Leah Khambata is a highly successful actress and singer-songwriter who has recently returned to playing live shows following pandemic restrictions on live events. 

Even during the height of the pandemic, Khambata never stopped writing new songs, and in fact, she even started her own virtual concert series on Instagram, which gave her a way to connect with audiences and other musicians and artists during a time when human connection was in short supply. 

As for some of her more recent music releases, Khambata's single "Calling You Home" received a write-up on Rolling Stone. If you'd like to hear more of her music, check out Khambata's Spotify page or search for her on any major music streaming service. 

In addition to her music career, Khambata is also a professional actress who has appeared in multiple short films and Off-Broadways plays. She's also been featured in an upcoming series that we can't share details on quite yet. 

In this interview with Khambata, we tried to cover her core musical inspirations and influences as well as her feelings on returning to live performances.  

To learn more about Khambata's work, just follow any of the links we've included here. 

Jam Addict (JA): When did you first start writing songs? How long was it before you started recording some of your original songs? 

Leah Khambata (LK): I started learning the piano at age eight and then switched over to the acoustic guitar at fourteen. I used to be obsessed with the TV show American Idol at the time, and that was the first year they allowed the contestants to play with instruments. 

I remember seeing this one contestant, Brooke, who played the guitar while singing and something about it just really struck me. Seeing a girl up on stage with her guitar. And soon after, I came across Taylor Swift’s music and that’s what inspired me to start writing my own songs. She wrote so earnestly about love and heartbreak and I really admired that. 

The first song I ever wrote was called “Between You and Me.” I recorded it a year later at a friend’s studio, but at the time there was no concept of independently releasing your own music so I just shared it on social media and submitted the music with some college applications. Perhaps I will re-record and release it someday! 

leah khambata

Actress and singer-songwriter Leah Khambata.

JA: Can you tell us about some of your most important musical influences? 

LK: I really like Ed Sheeran’s music. Many of his melodies have this bittersweet feeling to them which really tug on your heartstrings and make you feel more connected to your own heart. I listen to a lot of John Mayer, too, because his lyrics are so real and relatable. He captures these in-between moments which we all go through but don’t really know how to vocalize and he does it so well. Not to mention his insanely good guitar skills! Coldplay, too, love their melodies! 

JA: Have you enjoyed returning to live performances after the height of the pandemic? 

LK: I think I got so used to performing in front of a screen that the first time I performed in person again. I felt quite anxious! But I’m getting used to them again and there’s nothing like an in-person crowd at the end of the day. 

JA: How did 'Calling You Home' come about? What was the inspiration behind this song? 

LK: So I actually wrote it in April 2020 but just didn’t get the chance to properly record it until recently due to the pandemic. The pandemic was hard for everyone in so many ways, one of which was not being able to see the people we love for over a year. 

I remember sitting on my floor playing around with my guitar and I found this chord progression I really liked so I started with that and then the words sort of just came to me as I was thinking about the separation. When I wrote this song, it had only been two months of lockdown. Little did I know that that separation for everyone would last for over a year! 

But with that alone time came a lot of introspecting about my own emotional journey and progress, too. I’m someone who tries to be very open with my feelings and that’s what I try to do with all my songs: self-reflect and share earnestly from the heart. 

JA: Do you often collaborate with other musicians, producers, etc.? 

LK: Yes, in fact, I co-wrote a song with singer-songwriter Natania Lalwani a few years ago called “Never Here Never There” for a short film called "(t)here" that I wrote, produced, and acted in. And during the pandemic, I started this Instagram concert series called “Sofa Sounds” where I gave Insta live shows with many talented musicians. 

When I was living in LA, I also performed regularly with music producer/musician, Farrokh Shroff, a.k.a. F.N.S., at venues including The Hotel Café and The Study, and in Mumbai, I used to perform with musician/sound mixer Aresh Banaji. I’ve also collaborated for my original songs with music producers like Brandon Belsky, Matt Ferree, Dreux, and Rahul Popawala who were all so great to work with! 

JA: Do you have any upcoming singles we can look forward to? 

LK: Yes, I’ll be releasing two other singles: "Closing the Browser on You" and "Something to Do with You" in the next couple of months. I’ve actually put up an acoustic verse of each on Instagram as a bit of a teaser. 

