Pat McDonald - Drums and Percussion

"Life Away from Drumming"


Most of us as musicians reach our goals by staying completely focused and working tirelessly at building our abilities and careers.....


That single-focus mentality is great but it can have a way of closing out the rest of the world.    We get so accustomed to practicing, schmoozing, building a career and "playing the game" that we can often lose touch with the OTHER things that make life special.    


I know myself that I spent the better part of my adult life so centered around my career and climbing the ladder that I forgot that there were OTHER things out there besides music and drumming.     It took some pretty serious health issues to break me out of my trance and let me see that there is more to life than hitting things with sticks......and realizing that very fact has turned out to be an inspiring thing.


I've found that  when I had that complete uni-directional focus on drums and career, that I made a lot of headway but I also missed out on a lot of living even though I was living what I thought was my ultimate dream.      I've never married although I've had many girlfriends, and it wasn't until this past year that I actually got engaged!    I made it to just shy of my 42nd birthday before I took that step and that ended up crashing and burning before it got off the ground.    It takes a special kind of woman to understand what we do and is able to deal with all that comes with it.        Maybe I'll find her one day!       I never had time for children and I lived the typical "nomadic" musician lifestyle--taking all kinds of gigs and moving around to where the work was.      I got to see a lot of places and experienced things I'll never forget and will always be grateful for that.   But I also missed out on a lot of the simple things that I see as much more valuable now.


The adversity of facing cancer (for the third time in my life) at 41 years old allowed me to step back and see that, while I've done some great things and accomplished many goals, I was going thru life with blinders on.   There is more to life than drums and drumming.     I had spent so much of my time working my career that I passed right by a lot of living without ever seeing it.    Simple things mean a lot more to me now.    Not only in life but in music as well.       


Spending so much time practicing, buried in the woodshed for hours and totally focused on drums and drumming helped me gain a lot of ground fast.   But it also steered my mind toward the thought that if what I was playing was difficult and complicated, then it was more IMPORTANT--more VALID to know how to do and therefore, I should stick to working on crazy, difficult concepts and chops things to make all the time I spent somehow more productive.    That's a common trap I see a lot of musicians get into and it can be hard to get OUT of sometimes.    As I've grown and become more comfortable with simplicity in all aspects of life, I've really begun to see the art and beauty in NOT thinking so drum-centered and thinking more MUSIC-centered.     Just because you have a drum in front of you, doesn't mean you're REQUIRED to play everything you know on it or even play it at all.     Learning to truly LISTEN to the music and make simpler choices in what I play (if anything at all!) are a HUGE skill to acquire.     I'm starting to get it now 30 plus years into my drumming career!    There's a reason why the Porcaros, Gadds, Keltners etc. are so in demand for so long.   They GOT it!    The learned the "happy notes".   They play MUSIC and not just drums.    More and more I want to be one of THEM and not one of the "drum star", chops guys.


It's real easy to miss out on life when you spend SO much time focused on one thing.    I encourage everyone to work hard and practice hard and do your best to achieve your goals.   But don't do all of that without taking some time to get away from drums and music now and then.    Take a walk.  Take up another hobby (I personally found golf to be a great way to challenge myself in OTHER ways besides with music and drums), turn OFF the music and just listen to the silence.    And you might find YOU in the process.      It can be really inspiring.     And you may find things in the world outside of drumming that you can bring INTO that world that will make you a better MUSICIAN and not just a better DRUMMER.  


I guess the old adage "Take time to stop and smell the roses." is fairly good advice after all.    Just something to think about



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