Ludwig Drums

Travis McNabb

Ludwig Drums

Ludwig Drums

Ludwig Drums
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1. What is your typical schedule on the road (or in the studio) like?

Fortunately, with Sugarland we generally do 3-day runs, so I get home almost every week (when we are in the States) which allows for a home life and time for session work. I do sessions at my own, often via email. I also work at studios in Nashville, New Orleans, New York and LA.

2. What are some of the things you love about your job?

I love the creative process of writing and recording. It can be so satisfying to witness something that you collaborated on become a musical 'entity' out in the world. I have had the good fortune of playing on hundreds of master recordings including #1 charting singles and albums. Performing live has its own rewards: that moment, with those musicians and that unique crowd is a one time only, in-the-moment situation. To share and participate in such a celebratory experience for a living is an amazing feeling.

3. What are some of the drawbacks?

Travel can be exhausting and so much of your day is down-time compared to the amount of time you actually get to play music. Plus, no calling in sick, ever. These are 'uptown problems' mind you.

4. What made you want to play drums, and how did you get started?

My Dad and Grandfather both played guitar and music was important in our house. After tinkering with guitar and piano as a kid I focused on drums at around 15. Once I started saving for a kit I watched drummers on TV and began air-drumming to get the basic idea down.

5. Whom did you study with and how did that affect you?

When I was finally able to buy a drum kit, Dad has his guitar and amp out, playing with me the first day. Even before I started playing, I think my family's love of music really influenced my approach though I never had any formal drum lessons. Once I started playing I formed my first garage/cover band within six months, my first original/bar band within a year and did my first national tour with seminal punk rock band the Wipers by 18 years of age: my training was on the job. I did study recording engineering in college which helped some aspects of my drumming with regard to tuning, dynamics and how drums translate through microphones and recording gear.

6. Have you ever had a gig with a really eccentric personality, and how did you handle that?

Many! This is a creative endeavor. You will run into all types of people and personalities. Just do your best to 'play nice with others'. It's a bigger part of survival in this industry than many people realize.

7. How did you get your current gig?

I knew Kristian Bush of Sugarland from playing together in the band Billy Pilgrim in the early 90's, before I was in Better Than Ezra. We remained friends over the years and Sugarland had me as the drummer on some recording sessions in the summer of 2007. At that point they asked if I was available to tour with them which coincided with a hiatus Better Than Ezra had planned.

8. Are there certain shows that stick out in your mind above others?

So many...CBGB's - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - the 1996 Olympics - Madison Square Garden - Oprah - Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La (where I was an usher for LSU football games as a kid) - the American Music Awards with Beyonce - many years of New Orleans' Jazz Fest - the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize name a few.

9. What was the strangest thing that has happened (or that you have seen,) during a tour?

Such a long list...

10. What do you do to maintain your versatility as a drummer?

I try to work with as many different kinds of artists as I can within the realm of my musical tastes, which are pretty wide.

11. What's your current set-up, and what are you digging about it?

Ludwig Stainless! 24, 13, 16, 18- all traditional depths. I have wood hoops on them which is kind of uncommon. I've been doing that on many of my kits for the last 10 years or so. I love these drums. They have a unique tone that is one of the things that attracted me to Ludwig. And of course the Black Beauty snare drum! Im using a 5" deep one right now, engraved by John Aldridge. It's the Holy Grail of snare drums.

12. How important to you are the drums you play and how do you feel it affects your playing?

The drums are super important. Head selection, tuning, hoops, mounting hardware, muffling and the players touch are all part of the equation, but it starts with the drum itself. If it's not happening you are building all of these other factors on a foundation of sand.

13. What drew you to Ludwig?

Initially the attraction was the history- the fact that it is an American company with a long tradition, along with the fact that so many of my favorite drummers played Ludwig, with Ringo and Bonham topping the list- though none of that would have mattered if they were making junk now. Before committing, my long-time drum-tech Kenny Corbett and I visited Ludwig. We played every line they are currently making. We saw some of the new things that were in development. We saw that Ludwig takes pride in their consistent quality, in honoring and continuing to build what has been such a part of their legacy, while also striving to create new ideas that address the current and future needs of players. We were really impressed with the whole company.

14. Can you describe how you tweak your drums to get your personal sound?

For sessions it could be anything. I'm always looking to give the artist and producer what they want while also trying to give the recording a bit of a sonic signature. That could mean anything from super muffled and tuned down, to drums stacked on top of each other...anything goes! For my live setup I prefer one-ply, coated heads tuned a bit higher and more open than many of my contemporaries, with no muffling on toms or snare most of the time. The more the drum can 'sing', meaning a balance of attack and tone depending on the dynamic being played, the more musical it feels to me. It takes more attention to tuning and touch to get the drums to speak how you want, but I love the dynamic and tonal range available when they are unmuffled. It feels more 'true' to me as I play the kit.

15. Are there any upcoming projects that you are particularly excited about?

I just played on a record by an up and coming artist named James Patrick Morgan that I'm proud of. The last Sugarland record was really fun to make. Who knows whats next!

16. Who are you major drumming influences?

Ringo, Bonham and Zigaboo (of New Orleans funk pioneers The Meters) are the first tier. So many after that including Larry Mullen Jr, Steweart Copeland, Matt Chamberlain and Jim Keltner.

17. What are your four favorite albums (drumming or otherwise)?

Any by The Beatles, Zeppelin, Meters, Aimee Mann, Black Keys, XTC, Mute Math, Nora Jones, Ray LaMontagne, Joe Henry, U2, Ryan Adams, Brandi Carlile, Jakob Dylan-Seeing Things, Neville Brothers-Yellow Moon, Tom Petty-Wildflowers, Death Cab-Plans...these are what just came to mind and is by no means a complete list. I love that about music, there is so much great stuff out there to love and learn from.

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