JA: You're also a successful actor. Do you ever have difficulty switching between acting and songwriting/recording? Is there an overlap between the two? 

LK: During the pandemic, all film shoots came to a halt so I found myself naturally focusing more on my music because composing was something I could do on my own in my room, and I ended up writing a lot of songs while also giving online shows. 

Whenever I can, I love combining film and music, which is what I did in the short film "(t)here" that I mentioned earlier, because I co-wrote the song with my film’s character in mind as well. I would love to play the role of a singer/songwriter in a film or series in the future, kind of like Keira Knightley’s role in "Begin Again."

leah khambata

If you're a professional athlete, it's pretty easy to tell whether or not you're in shape. You can either play the game or you can't; you can keep up with the competition or you can't. 

But for music industry professionals, everything is way more abstract. It depends so much on how you're feeling and what you've been listening to. 

You might be in the middle of a great project and feel like you're treading old ground. Or you might be rehashing old ideas and feel like you're on top of the world.

If we had to guess, we'd say that most music pros want to feel like they're keeping things fresh, like they know what's big right now while also taking notes from decades and decades of rich musical history. 

Well, we're here to help you figure this out. This article is about keeping your music game strong while also keeping a healthy work-life balance. 

Here to help us out is the top-tier producer and songwriter Sebastian Torres, who knows a lot about working with artists from all kinds of genres. Torres has credits with artists like NCT-127, Marco Mares, Samantha Sanchez, Pol Granch, Kiiara, Lita, and Naïka. 

Just this small selection of artists represents a slew of genres, from Latin to pop to R&B, and the combined listens on his tracks (Ciao Ciao, MOVE!, Mala Mana, Don't Get Confused, Ride, Oh Mama, and Belle Belle, just to name a handful) are in the tens of millions. 

So here's the plan: we're going to share some of Torres's thoughts on how to keep your work fresh as a producer, but a lot of what we'll be talking about here also applies to working as a songwriter, engineer, or even an instrumentalist. 

Pushing outside the box 

Torres talked to us about how basically every producer has genres that they feel safe with. These are probably genres that they listen to casually, based on their personal taste. 

For Torres, these genres include Latin and pop. He's very familiar with these genres and finds himself returning to them naturally on a regular basis. 

It's pretty easy for a producer to do work in their most comfortable genres. They know the sounds and the rhythms super well. But taking things to the next level means traveling outside the comfort zone. 

That's not something that happens naturally. A producer has to make the decision to try new things. Sure, it can be intimidating, but the rewards are real.

"Instead of boxing themselves into one genre or another, I think producers should always be looking for ways to challenge themselves and expand their arsenal. Diving into different genres is an amazing way to learn. You can learn different patterns, rules, sounds, ideas, and techniques that will make you a better producer."

Knowing your way around a bunch of different genres is its own reward, of course, since it lets you work with artists in all of those genres, but as Torres was right to point out, you can also go cross-genre on a project, taking tools and methods common in one genre and apply them to something completely different.  

Refresh your listening

A producer's musical education never really stops. Now, that doesn't mean you'll forever be trapped in some music theory classroom where the room temp is always just a bit too warm. We just mean that you'll always be coming across new music and learning a lot by listening to as much of it as possible. 

If that sounds like a chore, it's really not. Both listening to a wide range of musical styles and working across a wide range of musical styles can be a breath of fresh air. 

Chances are every one of you out there has had an experience where you were working on an album or maybe just a single track for so long that you started to get sick of it.

music producer sebastian torres

Music producer and songwriter Sebastian Torres.

That fatigue isn't necessarily a sign that the work you're doing is bad, just that you've been focusing on the same thing and the same sounds for a long time. 

Listening to or making tracks in a different genre can give your ears a much-needed change of pace, and it will probably get you thinking in a different way. 

Torres is a big fan of this approach, and as he says here, producers are in a lucky position, one where they can switch genres without messing with their career. 

"One big advantage that producers have that artists don't is that we can do any genre we want. We can dive into different sounds since we're behind the scenes. A huge pop artist may not choose to make hip hop or Latin music because they have to maintain some consistency, but producers can glide between genres if they want." 

Think of this like sonic tourism. Have you ever found a new appreciation for your home base after spending a couple of weeks somewhere else? It's the same idea here, and it can give your work new and interesting flavors.  

