June 22

Rock Drummer Talks Music Business & Guides Young Musicians


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Session drummer Charlie Walker has lived some of his rock and roll dreams – from opening for U2 to performing on his favorite TV shows – today he tells you how.

SNEAK PEEK     (Full Episode + Transcript below)

Session Musician
Videogame Producer


Charlie Walker: Chamberlain
Charlie’s band resume: Split Lip/Chamberlain, Institute, Oslo, Model Actress, Helmet, New End Original
College:1/2 a semester at IUPUI Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in Indianapolis, IN
High school: Noblesville High School in Noblesville, IN
First Job Ever: It’s Really A Dollar (a dollar store)
Worst Job Ever: Filling snack machines at PolyGram CD printing plant

Drummer Careers

Charlie Walker has been in the music business as a professional rock drummer since the age of 14. He’s seen the highs and lows of living the rock and roll life from opening for U2 with Gavin Rossdale and their band Institute to scraping by waiting for that next gig. He’s had his own bands and been a drummer for hire for touring and session musician work. Charlie decided long ago that he wanted to commit to the rock and roll life. If you’re looking for music careers and want to be a professional musician or you want to learn the behind-the-scenes of rock music, you’ll want to watch this interview. Charlie shares lots of great advice for young musicians: what he’s done right and what he’s done wrong. It’s amazing how much of his advice matches that of session musician & professional cellist Cameron Stone.

Since this interview was filmed, Charlie’s first band, Chamberlain (formerly Split Lip/Chamberlain), broken up for the better part of the past decade, has reunited at the request of Gaslight Anthem leader Brian Fallon. Chamberlain is touring with Gaslight Anthem this July. Check out the brand new Chamberlain song “Raise It High”, which I think is summer rock anthem-worthy as well as TV sports anthem-worthy! Let us know what you think in the Comments!


For our Audio Podcast: Careers Out There on iTunes


Careers Out There Host Marc Luber: Hey everyone, we are here on location in Hollywood, CA today and we are sitting with professional rock drummer Charlie Walker. Charlie, thanks so much for joining us Careers Out There.

Guest Professional Rock Drummer Charlie Walker: Thank you.

Host Marc Luber: Appreciate it. So, there’s a lot to talk about. And there are so many people – probably at least every guy – would love to be a rock drummer. Everybody plays drums at their desk, they play air drums, we all grow up just being fascinated with drummers and wanting to be one. You get to be one….it’s pretty cool. Tell us some highlights of your drumming resume.

Guest Professional Rock Drummer Charlie Walker: I think the highest for me personally would be we toured with U2. I played for a guy named Gavin Rossdale, who is the former singer of the band Bush, and we had a band called Institute together. In 2005 we did 13 shows opening up as direct support for U2 on their Vertigo tour.

Luber: That had to be fun.

Guest Charlie Walker: Amazing, yeah.

Luber: Alright. Tell us some more.

Guest Charlie Walker: For me as a child, it was always wanting to play David Letterman. So we did David Letterman, we did Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, Tyra Banks, Carson Daly, Jimmy Kimmel…So we got to do the whole round of the TV shows and toured with some really amazing bands and just the whole rock experience of it was pretty amazing.

Luber: That’s great. Now didn’t you recently play shows with Jesus Lizard?

Guest Charlie Walker: Yeah, we did. I play in a band called Model Actress out here in Hollywood as well, and we did San Diego with the Jesus Lizard and we did Los Angeles at the Henry Fonda and we did Chicago at the Metro, which was really crazy, because that’s where they’re from. It was sold out and it was full chaos. It was wonderful.

Luber: Nice! Very good. So, here’s a question that everybody’s going to be wondering – especially musicians who are watching. They’re going to want to know how – how did you get to do this? You’re from Indiana, isn’t that right?

Guest: Yes. I am from Indiana.

Luber: Where in Indiana?

Guest: Noblesville, it’s about half an hour north of Indianapolis. It used to be a little farm community. Not a lot of people, man.

Luber: How does someone from a farm town in Indiana end up playing with Gavin Rossdale of Bush, a band that sold over 10 million records just in America! How does that happen?

