Jake Smith – Royal Bliss – Exclusive OnlineDrummer.com InterviewNate Brown
Jake Smith, the heart of Royal Bliss, sat down with us at Rock On The Range 2009 in Columbus, Ohio to share his experiences.
How did you meet the guys in the band?
Chris, our guitarist, I grew up with him. I think I met him first at little league baseball when I was 8 or 9, maybe 10. We became friends and then we went to school together. I met our other, Taylor, and our old bass player, Brent, in high school, and then we started picking up the band stuff, stopped going to school (but stay in school).
Our singer, Neil, we met through parties because people would always say our guitarist Chris looked just like him. And, so finally we were like, we got to meet this guy. We told him we started a band, and he said, “Come check me out.” He played like coffee houses and pizza joints… stuff like that. We went out and saw him and were like, oh yeah! Come jam with us! That was that.
Almost two years ago now our bass player quit to go do real estate. And then we signed our record deal with Capital Records maybe 6 months after he quit. We got a new bass player.
What do you like most about what you do?
Not sitting in a cubicle. I love that. I’ve had a few jobs. The last real job I had before I put all of my time in a band, I was working in a cubicle in front of a computer, and I hated it. But, I love the freedom – just doing what I love to do.
What do you like the least about what you do?
The thing I like least is never being home. I have a 5 year old son, and I don’t get to see him very much. Being on the road is hard. It’s fun being in a band. I get to do what I love, but all the traveling wears on you. The most we’re home is for about 2 weeks at a time.
What skills do you think are most important to be successful doing what you’re doing?
I’d say you’ve got to stay consistent. Practice is key and is important. Learn from as many different guys as you can.
Another skill, you’ve got to be a people person out on the road – all the networking and stuff and getting to know new people. Being out on the road, you can’t leave a bad impression on any band or even a sound guy because word gets around. You need to be social.
What equipment are you currently using?
I play a Yamaha Birch Custom kit right now. They’re great – really warm sounding. Yamaha drums are amazing.
Sabian, I have a sponsorship with Sabian, so I play Sabian cymbals.
Sticks, Vater sticks 5B. Vater are just a little heavier. I like that.
How often do you change your drum heads?
When you’re a starving musician out there on the road you try to save them as long as you can. But, now we’re out with bigger bands, you want your kit to sound awesome every night. But, I change them – my snare gets changed every week and my toms get changed every two weeks or so. Sometimes it’s like every 5 shows. I don’t change the resonant heads that often. I would say every 6 months or so.
How often do you tune your drums?
Sometimes I’ll just pull them out of their cases and put them on stage and they sound awesome, so I don’t touch them. But, I usually mess with them a little bit throughout the show. I’d say 95% of the time when I set them up I’ll tune them up, as much as I can, as much as time allows.
What advice can you give drummers looking to do what you’re doing?
Lessons. From one or two different people as much as you can. Join as many bands as you can so you can learn different techniques and learn to work with different musicians, and play as much as you can.
A lot of times the singer gets the front-line attention and drummer is left in the shadow. Do you find this difficult to cope with as a drummer?
You know, I kind of enjoy it. I’m kind of introverted, you could say. I’m fine sitting back there and being in my own little world. So, it doesn’t necessarily bother me at all.
How much of a priority do you think a drummer should put on showmanship?
I think the quality of your play comes first. You got to be in the pocket and you got to play the song well. You know, it’s not all about the drummer. It’s about the song to me, first and foremost. But, I think a little bit of showmanship is good, as long as you’re still playing well.
How do you come up with your drum parts?
It’s just kind of based on what the other parts are, what the guitar players are playing. It’s got to mesh with them. It’s like a conversation – two people talking. One person can’t be talking over the other person or doing too much. Keep it simple and lay down a great groove that meshes first and foremost with the bass and then with the guitars. It’s good conversation.
Do you memorize your drum parts and play them the same way for each show?
No, I mean I think it’s this way with most drummers when you get out there and your drumming and going, you tend to kind of want to do more. Plus, when you play the same song over and over so many times you kind of want to alter it. I definitely add some stuff and play things a little bit differently, but overall it’s the same song.
Are you involved in the song writing process beyond laying down the beats?
Yeah, I play guitar too, so I definitely like to be involved. I try not to get too involved because there’s too many voices talking and it’s like, you’re never going to write a song. But, I definitely try to put my two cents in if I hear a good part or something that could be a little bit better. Usually, they listen to me a little bit.
While on the road, do you find it difficult to stay in touch with family and friends?
It’s rough just having relationships through telephone calls, but that’s important. You’ve got to do that as much as you can. Just one call to whoever in your family or friends that you need to stay connected with is important.
Being around 4, or in our case, 6 different dudes everyday, it wears on you. You’ve got to keep the connections. But, nowadays, if we can find a good hot spot for Internet, I have a computer with a webcam. When we recorded our album, everyday I tried to use my webcam with my son.
Do you have any survival tips for the road?
Try to stay healthy and try to have some hobbies you can do everyday. Waking up and doing the same thing everyday, you’re going to go crazy. Fights are going to break out. Hobbies, Internet, blogging, whatever. You definitely need some alone time.
What has been your greatest experience so far as a drummer?
Besides playing in front of bigger and bigger crowds and having them love it, I’d say meeting the drummers that I grew up with is a dream come true, and seeing that most of them are pretty cool guys and are still in love with what they’re doing is a motivation for me.
Any final thoughts for the OnlineDrummer.com community?
Keep drumming and stay positive. It’s a tough industry, but if you love it enough and work hard enough, it will pay off.