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Evan Tennant is on Time and Ahead of Schedule

Every so often somebody comes along and blows the peanut butter right out of your sandwich.

Evan Tennant is the son of my lifelong friend Randy (and Heather) of whom I’ve known pretty much since he was born. He’s best pals with my brother Ted, being of the same age. Little league. Bikes. Church. I actually baby sat Randy when I was in my teens. Randy’s mom was my Sunday School teacher. His dad included us in a variety of activities that keep impressionable young boys on the right track. So, we go back. Randy by now is the guy I trust my guitars to since moving back to the east coast. Uncle Randy.

This has very little to do with my choice for this month’s column aside from the fact that Randy handed me his son Evans’ CD when I dropped off a strat for a tune-up and a light modification. “I don’t wanna brag about my kid, so I’m not saying anything,” he asserted. He handed me the disc and said, “Just listen to it. He did everything: drums, bass, guitar—and he recorded and produced it.”

“What?”

I knew that Evan played drums and have seen him play. But that’s all I knew. His proficiency is such that I’ve had him on my list for a future article since he was 7 and impressive. A natural. But have kept him backburnered to allow him the time to mature and to see if he sticks with it. Like I said, he was only 7 when I heard him first play—quite impressively. Now he’s 17.

Randy and I finished our business about my guitar, and I jumped into my car to drive home. I popped in the CD. I made it 4 blocks and stopped the car so that I could freak out. I considered turning around to go start a record company and sign him, myself. But, I kept going so that I could listen to the rest of it, knowing there’s time to think about it.

Remember that scene in Wayne’s World where they’re headbanging to Queen? Yeah, Baby. That was me all the way home. This kid ROCKS. Not only does he play seriously badass drums, he’s also manhandling the bass and the guitar in a way that might make some of you musicians [reading this] spit on the ground in the same manner a frustrated baseball player throws his glove to the dirt when he’s beat.

The tunes are great compositions to begin with. I am profoundly blown away by this. The playing is mature. And I’m not excusing his proficiency based on the fact that he’s 17. I’m not favoring him cuz he’s extended family to me, and that I love these people very much. In fact, I regret that I may have waited too long since I never expected ‘this.” Nope. Nope. Evan’s a pro.

Recently, He was one of ten winners (out of hundreds) for a drumming video that he submitted to the Stay at Home Drumming Challenge—a Covid-quarrantine drumming contest conducted on YouTube with a following of over 2 million.. He was one of the youngest if not the youngest, beating-out pro’s double his age. See for yourself right here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1zny96eNbE)

A few years ago, he played a show or two with the Blacklights and also Menage-a-soul at downtown festivals.

A week later, after listening to his CD everyday on the way to and from work, my guitar was ready to pick up. I raced over. I was more excited to talk to Evan. I asked Evan, “So, where did you learn to record? This isn’t just good… this is excellent.” He didn’t expect me to ask this, and his face told me so. The young man’s reply was, “um… I just looked things up online… Youtube and stuff… and Wayne (a mutual friend of all of ours) showed me a few things to get me started.”

“Are your mics on the kit right now and will you show me what you’re doing?”

“Yeah, come on down and I’ll show you.” And after a quick tour of the situation, I told him, “I want to bring you to Subcat with me on my session to introduce you to Ron Keck,” still shaking my head. “You want to be a musician and all that, professionally, yes?”

“Yes.” And I was happy with this answer, cuz we need dudes like this.

Also to note: Evan is an outstanding individual in every regard which is another BIG reason I’m doing this article and interview with him, because the world and the music biz is replete with the unkind and ego-centric and frankly I’m unimpressed with this aspect. Then along comes a person and musician like this with an incredible gift who “gets it” and in turn works hard respecting this gift. So with that, ladies and gentlemen: meet your city’s next prodigy, Evan Tennant.

Chuck Schiele: How old are you; and how long have you been playing drums?

Evan Tennant: I am 17 years old, and I have been playing the drums for as long as I remember. My parents say that I have been playing before I was born! My dad would play his guitar against my mom’s belly while my mom was pregnant for me, and I would tap a beat to it.

CS: Wow. That’s about the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. I wish I had a start like that. How did you get started playing drums? I believe that your parents have encouraged and supported you in a way that a lot of kids wish for themselves?

ET: I got started playing the drums on cans and boxes outside when I was about three or four years old. Then, one year for Christmas my parents gave me a toy drum set that I played so much that it broke! Shortly after that, My uncle bought me my first real drum set. That was one of the best gifts that I had ever received, and I used it all the way until I received the kit I currently use.

My parents and my family have definitely encouraged and supported me a lot through the years. They come to all of my gigs and concerts, always support me in every musical project that I am involved in. I wouldn’t be nearly as successful without their support and encouragement, and it surely isn’t something that I take for granted. I am so thankful for everything they have done for me.