The great genre fusion 

Playing around with all these different genres isn't just about self-improvement, either. The need for range and versatility is becoming a much bigger deal, and that has a lot to do with how popular music is changing. 

Genre fusions of some kind have been around for a long time, but these days, genres are mixing very casually, getting tangled up with each other to create brand new combinations. 

So knowing your way around as many genres as possible is a creative tool, too. 

"With the way that genres overlap with each other and the way music is evolving, I think versatility is an amazing tool to have. More and more you're seeing 'crossovers,' or artists stepping out of their comfort zone and collaborating with other artists from very different genres. This is a testament to how listeners today are more open-minded."  

These crossovers can easily hit it big, and there's a good chance that audiences will want to hear more of this kind of work.

Is all this fusion caused by the internet or a sense of shared global culture? We'll let the music historians work that one out, but the important thing for producers to understand is that knowing how to handle genre combos is a big asset right now. 

Knowing when to pull back 

Now that we've covered how you can take your professional game to the next level, we'd like to balance things out here at the end by discussing how to take breaks and appreciate music not just as a professional but as a person. 

Have you ever heard of the Tetris Effect? At a basic level, if you play Tetris for too long, too often, you'll probably start to see the world differently, trying to find elements of the game in everyday objects.

But the concept applies to just about any activity. If you're devoting most of your time to doing just one thing, it can be really hard to pull away from it and stop it from invading other experiences. 

We've all had moments where we just worked too hard at something. You can get a lot done by sinking tons of time into it, but after a certain point, the negative effects start creeping in, and you can be sure that this can happen with music, too. 

Torres talked to us about how his years of professional experience in production and songwriting can sometimes get in the way of just enjoying music. 

"I'm able to pick things out that the average listener wouldn't. This can really enhance my listening experience, but at the same time, I struggle to just simply listen to a song without analyzing it or judging it. I'm grateful that I can listen to music in a more elevated way, but sometimes it's hard to turn my brain off and just listen to a song in its most basic form."

If your work is getting in the way of the passion that got you involved in the first place, that's a red flag, and it might even be a sign that you should take a step back. 

That could mean going back to some of your all-time favorite music or looking for something new. It could mean going to more live shows and getting involved with other artists and industry professionals. 

Heck, it might even mean stepping away from music altogether for a bit.

Keeping yourself from working too hard ends up benefiting your work in the long run, and it's the same when it comes to scheduling, too. 

Torres makes an effort to space out the work when needed, as a way to keep his own sense of creativity healthy and vibrant. 

"I'm usually pretty busy, but I also pause and schedule days where I don't have a session or work with artists. I think it's important for music creators to understand that what we do isn't a 9-5 job. It's a job that requires a lot of creative processes and it's very easy to exhaust those muscles. Taking creative breaks and refreshing your mind by having hobbies and doing activities that don't have anything to do with music is incredibly important." 

All of this comes down to balance. There will be days when you need to push harder and days when you need to go easy, and you're the only person who can make those calls. You know what will make you a better producer, and paying attention to those signals is just part of working in the music business. 

When everything's balanced just right, that's when the magic happens. 

Award-winning educator and guitar player Pritesh Walia clearly has a deep love for music. He plays across a huge number of genres, including big band, modern jazz, and singer-songwriter, to name just a handful. 

He's worked with renowned artists as a session player and has played big-name venues including Berklee Performance Center and Agganis Arena. 

For over ten years, Walia has been teaching masterclasses and music clinics in his home country of India in an effort to provide quality music education to as many people as possible. 

There's so much to talk about with Walia's impressive career and his status as a top-level player and instructor, but it's the teaching side of things that we're going to get into today. 

We have a feeling that most of you reading this have had your own experiences with a range of music teachers, and maybe some of you are music teachers, too. 

Despite what School of Rock would have you believe, teaching music is no easy gig, and Walia was nice enough to share some of his hard-earned expertise with us so that we could share it with all of you. 

If you're a music educator yourself, get ready for some keen insights, and if you're a player, this will be a peek at the other side of the fence. 

Offering music education to more people 

For someone here in North America growing up in a decent school district, it might be easy to take music education for granted. Heck, some students might even hate the idea of having to learn how to play their instrument from an instructor. 

But having access to high-quality music education is a big deal, and not everyone can be so lucky. 