Guest: It happened through just years of touring. I was 14 when I did my first record. I had a band called Split Lip and Chamberlain back in Indiana. Then I moved to New York City in `99 and I met a guitar player named Chris Trainer. Chris Trainer and I had a band together. Then Nigel, the original guitar player of Bush, quit and they got Chris to replace him. Then Chris called me when he said Gavin wanted to start a new band and asked if me I wanted to play and of course I said yes.

Luber: Nice.

Guest: There you go.

Luber: So was a lot of that networking, would you say?

Guest: Yeah, punk rock networking, really. Growing up in an underground, hardcore music scene, you just by touring in a van and staying in people’s houses, playing in these people’s basements and everything like that, you just get to know people and then those people end up eventually growing up and getting jobs in the music industry and everything, and you can call them and say “hey”, you know. So it is networking on a different, underground scale.

Luber: Right. You’re not running around with business cards and schmooze events.

Guest: No. Now I am.

Luber: More professional now.

Guest: Right.

Luber: Walk through the different lifestyles that are involved in doing studio work, small tour work, and then a big tour like a U2 tour. There’s a very distinct path with each of those. Tell us about those.

Guest: The studio stuff is very regimented – more so than touring. Studio, you wake up, you go there at the crack of noon, and it’s more about being in the environment, in a closed environment. You have to be very aware of what’s going on, and very clean and try to keep drinking to a minimum or keep partying to a minimum the night before because you want to be very focused when you’re recording. Small tour is very much in a van, you’re pumping your own gas, you’re buying your own food, you’re trying to find a place to stay, if you’re lucky you’ve got a Motel 6, and you’re driving the van yourself, and you’re basically loading your own gear, doing everything yourself. On a big tour, you’re in a bus, you have a tech, you have a full crew, and then it’s obviously a way bigger stage show, a way bigger production. But I think the thing that ties all of them in for me, especially, is I have to sit down at my drum set and do the same thing, no matter what it is. That, going back to the U2 shows, is the first arena show I’d ever played, and opening up for a massive band like U2, the second I sat down at my drum set, I had to do the same thing. And it was humbling, it was like this is what I do.

Luber: So really, regardless of the audience size, you just have to focus on your craft at that moment.

Guest: Yeah. One or a million, you’ve gotta rock the same.

Luber: Now what’s the perspective like when you’re on stage in front of a giant audience like a U2 audience? The drummer is kind of isolated. You’re in the back of the stage, you’re staring at the back of people’s heads…it’s not like you’re out front with everyone. Do you feel lonely? What’s that like?

Guest: Sure, it’s kind of a catch 22 because you have this protective barrier. You have 22,000 or 30,000 people surrounding you but you have this little wall in between all of that. But you don’t get the interaction, of course, the same as the guitar player or the singer. They’re very up front and can see the people right away. My perspective is yes, I get lonely, but also I know that I have the best seat in the house. I see everything. Yes, I see the back of the other players but also can look around and see everybody behind me and around me. In small clubs, it’s obviously more interactive, which I like a lot. I like the sweat and hearing all that screaming and stuff. Yeah, I have the best seat in the house, that’s the best way to put it.

Luber: That’s great, so now tell me this. How do you get paid. When you’re working on these tours, or if you’re at home and going to the studio on behalf of another artist, who pays you, how do you get paid, who negotiates for you, how does this work?

Guest: Well, it depends on what situation I’m in. If I’m on a major tour, I would get paid by the record label and I get a salary and I get paid weekly. So it’s just like a regular job, a 9-5 job, it’s put into my bank account and I just have that money coming and I have a certain amount of salary. On a major tour you also get per diems. On a little tour you get per diems too but it might be $5 to eat Taco Bell as opposed to $450 or $500 a week cash to eat. That’s your food money, basically. So I get a pay check and then I get per diems. If I’m recording for an artist, I would get paid either by the label or I’m also a member of the union, so I get union checks as well. When I do a union gig, certain gigs as well like on TV shows, because I’m a member of the union, I have to go through them – fill out all the forms and everything – and that’s nice because they take care of me and make sure everything’s legit. On a small scale, like a punk rock tour in a van, you’re basically getting a guarantee of a couple hundred bucks and you’re splitting it, putting in for the gas and to get some food. And you eat that way – try and eat – that’s the main goal – to have some food.