CS: Do you play drums regularly? What are you doing as a drummer these days?

ET: Yes, I play the drums and practice as much as I can, and I take advantage of the time that I have. These days, I am finding every opportunity that I can to play out and get my name out there. Some drumming opportunities that I am currently involved in include playing drums for my church’s worship team each week. I am also filling in for the drummer for the band “Sydney Irving and the Mojo,” and playing bass occasionally as well. In addition, I have been working on writing my own music, writing not only the drums, but also bass and guitar parts. I hope to release this soon.

CS: What inspires you? Do you wake up and start thinking about music?

ET: Some things that inspire me as a drummer are listening to other legendary drummers, and hearing all of the different styles and genres that are out there. I usually tend to wake up and start thinking about music, and about all of the possibilities for songs that are out there that haven’t even been written yet. Even just listening to music inspires me. If a song doesn’t have a drum part, I like to envision a drum or percussion part that would fit the song.

CS: What do you like most about playing drums?

ET: I think what I like the most about the drums is the fact that your creative possibilities are endless, and that there are so many options for even just one groove in one part of a song. I also like that in a setting with other musicians, drums are part of the foundation for the music, and you can lock in with all of the other instruments to make the song tighter and more cohesive.

CS: Who are your favorite drummers and groups?

ET: I have a lot of favorite drummers. One of my first favorites was Buddy Rich. I used to watch dvds of him all the time when I was little. I like how he could play to fit the needs of the band, and the way his playing could lead the band and follow it at the same time. I am also a fan of John Bonham from Led Zeppelin, because of how he created his own style while Rock was first becoming a new form of music. One of my favorite Groups is Rush, because of how they could make complex playing and odd time signatures flow smoothly through a song.

CS: Do you have a favorite moment playing the drums?

ET: One of my favorite moments playing the drums was being a part of the New York State Blues Festival, and being able to play with extremely talented musicians. It was one

of those times where I could really lock in with the other musicians, and we sounded like one band (not just a bunch of musicians playing together) even though we had only practiced together a few times. It was an amazing experience.

CS: Do you play drums at school? Do you play every day?

ET: I do play drums at school, in the concert band and the jazz band. I also sit in with the chorus and vocal jazz group when they need some light drums, or percussion backup. I do my best to play everyday, and to try and learn something new or progress each time I practice; and even more importantly that I have fun while I’m doing it!

CS: Do you have a regular group or group of pals you play music with? Please tell us about it.

ET: I have several groups that I regularly play music with. I play in the worship team at my church every week, I jam with friends often at school when we can, and I also jam with my dad who is a guitar player, and we write our own songs and play with other people too.

CS: Do you take lessons? Please tell us about it.

ET: Yes, I currently take lessons with Kevin Dean. He is an excellent teacher and extremely talented. Kevin has definitely helped me to expand my drumming, and to become more versatile and able to play more different styles of music.

CS: What kind of kit do you play?

ET: I play a Pearl Export EXR kit, with Zildjian cymbals and Evans Heads. I also use a Pearl Rack system, which helps a lot with maintaining floor space, and making it easier to set up and tear down. My kit is set up to allow me to play many different styles and genres of music.

CS: What do you like to do when you’re not playing drums?

ET: When I’m not playing drums, I am playing Guitar and Bass, writing, recording, and mixing music. I like to write my own music not only because I enjoy doing it and sharing it with others, but it is also cool to look back on it and see how I have progressed and changed as a musician over time. When I’m not involved with music, I enjoy being outdoors. I like to ride my bike, especially on trails like the Erie Canal to see all of the amazing plants and animals in nature. I also enjoy going to camp with my family and friends.

CS: You have an amazing gift. I think you know it because it looks to me like you respect it by working at it. If this is true, do you have any thoughts to share about where your gift comes from?

ET: Thank you, and I truly believe that I have a gift for playing music that was given to me by God, and I was given this gift for a purpose. I believe that the purpose for my gift is to share music with others, and to show people how music can change your life. That being said, having a gift requires practice and hard work in order to progress, like you mentioned.

CS: If your friends, or anyone for that matter, wanted to play drums, what would you tell them?

ET: I would tell them that playing drums is like any other hobby; it is fun to do, and requires practice and the willingness and drive to do it. I would also advise that you should record yourself practicing frequently, so that as you gain skills as a drummer, you can look back and track your progress and see how far you have come. It is very rewarding and will inspire you to keep going.

CS: What kind of music do you like to play?

ET: I like to play lots of different genres of music in order to stay well-rounded, but my favorite kind of music to play is Rock, because there are several different kinds of rock, such as classic rock, modern rock, progressive rock and I enjoy playing all of them.

CS: Do you have any plans to pay in the near future?

ET: My plans for the future are to continue to work at the skills that I have, and to continue my work as a musician; whether I make a career out of it, have a musical job on the side, or even just as a hobby.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.