Based on his own experience while growing up, Walia has a deep respect for the value of music appreciation. 

"Music education plays a vital role in my life. Coming from a country like India, education was a luxury, a blessing. During the formative years of my musical development, I never had the opportunity to learn and educate myself about different aspects of music. I believe that's the reason why I want to share my knowledge with others."

Walia wants to pay it forward, and he's been doing just that by hosting a large number of clinics and sessions where students can learn about the intricacies of music theory and performance. 

In fact, Walia believes that all musicians, and especially music educators, are obliged to share their knowledge and wisdom to keep these traditions going strong. 

"I feel as musicians we are also historians, and this wisdom should be passed on to others. This keeps the art form alive and the music lives on forever." 

Learning how to teach 

You know, we don't tend to hear very much about how great teachers became great teachers, and that's why we wanted to ask Walia about his own history with learning how to teach. 

It was a process, but based on what Walia told us, it sounds like it's a process that he's really enjoyed, and also one that just keeps going. 

"My early years of teaching were a huge learning experience for me. Not only did I learn a lot about teaching but I also learned a lot about myself." 

A common outsider's misconception about teaching is that it's all about communicating the material effectively to a group of students and keeping them engaged. While that's not entirely inaccurate, Walia stresses just how different the needs of each student can be. 

There isn't a one-size-fits-all solution when teaching music or any other subject. 

"The success of a teacher lies in their ability to reach their students, and in my initial years of teaching, I was still working that out. Every student is different, and a good teacher can understand these aspects and build a curriculum around them to facilitate effective learning. It takes a long time to see the results, and the journey can sometimes be very tiring. But the reward is very inspiring and definitely worth the wait." 

Whether one-on-one or in larger class settings, Walia knows how to tailor the material so that it gets through to all students, even students who might be struggling with the lesson. 

From a student's perspective, this is a massive help and can prevent feelings of being left behind. It's just another way in which Walia executes next-level music education. 

Breaking down complex topics 

Ok, so music theory is no walk in the park. Is it interesting? Of course. But it's also deeply rooted in complex concepts and hyper-specific terminology that can be hard to decipher, especially for beginners. 

While Walia loves music theory and what it can offer to musicians, he also recognizes that not everyone can jump right in. 

"I consider myself highly inclined toward music theory, but it can also be really challenging to communicate complex music theory ideas to students."

So how does Walia manage to communicate these complicated ideas? Well, through experience he's developed new abilities, new methods for meeting each student at their level. 

"I've learned a new skill through teaching music: the ability to break down complex material. My ability to explain sophisticated concepts and break them down into very small digestible pieces of information depends on how well I know the concept itself. I also try my best to relate the information through a piece of music that is relevant to the students and reflects the current era." 

It's still a highly academic approach, but it also brings these concepts closer to students' existing knowledge and musical experience. 

But of course theory isn't the whole of music education, is it? 

Beyond theory 

It takes much more to be a professional musician than just knowing how to play and how music works at the theoretical level. In every case, working as a musician involves plenty of practical aspects as well. 

This is something that some aspiring musicians might not want to hear, but ultimately, even being some kind of hyper-famous stage act is still a job. 

Being a working musician also means putting in the time and collaborating with lots of other people. 

When it comes to covering these parts of professional musicianship, Walia's many years of experience are a major advantage. 

"Everything I’ve learned in a live performance situation or in my session work is directly applicable to my teachings. Over the course of ten years of playing with multiple musicians and playing different styles of music, I've realized the essential skills required for a musician to stay at the top of their game."

According to Walia, some of these key skills include understanding depth, dynamics, and the stylistic qualities of different genres. Also important are matters of etiquette and professionalism such as consistently being on time, being prepared with each piece of music, and staying approachable and communicative.  

These can be just as important as knowing your way around an instrument, and a student's music education wouldn't be complete without it. 

Virtual teaching: a blessing in disguise? 

Oh boy, just say the phrase 'virtual teaching' and both students and teachers alike will probably give a long sigh or roll their eyes.

As we all know, the pandemic necessitated quarantine measures that meant every educational institution on the planet, along with every student and teacher, had to suddenly adjust to a virtual teaching environment, which typically consisted of prolonged group video calls. 

Many students struggled to stay focused on each class while resisting the temptation of unlimited internet access. Teachers struggled to keep students' attention on top of illustrating various concepts with limited tools and visual capacity. 