Luber: You gotta just keep enough left over for that!

Guest: Yeah, exactly.

Luber: What kind of money is there for someone?

Guest: In bigger tours, you go from basically, it depends on your job or your role on the tour, but you’re getting pretty much $1,500 a week to $6 grand a week. And if you’re a big dog, you can get up to $10 grand a week and then plus per diems on top of that. Studio stuff: the union wages go from $375-$500 for the day, which would consist of basically a 6 hour day, I think, somewhere around there. But on a bigger tour, you’re looking at $1,500-$2,500 a week. It’s good money, decent money. The bigger hired guys, you know the guys that have played for a long time, they’ve been doing this a long time, I know they start at $6 grand a week.

Luber: What about a small tour, a record label is putting you out with a band that is not yet big?

Guest: You make more money from merchandise and tickets from shows. And that’s more about playing, playing and touring, touring and touring. That comes down to your guarantees for the shows and if you can sell out. Say you’re playing 300 capacity places and the next time you’re playing 750, you can ask for more money. The best way to make money is to get a van and to not have a bus and to live as cheaply as possible on the road, and then when you get home you’ll have more money. You’re making anywhere from, I think back in the day I would go on tour for 3 weeks and make $1,500 and come home with that. So it varies, man.

Luber: What if you’re not in the band but you’re being hired by the label to play drums for the band, or to play guitar for the band, and they’re not yet playing the big places. What can that be like?

Guest: That can be anywhere from $500 a week to $800 a week, and sometimes $1,500 a week. It depends on the label’s size and what they want to put as tour support for the band. If you’re playing small clubs but you have tour support, you might take more on the backend to get not as much up front but you get more at the end. There’s so many variables of it.

Luber: Now you mentioned record labels. How does that work when you’re sometimes being paid by the record label. Are you contacting record labels to find gigs, are they calling you, how does that work?

Guest: Constantly. I am constantly calling either my friends from the old school, hardcore punk scene that work at labels to see if they have anybody who needs a drummer. I’m constantly calling people at record labels, any source that I have through what I’ve gone through in the last 15-20 years now, I’m constantly calling them. You know, sometimes even bothering them too much. “You just called me a couple days ago,” but that’s really what it takes. And the people that I’ve found that get the most gigs and the most jobs, are constantly on the phone every day.

Luber: So they’re calling and saying, “who needs a drummer right now”. “What studio should I go to, who should I work with?”

Guest: Yeah. “Tell me who needs a drummer”, or “did you hear anything”, or do you know “so and so needs a tambourine on something”, you know what I mean. You constantly have to keep calling and doing that.

Luber: Who is being contacted at the label, when you’re interacting with a label for these gigs and musicians are out there calling?

Guest: A&R guy. Your A&R guy is your bloodline to the label. That’s the only guy you need to worry about. You have a tour manager and a band manager. The tour manager is the guy on tour that is basically everything from – he’s basically your baby sitter.

Luber: Waking you up in time.

Guest: Yeah, waking you up in time, making sure you’re there, you’re dressed, that you’re on stage when you need to be, you’re at your interview when you need to be, you’re at sound check when you need to be. Your manager is the guy that takes care of everything outside of the tour. But your main person at a label, if you’re on a major label, is you’re A&R guy, and that’s the guy you need to talk to every day.

Luber: And even if you’re not in the band, but you’re looking for a gig, that’s the same guy.

Guest: That’s your guy.

Luber: Now for people who are watching and they’ve never had a gig in their lives and their thinking now I’m going to call A&R guys. What would you advise them?

Guest: I wouldn’t go around calling Epic Records and saying let me talk to so and so, this is Bob from Iowa, I need to talk to so and so.

Luber: It would probably just piss them off.

Guest: Yeah, the label has things to do. It comes down to knowing your – literally knowing the local person you have in your club that you play – your local bar. There’s steps that go all the way up, and they know so and so and they know so and so. And it does come down to who you know and not what you know. But what you know is very important. And what you don’t know is very important as well!

Luber: You figure that through experience.

