats, one of the pioneers; it really is incredible.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I must admit it’s not something I have thought about much. I never got into music for attention or to be a ‘rock star’. I’m a very low key person who doesn’t like the limelight. I can truly say I hate attention but I do it because I just love music. As an adolescent I was obsessed with listening to my musical heroes and the quest to play my instrument as well as them. It was, and is, a personal pursuit; the endless pursuit of perfection (which doesn’t exist ultimately) and the dedication required to play at a very high level. All of this just for my own satisfaction, really. Originally, I just wanted to pursue it for my own enjoyment.
As I’ve gotten older and done lots of performing around the world, I have begun to realise that, having had my work out there for a while now, I have influenced other people. It’s quite strange to think about but I remember the enjoyment I got from watching/listening to my favourite musicians and it’s humbling to think that I might have affected anyone in a similar way. I remember being a teenager and hearing some of my drum heroes talking about this when they were questioned as to why they continue to tour and work hard at their craft. They would often talk about how important art is in life and having a positive effect on young people. At the time it went over my head but now it’s something I am more aware of and I try to give back as much as I can, particularly through teaching. Music is a powerful thing. It can touch people of all types without discrimination and so to be able to affect people through music is an honour.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be to encourage more young people to experience music and the arts. Music is a truly wonderful art form and touches people of all ages and backgrounds without discrimination. To learn a musical instrument is to learn respect, discipline, and humility. Having knowledge about the arts makes you a more understanding and compassionate person and it’s a wonderful skill to be able to take into your adult life.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Have other hobbies. I am lucky that I was given music by my father but also tennis by my mother. Tennis is my other passion in life and it keeps me healthy and gives me a whole other world to be inspired by. It’s important to have time away from work, mentally, and to keep yourself fit and healthy.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Not to take it too seriously. This WAS actually told to me by one of my drumming heroes Dave Weckl and I still didn’t listen! I just remember thinking, ‘What are you talking about?’ How can you get to this high level without taking it seriously?’ As I’ve gotten older I’ve realised what he meant.
- Have a backup plan or some other area(s) of expertise. I never subscribed to this train of thought when I was younger. I always thought if you have a backup plan, you’ll end up doing it. I was stubborn. I was committed to the cause. But, I didn’t know how much the music business would drastically change and how it would be helpful to either have something totally different that I could dip into if I needed to, or just have other skills within the business that could help me. As a musician these days, you need to be well versed in websites, social media, videography, lighting, recording, publicity, etc. Having more skills outside your main area of expertise is never a bad thing and you never know when you’ll need them.
- Enjoy the process. I was so obsessed with practicing and playing the drums everyday, desperate to get to the next thing, then the next, then the next. Time flies by and it’s important to enjoy the process. There is no final destination; everyone’s journey is different so just enjoy each day.
- Don’t worry about what others are doing. It’s hard not to be influenced by other people and what they’re doing, especially in today’s world with social media but it’s very important to just concentrate on your side of things; that’s the only thing you can control so it’s the only thing you need to worry about.
- Be unique. I wish this was emphasized to me much more when I was younger. It’s important in general life to just be yourself, but in art and music it is hugely important and one of the keys to real success. Not everyone, even if they are unique, can be pioneers and change their industry, but if you copy other people you’re doomed. Whoever is your favourite musician, comedian, writer, etc has already done that thing and they’ll have done it better than anyone else because it’s them. There’s only one of you and that makes you unique by default so expand on that and not on what someone else has already done.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Jerry Seinfeld. I would LOVE to have lunch (or coffee!) with Jerry. I just love everything he does and says. The way he sees the world is so unique and he’s just so unapologetically direct and himself. He constantly drops the most wonderful views, analogies and opinions on things. I get more inspiration and knowledge from him than anyone in the music business. I’m thinking of all the questions I’d ask him already!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram — @louiepalmerdrums
Facebook — @louiepalmerdrums
YouTube — www.youtube.com/louiepalmerdrums.com
Thank you for these great insights. This was very inspiring!