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You're FIRED!

Have you ever been fired? I have, more than once. It's never fun, but there is a lot you can learn from being fired. It can be very motivational, to say the least! HA! Let's talk about that a little and how to manage your feelings and emotions after the axe has dropped.

Getting fired for the first time can really feel like a slap in the face! It can be scary and hurtful as well. I remember the first time I was fired. It stung, because I knew that if I had made some better decisions, I might still have my job. More on that later. I had a great gig playing a show in Vegas 5 nights per week and making excellent money. Unfortunately, during the course of a year, my relationship with the other band members grew toxic and became worse and worse. I felt like I held the higher ground, thinking that it was the others (specifically the "band leader") who would be let go because of a whole list of reasons. When it finally came time for the management to renew the band member contracts, I was dropped. Ouch!

In hindsight, I was in a really bad place both mentally and emotionally. I definitely took some abuse in that band, and it took about a year for me to regain my full confidence in my playing again. That shit messed me up! When I look back at some video performances of me from the show, I just cringe. What was I thinking? I'm playing way too busy, and not focusing on the time feel. Overall, I was just trying to do way too much by being slick and catching every horn hit and kick that I could. I was approaching the gig like a fusion drummer and not like a "show" drummer. I'm sure that the other band members resented me for that, and probably didn't know a good way to tell me.

I'm not saying the others were perfect. I'm just admitting guilt on my end of things. The others were drinking on the gig, playing wrong notes and clams quite often (many times in the same part of the show), playing too loud, asking me to play ridiculous parts that did not fit the music ("can you play it samba?"), and not conforming to the blocking and choreography of the show, as well as very loudly cussing me out on stage! Yes that happened once or twice as I recall. It was ugly. I didn't know what to do to make things better and this just went on and on.

You might wonder how I regained confidence in my playing again. Well, I just took as many gigs as I could and tried to move on with my life. I ended up landing a touring gig for a tribute show which was great for my playing because it was a groove gig, not a "chops" gig. It wasn't until I started recording a lot of my gigs and listening back with a very critical ear, that I started to feel good about my playing again. It really helped to focus in on my time playing, my feel, my pocket, my backbeat and where I was intending on placing it, then listening back to hear where it actually was. I did this throughout a 4-5 week tour. The bass player (the amazing David Inamine, a dear friend) on the gig and I would get together in our hotel rooms and just listen to the previous night's show and discuss how the time should feel, and the relationship between the drums and the bass, and various other musical elements contained within the songs in the show. We were taking a real honest look at the music and making fine adjustments based on that analysis. That was really helpful! I did this all while simultaneously digging really deep into Steve Jordan's feel and playing. Basically I was inhaling as much Jordan into my playing as possible, just trying to sound like Jordan. I was challenging myself to NOT play drum fills in places where I previously would have, to play simpler, and to focus only on the groove and creating a pocket for the music to ride inside.

Now, as I look back upon the situation, I'm glad I was fired! I needed to be fired. It was good for me! I sure wasn't gonna walk away from a cushy gig like that on my own will, and the situation was never gonna get any better either. Something had to give. In the end, it made me look inward and realize how immature my playing was, and in my general attitude toward the gig and toward my band mates. Not only has my playing grown leaps and bounds, but I'm also a better person and a better bandmate from this experience. So go out there, do yourself a favor and get fired!

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