Guest: But I would advise kids, like the old school ethic, if you want a label deal, do what Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers did. Come out here, go to New York, wherever you want and walk in with your tape or your CD or mp3, whatever. Walk in and be like here. You’ve got nothing to lose. Why not. Just show up as a band and be like here. You know?

Luber: I used to work at A&M Records and there were stories about when Prince first came out here from Minneapolis, how he just would not leave. He stood outside forever. He didn’t end up getting signed at A&M but he stood outside the door at the lot forever.

Guest: Yeah, he worked it. So don’t give up – that’s what it’s about, you know? The more you do, the more you’re going to get out of it. If you sit around and be like oh man, I wish this would happen, it ain’t gonna happen.

Luber: And are you tied to a certain sound?

Guest: Style wise? Like my drumming?

Luber: Yeah, like if you’re calling labels, are you saying just, “what artists do you have that are this kind of music that could use me right now?”

Guest: Sure. I mean, I’m known for, I play very heavily. I’m known for heavy rock and that’s definitely my forte of drumming. It’s very backbeat-heavy, driven, simple, aggressive drumming. So people who know me know that I’m known for that. And when I call for a certain artist, whether it’s a country artist or anything, I can give them that. If they want to use that technique that I have, then that might work for them, you know, a hip-hop artist, or anything. But know that that’s what I’m bringing that to the table. And I’ve been blessed to work with so many different kinds of groups that it’s rounded it out as well. So I’ve learned a lot of different kinds, you know.

Luber: What would you say is the most fun? What is the most fun part of this path and the most rewarding part for you?

Guest: Music. Just playing music. I mean, out of being in a bus and being on a major tour and stage lights and girls and all that, whatever, it literally comes down to the music. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t do that. And that’s going back to being on a big stage and a little stage, knowing that when I sit down at “my desk”, which are my drums, that that’s what I do and that’s why I do it. It’s in me, man, I can’t get rid of it, you know. That’s the most rewarding.

Luber: Right. Getting to know that you’re being paid to do what you love.

Guest: Yeah. Absolutely.

Luber: What about the hardest part? If someone’s watching right now, they can be in Indiana, they can be in Florida, they can be anywhere, and they’re interested in doing what you do. What would you tell them, if you can’t handle this, this path is not for you? What is it? What’s the hardest part?

Guest: The instability of it. You never know where your next gig’s coming from, you never know where your next paycheck’s coming from. You always have to worry, literally, if you can put gas in your car or food on your plate. It will go to the highest of highs and to the lowest of lows. And it’s so inconsistent. Some years it will be straight awesome and you’re rockin’, and then some years you won’t have anything, you know what I mean. I would say if you can’t handle instability, then don’t even think about it. If you want a paycheck every Friday and know where your job is and know exactly always what’s going to happen in a perfect box, don’t do this. Don’t even go for it.

Luber: That’s good advice. What about between gigs, when you’re in those dry periods, what do you do?

Guest: I do drum lessons. I do drum lessons, I try and do like help friends out with – I’ve done commercials, a buddy of mine, we did a NASCAR commercial, you know just to try and get something going. But drum lessons is a big thing for me and keeping in touch with the people that I have played with in the past to see if they’re working on another song, if they need me to do anything like that. But in the past it was landscaping, man. I mean, in Indiana, that’s what I did. I would get off of a tour for the whole summer and then come back and that was the only job that I could go away, then come back and it would always be there. And I used to do rooftop gardening in New York. That’s how I made my money.

Luber: Was there ever a time where you thought this might be what I do forever?

Guest: As far as not drumming you mean? Yeah, I thought for sure there were some times where I didn’t know if it was going to work. Cause I was making really good money doing the landscaping thing and at one time I got offered to be a partner in landscaping and have my own truck and my own company and my own sign on the side of the truck. It’s great money – I would have known my life – but that would have been my life. And I knew in the back of my – in the front of my heart actually – that there’s no way I could do that because I wouldn’t be happy. That’s the only time that it ever came up where I was like oh man, OK. But I stuck through, I stuck it out.

Luber: It’s a good thing you did.

Guest: Yeah.

Luber: So, what would you say is the best personality for this kind of a path?