For music educators, virtual teaching posed a special challenge, since, as Walia confirmed, instruction for a specific instrument benefits tremendously from an in-person experience. 

Walia's in-person lessons came to a complete halt at the start of the pandemic, which he says was both frightening and even a little de-motivating. But he quickly learned how to use virtual teaching tools, and even more importantly, Walia says that these circumstances forced him to renew his own teaching techniques.  

"Teaching guitar while not being in the same room as the student was hard. However, it also helped me discover new ways of teaching old concepts. I found myself writing out older concepts in a new fashion that is simple yet educational. All in all, this made my teaching practice stronger and helped me start my own online teaching business." 

Despite the initial drawbacks, it's possible that the sudden shift to virtual teaching may ultimately have done more good than harm. For Walia at least, that certainly seems to be the case. 

Respecting differences 

If there's a theme to Walia's comments on music education and how to reach more students, it seems to be that understanding and respecting differences of all kinds is key. 

Musicians are constantly playing different kinds of music, often for different kinds of crowds. Students are coming from very different backgrounds with different levels of experience. 

These differences can't just be shrugged off. Just the opposite: taking them into account can make for better music education all around. 

"It's very important to do justice to every piece of music, to take the time to dissect every situation and push yourself to learn new things and find ways to add your unique voice to the music, to understand that every student is different and they all require their own personal teaching plan and methodology. I think this is what differentiates an amateur and a professional musician: the ability to be honest and do justice to the given situation." 

Special thanks to Pritesh Walia for sharing his music education insights, and thank you for joining us for this discussion. Now get out there: teach, learn, play! 

Today we’re interviewing one of our own, Ben Heckler, the founder of Jam Addict. Heckler started the blog 3 years ago as a side project to share some of his drumming tips, provide his perspective on music, and just write some hilarious and entertaining music articles.

Heckler authored hundreds of articles and got Jam Addict to gain tens of thousands of organic traffic a month, gained drum students that he would teach over Zoom calls, and sold T-Shirts over his website.

Now Heckler manages a team of writers to continue to grow Jam Addicts web traffic and offer great content for its readers.

Heckler has since used his writing skills and SEO knowledge to work for Panda, a startup that runs a PR service called Promo Panda and an SEO content generator called Juice.

We sat down with Heckler over a 30 minute zoom call to ask him how these last couple years have treated him.

SEO and its power

JA: Good to see you! Feels a little lonely around here without you.

Heckler: Haha, same here. For the (readers) who don’t know, we started (Jam Addict) in 2019, that golden year before the pandemic. So we actually did get to meet face to face once and a while.

JA: And what a golden year that was. That’s actually a good place to start, maybe you can give us a history of Jam Addict and where you are now.

Heckler: For sure! Well I started the blog in 2019. I was just starting to learn about SEO and was consulting some mentors about the best way to optimize the blogs so that I would see the fruits of my return.

Apart from the boring SEO stuff it was really just about me putting my nose to the grindstone and writing some really engaging content on the stuff I knew.

I’m a huge drum nerd and so I could write about that stuff all day. I was also teaching a lot of drum lessons at the time so I would incorporate what worked and didn’t work into my blog posts.

Myself and a small team would also make articles that satisfied the more general audience and clickbaity tendencies we were seeing (see: https://jamaddict.com/7-worst-rock-and-roll-drummers-of-all-time/).

We took a humorous approach to these topics so that no one would think we were really trying to dis on anyone, but they ended up being some of our most popular articles!

JA: (laughs) Yeah I remember those days.

Heckler: So since then one of my early consultants and I decided we could use the same SEO skills that we’ve used to grow Jam Addict and help other businesses and blog owners do the same.

We founded the company Panda in 2020 and began looking for blogs that had similar SEO practices to what we do. We’d make contact with the blogs and establish a relationship with many of them through the process of sharing SEO tips and tricks.

Our first product was Promo Panda, which was a PR service that users could sign up to and solicit media coverage. By then we had so many contacts we would just spend most of our time pitching and making sure all of our clients’ content was well-optimized for the search engines.

This was our biggest value-add that we had over our competitors. Since then we’ve grown and still serve a number of clients each month!

Why SEO matters for musicians

JA: Wow, that's very cool. Yes I remember making contact with other blogs and sharing insights in those early days. That’s obviously how we met.

