In our latest industry spotlight, we chat to touring drummer, Leo Freire about his work, life and tips for up-and-coming drummers.
S] What motivates you outside of music?
I believe that in order for an artist to produce the highest quality work, one has to devote an equal amount of time to absorb all that life has to offer in a well-rounded capacity. In other words, while it is necessary to invest the thousands of hours in the practice room to become a master musician, the quality of your work will also be dependent on the diversity of the life experience you have.
Being originally from Brazil, I love to take trips a few times a year to visit family and experience the change in scenery that entirely contrasts from my routine in New York. It’s also one of the reasons I enjoy touring – it provides you with a fresh perspective of what life is like in parts of the world that are different from you are used to. It’s important to be aware of how other people live and think and I believe this ultimately provides you with a greater and more fulfilling artistic perspective.
S] What are the biggest challenges you face as a touring drummer?
Wheatus tours are challenging in the sense that we have limited days off. We’ll do runs where we will work 10 to 13 show days in a row without a full day of rest to catch up on.
People don’t sometimes don’t realize it but show days involve at least 6 to 10 hours of work: load in and setup, soundcheck, show time, and breakdown. I certainly feel when my body starts to wear down after constant performances, keeping in mind our tours are on average 6 to 8 weeks long. It can be a lot to handle at times and I try to compensate that with plenty of sleep and by eating well. Combined with the fact that drumming is such a physical instrument, it’s important to get your exercise in as much as possible as well to keep your body well-oiled throughout the entire tour.
S] What has been a career highlight?
I’m lucky to have had many career moments I am extremely proud of – highlights that I dreamed of being able to experience as a kid when watching my favorite rock stars. Experiences have ranged from writing a film score, performing on live television, playing large festivals, etc.
One of my proudest moments was certainly the recent 2016, Pigs Can Fly tour which I played on with Wheatus, supporting UK band Busted. The tour featured 18 arena performances, through some of the most famous and largest arenas in the world: Wembley Arena, the O2 Arena, Manchester Arena, and more.
I still remember opening night at the legendary Wembley SSE Arena and getting goosebumps after being able to perform in an arena with the Wembley name – where so many legends have graced their names with. Immediately after our set, I remember being ecstatic with happiness, really remembering it as one of the happiest moments of my life.
S] What advice would you give to young and emerging drummers?
Music is inherently an unstable and unpredictable career, in the same way that a business owner experiences seasons where sales are greater and others where things slow down.
I try to approach my career by diversifying my investments – meaning I prefer not to place all my eggs in one basket. I have found that involving myself in multiple promising opportunities has not only increased my access to different professional musical networks but has been helpful in keeping me busy all the time. When one opportunity ends, others appear.
I also am fully aware of the highly competitive nature of the field and would advise musicians to hang in there when things get tough because life is all ups and downs. Don’t get too excited when things are going well and don’t get too nervous when roadblocks come through. Life tends to balance itself out.
S] What fuels your passion for creating beats?
Studying the greats has always been inspiring in learning and creating beats. Analyzing and incorporating musical language from all the classic genres is fundamental for maintaining a fresh approach to creating great drum parts.
At studio sessions, many times producers will request a specific language referring to a time period or specific musicians: “do it like Ringo” – or “give me some Buddy Rich action.” I spent a considerable part of my musical education analyzing great drummers like Jeff Porcaro, Dave Garibaldi, Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Mike Portnoy, Gavin Harrison, Bobby Jarzombek, Shawn Pelton and more. I think studying the past – while keeping up with the present – will lead to a greater future.
S] What projects are you working on right now?
I just finalized the touches for a soundtrack I co-composed for a movie documentary about the legendary football team Juventus from Italy. The soundtrack is rock influenced, with several classic rock rhythm section pieces, and it actually also features extensive drum solo moments. The movie’s entire introduction opens with a big band style Gene Krupa-like drum solo I composed for it, which I was very excited about. The film premiered in Torino at Juventus stadium later in October 2016 and will debut worldwide in 2017 so I’m very excited to see the final result of our work when it comes out.