Guest: Open hearted, open minded, ready to accept any situation that comes your way. But you have to have a really thick skin. You have to have a very, like I always think of Keith Richards, man. He always said he comes from tough stock, and you have to because you can’t be sensitive in it. I’ve learned that over the years because I’m naturally a sensitive person and would get down if somebody said, “oh, you messed up that drumbeat “ or “you didn’t play well tonight” or whatever. Tough shit. You’ve gotta just do it. You’ve gotta have a thick skin and a really good heart. You’ve gotta be tough and sensitive at the same time, if that makes any sense.

Luber: That’s an interesting mix.

Guest: It’s a hard recipe to have as a person, but you have to have a good spirit and a deep soul and be ready to experience because it is a great life and you’re going to meet amazing people and have amazing experiences where it’s surreal and doesn’t really feel like it’s happening at all. But you’ve gotta be tough to push through, you know?

Luber: That’s great. What about school? Would you say that music school is necessary?

Guest: I think so now. Before, I didn’t. When I grew up, I didn’t. I was in marching band in high school. My dad’s a drummer, I grew up around it. I learned rudiments and reading music and everything. And then I had the choice to go to college, which I went for half a semester and it didn’t work for me…to study music. I wanted to go from the perspective of I want to learn everything as much as I can through just doing it – I don’t want to be taught. Now, later in life, I wish that I had learned a lot of things. I gained a lot by not knowing, but I also didn’t gain a lot by not knowing, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of things that I wish I knew. So I would say for kids today, absolutely man.

Luber: School.

Guest: Engulf yourself in it. If you know you want to be a drummer or any kind of musician, live, breathe and sleep it, man. Just do it.

Luber: Hear that everybody? This is red magic marker territory.

Guest: Yeah. I would engulf yourself in learning how to write music, learning how to read music, learning theory. Learning everything you can about your craft. I’ve just gotten into it recently being at the age I’m at now, wanting to go back. When I see 15 year-old kids on YouTube now, they’re amazing man. These kids are unbelievable. But they did that. They’ve gone to school, they’ve studied, you know, they had lessons every day. I would immerse yourself in it, man. Because it doesn’t hurt. But then also, the other side of that is you get in a van, you know?

Luber: Do it. Live it.

Guest: Live it. That’s the best way to put it. Live it.

Luber: Do it all at once.

Guest: Do it all at once. Just immerse yourself in it.

Luber: Right. That definitely makes sense. Really in any field that makes sense.

Guest: In anything. Jimmy Hendrix slept with his guitar, man. You know what I mean? Live it. That is your goal to your soul, man.

Luber: I wanted to be a drummer as a kid.

Guest: Yeah?

Luber: In 4th grade, you know, I started with the classes in school, they gave you a drum pad.

Guest: Yeah, the little pad. I had one of those.

Luber: The little pad, and I used to sit and practice and after a year, I got OK. You know, I wasn’t as good, there was this guy Steve Grossman….

Guest: I love how you remember his name.

Luber: Cause he was a lot better than me!

Guest: He was good, right?! John O’Neil was that kid for me, man. He was great. Yeah, totally.

Luber: I don’t know where Steve is now. Maybe he’ll contact me after watching this, but for all I know he’s in Rush at this point. I don’t know what he’s doing. But yeah, when it came time after a year to get the actual drum kit, my dad said, “that noise isn’t happening in our house.” So that was the end of my drumming career.

Guest: That was it? Aw, man.

Luber: Until New Year’s Eve. This New Year’s Eve, I played Rock Band, and I played The Beatles’ Rock Band. I gotta say, I was pretty good! I was a good drummer!

Guest: Yeah? You kept it up?

Luber: Yeah, so tell me, if you’re good at Rock Band, does that mean you have a future as a drummer?

Guest: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s great because when we were kids, you know, Super Mario Brothers or whatever, taught you hand-eye coordination. And I remember that was a big thing because parents thought that their minds were getting rotted by the video game, but it actually taught kids how to do this. And with Rock Band, it’s amazing because one, the kid is hearing the music – listening, but you’re also visually seeing when to do this, so I think it’s a brilliant game. I think it’s great.

Luber: Excellent.

Guest: And yes, if you’re good at your instrument there, you technically – more so with the drums than the guitar – because, you know, it’s just little buttons and everything. With the drums, you have to – yeah – you get good at it.