So is Promo Panda your main endeavor these days or do you have something else on the horizon?

Heckler: Yeah actually we’ve got a new product that is much more focused on helping small business owners and bloggers specifically.

The product is called Juice and it is an SEO content generator that helps creators make content writing and SEO optimization a breeze.

The tool not only helps generate a first draft of an article — it also optimizes it with meta tags, relevant images and videos and all sorts of other SEO components that we have learned here trying to grow Jam Addict.

JA: Wow, really cool! So this is one of those AI writing tools we’ve seen so much press about, right? GPT-3 and all that?

Heckler: It is a writing tool, 100%, however our main goal is more than just writing. The goal is to get you an SEO optimized piece of content that you can then adapt and add your own expertise to.

We provide you with great keywords that you can build your content off of, and then we use AI to generate a first draft that is optimized for ranking in the search engines.

The idea is that you don’t need to be a professional SEO to get value out of our tool. In fact, we’ve made the tool especially for the person who doesn’t know (and frankly doesn’t care to know) about SEO.

JA: Right, you’re just trying to help people get traffic on their website.

Heckler: Exactly! At the end of the day, we are all writing in order for someone to see, and so we want to help creators get seen.

And BTW, we don’t use GPT-3. We use an open source GPT, which allows us to give unfiltered content to our users.

JA: Oh, I didn’t know that! Open AI’s GPT-3 censors content?!

Heckler: Most definitely. Open AI is now owned by Microsoft and they have many limitations on the use of their product. They have token limits everywhere you look and they censor output that is against Open AI’s rules-of-use.

We thought these two limitations alone were a great reason NOT to build a business off of Open AI’s GPT-3.

We didn’t want silicon valley ideals to influence how people use our product and we certainly didn’t want to be cut off from their service based on some misstep that they perceive.

JA: That’s super interesting! So this product is mainly geared towards small businesses?

Heckler: Small businesses, SEOs, Shopify/Woocommerce and any sort of online business will get really good use of our tool. Our platform makes it super easy to target keywords that work for your brand and start creating content around your specific niche.

JA: Awesome, we will be on the lookout for that. Anything else you want to add? BTW do you still have any time for music these days?

Heckler: (laughs) Yeah I still do some music on the weekends. I’m actually releasing a couple albums this year, you can check out benheckler.com and seafuzzmusic.com for more updates on those fronts!

As far as Panda, Juice is released in beta and we are currently allowing users to try it for free!

We recently got to interview Nicole Simone, who is a prominent musician, a filmmaker, and even the founder and CEO of an animal charity called Redemption Paws. 

Under the artist name Late July, Simone has released multiple EPs and numerous singles, including recent releases like Green Eyes, Heartbeat, Waves, and Silver Tongues. 

During our interview, Simone also talked about her upcoming EP release, which she's been working on with producer John Agnello, who has credits on albums for many different big-name groups and artists like Kurt Vile, Dinosaur Jr., and Alvvays. 

In the area of filmmaking, Simone created, directed, wrote, and starred in a web series entitled On a List right at the start of the pandemic. 

We also asked Simone about her successful dog charity, Redemption Paws, which helps save dogs not being cared for in the West Texas region. The organization has saved more than 3,000 dogs in just four years. 

But that's enough introduction– we hope you enjoy our interview with Nicole Simone, which you'll find, full and unabridged, below. 

Jam Addict (JA): So what was it like releasing your debut EP back in 2010? Did you have a sense that your musical career would take off from there? 

Nicole Simone (NS): Releasing Side Swept in 2010 was nerve-wracking. I didn't actually believe I could do it, but I got through it and it was a great experience. I love that people still listen to that record, and I recently sold a bunch of limited edition signed CDs of it!

side swept nicole simone music

JA: Have you always enjoyed the collaborative aspect of making music? 

NS: Yes, I love collaboration. I'm certainly a leader type, but I think you're only as good as your team. I love to sit in awe of others' talents. I'm the biggest cheerleader of the people I get to work with. I feel super grateful that I have connected with some ultra-talented people.

JA: Which of your releases felt like the biggest step forward for you?

NS: I think when I released Confetti in 2019, I felt like I was really stepping into my own sound. It was a happy song but I was singing about terrible things. It seemed perfect to me and suited where I was in my life.

