Interview: Grammy-nominated drummer Steve Gadd releases new album and heads back out on tour with James Taylor
Joe Cool

James Taylor commented with the following upon listening to Steve Gadd Band’s new album. “These fellows make up the better part of my musical life. Together we make a traveling community. It's been that way for half of my days. Long may it remain so. Each of these guys individually is a creative force with his own prodigious body of work; each is recognized throughout the musical world as a master of his own ax. Together they are even more than the sum of their parts. When they release a new batch of fresh tunes it is a gift, to be sure, and a cause for celebration.”

Grammy-nominated drummer Steve Gadd is a longtime member of James Taylor’s touring band and for the past four decades has played with the crème de la crème of the music industry. Steely Dan, Paul McCartney, B.B. King, George Benson, James Brown and Al Jarreau have all been a part of Gadd’s musical journey.

Paul Simon says, “[Gadd] is the premier drummer of his generation.” Eric Clapton calls Steve Gadd, “One of the great drummers I’ve played with.” Chick Corea describes him as, “A master of creative grooves.” Gadd is one of the most beloved drummers in the world, lending his passion and skill to a number of iconic recordings. The unmistakable beats in “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” “Late in the Evening” and “Aja,” are all compliments of the great, Mr. Gadd.

Gadd has also joined forces with Walt Fowler (trumpet/flugelhorn), Jimmy Johnson (bass), Michael Landau (guitars) and Kevin Hays (keyboards/vocals), to make up the Steve Gadd Band. On their latest self-titled album, the guys have put together 11 tracks; all which beautifully highlight a range of different rhythms and sonic textures.

The renowned drummer recently took time out for a Q&A with AXS after the release of his latest project.

AXS: What’s the first song you ever learned to play?

Steve Gadd: I’d probably have to say John Phillip Sousa’s Marches. My uncle, my dad and my brother used to sit around the family living room and entertain our families. I used to play in marching bands as a kid, too.

AXS: What would you say is one quality every drummer should have?

SG: Listening is probably one of the most important qualities for any musician. 

AXS: How did you first decide living a musician’s life was for you?

SG: I never really decided. It chose me. I played in the High School Band of America and the Army Field Band and when I got out of the army, I went to New York City and gave it a try. 

AXS: Tell me more about what went into your latest album and why you think people need this music in their lives?

SG: Our new album is our third studio project. Everyone contributed tunes, we wrote some together specifically for the album and I just love making music with these guys. I hope people enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.

AXS: Talk to me a little bit about the other members of your band and how you all fit together?

SG: Mike, Jimmy, Walt and I’ve been playing in James Taylor’s band for a long time. We’re friends on and off the road. Our wives are all friends and we have a lot of fun together. Larry Goldings was the original keyboard player who was also in James’ band. Kevin Hays has been touring with us for a couple of years now and played on this new album. 

AXS: What has been the greatest lesson you’ve learned throughout your career and who taught it to you?

SG: Every day there are new lessons to be learned as a musician and a person. I don’t think there’s one great lesson.

AXS: What are your top three song picks that anyone who wants to be a drummer should get to know?

SG: I think you should practice to songs you like. After you do that and see which way you lean musically, then you can direct your attention there. 

AXS: What’s on deck for you?

SG: I’m getting ready to go back on the road with James Taylor for the summer and then in the fall, our band will tour in Asia. 

You can pick up select tickets to see James Taylor & His All-Star Band right here at AXS. For more on Steve Gadd you can visit his website.