Luber: So for the strict parents who might be watching, who are thinking their kids are wasting their lives with videogames, they’re not, right? Their not!

Guest: No, I think it’s brilliant. I think it’s actually wonderful because kids now are getting into old music, man, and they’re learning. There’s kids who are 12 years old who are like, “I want to learn the Ramones song”, and I’m like “great, great”. Because it just keeps history alive in a videogame form, but what those kids are going to learn out of it is amazing. And who knows what we’re going to hear because of those kids on that video game!

Luber: Right. Absolutely. What other skills would you say…other than being a good musician, what other skills are important to have?

Guest: Being a good businessman, which took me a long time to learn because I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to promote myself right or to market myself. I just got a website, I got a card, being a good businessman. And Mick Jagger – going back to the Stones again – Keith was more of the tough rock and roller; Mick was a very good businessman, but he was a rock and roller as well, and you have to meld the two to make sure that that….It’s a business, man. Anyone can be in a band and play in a garage or do whatever, and you can do it yourself – like Fugazi. It’s their own business, but it is business, you know?

Luber: And it’s hard work! People need to know , it’s hard work.

Guest: It’s hard work, man! It’s tough, it’s tough.

Luber: I worked on a Stones tour and on a Crosby Stills and Nash tour.

Guest: OK, awesome.

Luber: They work hard! People think, “oh, rock stars, they’re sitting in their limos” but it’s hard. Tell me this – there’s a lot of down time on a tour. 4:00 sound check and the show is at 9. You’ve got almost 5 hours to kill. How do you deal with that and what do you see people do – other than bad things – what do you see people do?

Guest: A lot of people now are exercising, I’ve noticed. I’ve seen a lot of people backstage have full gyms on tour. Like Neil Peart from Rush – I think there was a tour where he would get dropped off out of town and ride his bike and then there was one tour he rode his motorcycle the whole time. Because think about it – like you said, what, 22 hours out of the day you have nothing to do? And then you’ve got 2 hours where you have to be on and performing, you know.

Luber: And then you’ve got the adrenaline that keeps you up all night after the show.

Guest: Right. And that’s when I’ve noticed – definitely everybody has done their partying – done the “bad” stuff, whatever, but I’ve noticed more that people are like exercising, reading books, drinking water. It sounds boring but god, man, it’s true.

Luber: That’s great. Tell us this – when did you start playing drums? When was the very beginning of this whole thing?

Guest: I don’t remember, let’s put it that way. My dad was a helicopter pilot in the army, and he always had a drum set in the house, which I still have. It’s an old, little Rogers 60s kit that he bought before he was shipped off to Okinawa. So my dad had it, my uncle had it, and it was always there. There’s pictures of me when I’m 1 year old – I was born in Germany –and there’s pictures of me when I’m 1 with a little toy drum. And since I can remember, there was this red drum set in the basement. So I don’t ever remember the point of discovering the drums. I remember the first time I heard my dad play a beat and it scared the crap out of me. Scared the hell out of me, man. I thought my dad was magic. He sat down and just played this beat and my dad’s totally like a Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell kind of drummer. First time I heard him play a beat, that was like shocking.

Luber: Wow. And when was the point where you said, “I’m gonna be a pro drummer. I’ve been in bands, I’ve been messing around as a musician but I’m gonna go for this and try to make a living at it.”

Guest: Yeah, I think probably around – when I was like 12, I really started to take it very very seriously. I felt myself learning things and my dad would show me certain things. When I was probably 12, I really started taking it very seriously but at 14 I was focused, man. That’s what I wanted to do. That’s what I wanted to do. I knew it. I just knew it.

Luber: OK, so you’re 14, you’ve decided you want to be focused and yeah, this is it! So what did you do? What were the steps that you took? And how did you know? Was it from reading rock magazines, or what paved the way for you?