JA: You've managed to stay productive through COVID as well. Was it challenging to keep creating last year? 

NS: For a variety of reasons, I've been working remotely for years so it wasn't hard or that different from what I was doing already. It just felt like there were lids on things that weren't before. I think it was hard being confined to Toronto. Once I left in April 2021, I felt a huge creative surge. In the summer of 2020, I filmed On a List, and that was fantastic, but I definitely felt a bit guilty doing anything during COVID. Looking back, I wish that I'd done more.

redemption paws charity

JA: Which of your projects are you most proud of so far? 

NS: I'm super proud of my dog charity Redemption Paws. I can't believe that 3,000 dogs have been saved through the program. Late July is my heart though. I look back on all the music I've made over the last decade and I think wow, I really kept going. A lot of the music I hated when it came out, but I really respect the work I released, in retrospect. I think I'm a lot harder on myself than I realize.

JA: You've also expanded into writing, filmmaking and charity work. Has it been exciting to challenge yourself in this way?  

NS: I think it's all relative because filmmaking and dog charity work are a lot of problem-solving and crisis management. Locations fall through, there's interpersonal conflict, the unexpected happens. You roll with it and you learn. You take lemons and make lemonade. It's super rewarding!

JA: Can we look forward to any new music releases from you in 2022? 

NS: I just released my first song of 2022 called Silver Tongues. It's a super melancholy ballad of not being able to get someone out of your head, despite your better judgment. I have a new song called Remarkable coming out in March that's kind of my homage to surfers and cowboys. Later this year I'll be releasing an EP with John Agnello and I've been so stoked to work with John for years, it's finally happening!

Antoine Fadavi is a well-known and respected professional drummer and music director who's been touring with the popular band King Princess for a few years now. 

Originally from Paris, Fadavi was still a teenager when he started getting coverage in a number of major drum publications, including Modern Drummer, Drum!, Digital Drummer, and Batterie. 

Oh yeah, and he already had a formidable YouTube channel, too, with more than a million cumulative views. 

Relocating to Los Angeles after high school, Fadavi's career really took off, and since then, he's been touring, music directing for the likes of Ella Isaacson and Little Luna, and producing, all while keeping up with his own social media accounts, where he documents his musical adventures. 

We caught up with Fadavi at the start of the fresh and shiny new year and had a chat about his favorite drummers. 

The list might change over time, obviously, but right now, these are five incredible drummers who have been inspiring Fadavi around the clock. Let's check 'em out. 

Jeff Porcaro 

First up is the late Jeff Porcaro, who sadly passed away back in 1992. Most well-known for his work with the legendary rock band Toto, Porcaro was also a crazy-prolific session musician, reportedly earning credits on hundreds of different albums during his career, including collaborations with massive artists like Eric Clapton, Miles David, Joe Cocker, Dire Straits, Stan Getz, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Bruce Springsteen, and many, many others.

Seriously, this guy worked. His list of credits is kind of crazy. Leaving the scene quite young, he's been remembered very fondly by musicians and fans alike. 

Fadavi pointed out his own love for Porcaro's work on a Toto record that was only released after his passing. 

"If I were to listen to one album on repeat until the end of time just for the drumming, it’d be ‘Kingdom of Desire’ by Toto. It was released posthumously, the year following Jeff’s passing. Jeff has one of the most incredible drum sounds and drum feel I’ve ever heard, and he's so versatile, too." 

Chad Smith 

Next up is Chad Smith, longtime drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He may not be the original drummer for the band, but he's been there since 1988, and he joined the band for their 2012 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so it's fair to say that Smith is a staple of the band, and he's been there for the group's biggest albums. 

It's also pretty clear from interviews and appearances that Smith just loves his job, and it doesn't hurt that he's an excellent drummer. 

His style perfectly fits the band's particular flavor of rock/funk with some dashes of alt-rock thrown in for good measure. 

Fadavi has a serious affection for those pivotal RHCP albums, and he's especially hyped about opening for the band later this year. 

"‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers is an album with one of my favorite drum sounds of all time. That plus Chad’s loose-yet-anchored feel makes it so exciting to listen to. I’ll be playing drums with King Princess, opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers on August 6 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. I’ve worked with Chad a few times in the past and he’s always been a lovely person. I cannot wait for that show." 