Guest: Yeah, it was immersing myself in it. And the culture I was in, I actually stumbled into punk rock and hardcore. These 2 guys came over to my house, introduced by a mutual friend that I went to high school with. This is my freshman year of high school, next thing you know there are these guys in my house and it’s loud and it hit me, you know. So that culture that we were immersed in taught me a lot about how to do it, what to do. I knew that those steps had to be taken by – I was lucky to have the band – the band taught me a lot – to have 5 different guys who were the same age writing songs, our look just happened, we never were like, “we want to be this kind of band”. Every little detail, man. You know, like, “you should wear your guitar lower” or stuff like that. It all happened, and those things, I think the steps that I took were just….Related to the school thing, I immersed myself in that. I immersed myself in the way the clubs smelled, and how the singer made the crowds go crazy or how I interacted with the bass player, all those things. Just learning and learning and learning, doing it over and over and over. Playing as many shows as we could taught me how to be in a band, really. It just taught me the lifestyle of it.

Luber: And you were in love with it from the beginning?

Guest: Oh yeah. I grew up sleeping on the back of an amp cabinet in a van. That was my bed for many years. And then when I finally got a bunk in a bus, it was like oh, OK.

Luber: A big step up!

Guest: Yeah!

Luber: Give everybody an action plan. For all the people that are watching out there, regardless of where they are in the country, or regardless of their age, they want to do what you do, what can they start doing today? What can they start doing right now to get on that right path?

Guest: Practice. The first thing you gotta do is practice and immerse yourself in your instrument. Guitar, banjo, drums, whatever it is. Study, study, study. And the blessing is YouTube. Go on YouTube and watch every drummer, and every video, study them. Break it down, take it apart, make it your own, steal riffs, make them your own thing and just go for it. Today, start practicing, doing all that with the YouTube stuff, and study. Really, if you want to make it your life, it’s like if you want to be a doctor, you start looking at medical books. Get every rock book ever made. Get every biography, get every autobiography, get every piece of magazine, every piece of musical history and study your history, man, because that is a very very important thing. The Stones were the blues, but the blues were this, you know, and it just goes back and back and back until you’re like at the root and you’re like oh, man, OK. Study. Immerse yourself into it and have a good time. Have a good time, man! Have a blast because it’s fun. It’s not meant to be taken so seriously. In any aspect of life, especially music, it’s a joyous occasion. It’s a very beautiful thing that you should hold dear to your heart and enjoy it. Have fun.

Luber: So what’s the next step for you?

Guest: I just got 2 offers that are in the works right now for 2 bands. One is out of New York City and one is out of Austin. Just had a phone call today, actually, with the guitar player from the New York band. I’m going to New York, and getting a room and seeing if it vibes, seeing if they dig my drumming and seeing if I dig them as well.

Luber: And these are signed bands?

Guest: Yeah, absolutely.

Luber: Excellent.

Guest: But I have my fun band, you know, Model Actress, is for, those are my bros. We only play like 8 shows a year but we play rockin’ shows. There’s the big rock corporate gigs and then there’s the total 2 people in the bar punk rock gigs for fun. Everything in between is what it’s all about. Those are your bookends, and that’s the life in the middle.

Luber: It’s amazing – I interviewed Cameron Stone – he’s a professional cellist. He’s on Careers Out There. So much of the advice – you guys do 2 very different things – but so much of the advice is exactly the same. It’s interesting, how there’s a thread that runs through music.

Guest: That’s just there, man, and it’s the sound.

Luber: So what are your long term goals? Where do you want to take this?

Guest: God, that’s a good question. When I was younger, I didn’t think of doing anything else but playing drums in a band and that was it. I was going to do that until the day I was dead, even if I was 89, barely holding on, this is what I’m doing, right? I think that’s definitely my main thing – I still want to do that. But I also must want to play on other things. I want to record with as many artists as I can so I can make myself the best drummer I could possibly be, whether it’s country or hip-hop or reggae or anything…Every form of music I want to learn to play. Also, I want to do commercials. I want to do any aspect that drumming, besides being a rock drummer in a rock n roll band can take me to, I want to do that. Every facet of what that vehicle can take me to.

Luber: So to grow those other areas more, it’s just a matter of really networking with those contacts, finding new contacts, spreading the word with your website….

Guest: Yeah.

Luber: The website’s good by the way. If you want to plug it, go ahead.

Guest: Oh, www.charliewalkerfour.com.

Luber: Excellent. There’s a lot of clips on there of TV appearances.

Guest: There you go.