Al Jackson Jr. 

Taking things back a-ways, we've got Al Jackson Jr. next. Jackson was a drummer, producer, and songwriter, helping to found Booker T. & the M.G.'s, who were actually session musicians for Stax back in the day. 

Known for being an extremely reliable drummer, even earning the nickname "the Human Timekeeper," Jackson has made it into both the Memphis Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Even if you haven't heard his name before, you've probably heard Jackson's work on the seminal track 'Green Onions.' 

If you're curious to hear more, the full album of the same name is a great listen. It definitely captures that famous time period while also showing off the distinct  style of Booker T. & the M.G.'s 

Fadavi sees Jackson as one of the most important drummers of his time. 

"In my opinion, Al’s drumming was unrivaled in the Motown era. He had a way to come up with the most perfect drum parts and play them with the best feel every single time." 

Tosh Peterson  

Tosh Peterson is a super-successful LA drummer who's been touring professionally since the age of 16. He's toured and recorded with some huge names like Machine Gun Kelly, Lil Nas X, Bad Bunny, and Nik West. 

Known for his energy and wild stage presence, Peterson is well-known both in the LA music scene and the music industry at large. 

He's been inspiring other musicians for years now, and Fadavi definitely enjoys the vibe that Peterson brings to his work. 

"I love Tosh’s energy on stage. His setup is very minimal yet powerful. Super fun to watch and always makes me want to get behind my drums." 

Rob Humphreys  

Last on the list is Rob Humphreys. Humphreys is a pro drummer and percussionist originally from New Mexico. 

For quite a while now, he's been playing live and in-studio with a huge number of massive recording artists like Billy Ray Cyrus, Celine Dion, Kacey Musgraves, Karen O, Lizzo, Macy Gray, Meghan Trainor, and Idina Menzel. There are more, but we'll let you check out his full credits over on Humphreys' official website

Humphreys is a consummate professional, and he's able to morph his style to fit in with every artist he works with, and that's no small task. 

Fadavi's been working alongside Humphreys on his current tour, and he loves having the chance to see Humphreys in action in every show. 

"I’m currently on tour with King Princess opening for Kacey Musgraves on her U.S. ‘Starcrossed: Unveiled’ Arena tour as I’m writing this, and her drummer Rob is absolutely amazing. It’s such a great opportunity to be able to watch their show every night!"

Looking for new drummers 

So that's the list, but we had a few more things to ask Fadavi, the first of which was how often he looks for drummers he hasn't heard before. 

As it turns out, Fadavi is pretty studious about looking into the musicians behind the music he loves. 

"Whenever I listen to music I haven’t heard before and I truly enjoy it, I take a look at the credits to learn more about who produced, wrote, mixed, and performed on the song. I then start going down a rabbit hole, learning about the performers’ life, discography, and career. That’s how I first became aware of one of my now favorite drummers, Al Jackson Jr., by looking up the credits for Otis Redding’s '(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay.'" 

If there's anyone out there looking around for new drummers to follow, this is a great tip. It's pretty rare that a professional musician works with just one band throughout their entire career, so even just finding a name and doing some basic research can quickly provide a wide variety of new music to listen to. 

You might even notice some major differences in the playing style of each musician across different projects. 

Influence and style 

Last but not least, we were curious about whether Fadavi's own playing is influenced at all by the other musicians he listens to. 

The short answer? Definitely.  

"All the music I listen to influences the way I play, almost instantaneously. I could hear a tune in the morning and be playing it in my head throughout the day, remember the grooves, tones, and fills, and think of how I could apply them to my own playing. Also, I taught myself how to play drums, so I developed a strong sense of critical listening. When you’re part of a community, you tend to naturally become like the people around you, so I've picked up a lot of drum habits and quirks from my close drum friends throughout the years." 

This kind of open attitude to playing and musical creativity can lead to some interesting evolutions of a musician's playing over the years. 

Music has always had a community element, and listening carefully to how other people handle specific genres, how they apply their own style to every song, can inspire your own creativity. 

But how about you? Do you have a solid list of favorite drummers? Does it change often? How have your own musical influences pushed you to explore new ideas, new boundaries? 

Thanks for joining us for this influential drummer roll call, and special thanks to Antoine Fadavi for making time during his current tour to talk with us.

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