Luber: What about financially? Where can someone take this financially?

Guest: Oh, man. You could make a lot of money. Or you can not. It’s your choice, really. It is a hard business. It’s definitely one of the toughest and most cut throat businesses, financially speaking. But the sky’s the limit, man. I’ve seen people….like the U2 tour, I saw 1 what a really good rock n roll band can do and 2 the kind of power and money that they can make. And that’s a good thing because when, in 2005, Katrina, at a show, I think we were in Miami, there’s 22,000 people there, Bono walked up to the edge of the stage, and he said, “everybody hold your cell phones up – I want to make this place look like a Christmas tree.” Instantly, blue lights everywhere – the whole thing. It just looked beautiful, and he said, “everybody text this number and you’re gonna donate $1 from your phone bill to the Katrina fund.” That’s power, man. And that’s music. Just the fact that somebody could do that in that second, a very righteous thing to do but have the second that that’s done be like, “OK, here we go, this song’s called Beautiful Day”. It’s amazing, man. But that, financially, it’s a very powerful thing, music. You know, and you can change the world through it. Money is power, you know, whether you want to use it for good or bad. You can be a rock star and change the world. You really can.

Luber: So you love what you do.

Guest: Absolutely.

Luber: What would be, if you had to leave everyone with some keys to success, what are some keys to success that people should be thinking about it?

Guest: Work hard, believe in yourself, have full confidence, forget about the arrogance, and enjoy what you do. And don’t ever give up. Don’t ever give up, and don’t let anybody tell you any different. It’s your life, not theirs.

Luber: Well said. So that’s some great advice. Thank you so much again, Charlie.

Guest: Oh you’re very welcome, thank you for having me.

Luber: Everybody, Careers Out There is real advice from real professionals like Charlie Walker here. Keep watching us – we’re at Careers Out There dot com, and we look forward to seeing you again soon. Take care.

(C) 2010 Careers Out There


Musician Careers: Session Musician & Professional Cellist Talks Success in the Music Business
20 Songs About Careers Out There
Make Your Own Luck


creative careers, music careers, music major, no college degree, self-employed

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  1. Really? You can't see the chorus being used on TV sports programming as a fadeout to commercials in the same way the Killers, etc. are so often used?

  2. really? the “high point” for this drummer is a failed label created band based around a former chart topping heart throb and we are supposed to take his advise?

  3. Thanks for the comment Marcus. This website is designed to help people learn about the different careers out there from those who live those careers every day. I believe that great advice can come from all kinds of people – not just those who reach the #1 spot in their respective careers. Charlie is able to explain the reality of the drumming career path: it’s a tough one! Tough but doable if you go for it. He has gone for it and achieved more than most drummers will achieve. His drumming resume is listed on top and he has been in a variety of bands that have paid him at varying levels. He has just completed a sold out tour with his band Chamberlain as an opening act for Gaslight Anthem. The most fun part for him was playing stadiums opening for U2 and performing on all of his favorite TV shows. Only a small percentage of drummers get to live out that dream. Sure, I can interview a big rock star drummer who hooked up with his high school friends and rode a hit song into wealth and fame….and he can talk about what it’s like to be a big rock star….and share what that top 1% of careers is like….but plenty of major music publications already cover that…and the perspective those musicians bring to the table is generally too removed from the career path that the majority of musicians have to deal with, which is the struggle, the hunt for work, the money coming and going. Charlie can speak to the struggle, the hunt for work AND both the high and low-end types of touring.

    I don’t know your background, but I guarantee if you spend a year on the road working as a touring drummer, you will have great advice to share with others about working on the road as a drummer regardless of your level of success. Charlie has a lifetime of that at varying degrees of success. Even if Gavin’s band was a “failed label created band”, Charlie is talking about getting a career as a drummer…finding work as a drummer….and getting paid as a drummer…and he did all of that…and was paid well. Gavin’s success isn’t relevant to whether a drummer for hire got hired, paid well, and had the thrill of living a career that was also a lifelong dream. Here he explains how others can fight to achieve that too…and possibly more….

    I appreciate your feedback because I think you raise an important point….but I hope that my explanation helps clarify to you where we’re coming from. Would you prefer to hear from a rock star?

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