Hearts Rise Up Podcast

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Ep. 2 - Sailing the Sonic Ocean - An Interview With Christopher Drummond

by Hearts Rise Up
March 17th 2019
In this episode, Christopher shares how life can be a long and uphill road. Stress in his life was very common. He grew up in an area where public education was on the level of private schools and 90%... More
mm Right. Mm hmm. Right. Mhm. Well, mm hmm. Yeah. Mm hmm. Yeah, Thank you. Hello again. I'm carol chapman, your co host for this episode of the Hearts rise up podcast and I'm really proud today to bring to you our featured guest Christopher. Drummond Christopher is a recording, a mixed engineer, a music producer, composer, sound designer, violinist and a Grammy Award voting member. He has composed and produced original musical scores for radio, television and film. Christopher's engineering and production style is influenced by a decade long mentorship with renowned Grammy nominated Emmy winning classical engineer, Edward kelly, electronic music pioneer and imax scoring veteran Michael stearns and space music visionary john sorry, Christopher operates in Washington D.

C. And Atlanta Georgia and is the technical director for robert Aubrey Davis's millennium of music, millennium of music airs on Sirius XM radio and over 250 national public radio affiliates. Christopher has produced feature programming for XM satellite radio, national Public Radio and public radio International featuring paul McCartney Sting, Billy, Joel john Anderson and the National Symphony Orchestra Welcome Christopher to the show. Thank you so much carol I honestly have to share. When we first met there was such a magnetism that you give off you just emit so much energy that I knew we just had to have you on the show. You're very kind. Thank you. I have to say that first meeting when I left you really did raise my vibration and that's part of what this podcast is all about is really getting out there and bringing to the table.

People who do a great job of just rising up and taking on challenges and helping to really raise the vibration of other people in the world and you did that for me. So it was really good vibes. Thank you. It's been a long and bumpy road. Oh, and I can't wait to dig into that. So can you share with us a little bit more about you, personally and professionally that I haven't already covered things? You mentioned in my bio, you know, that's the shiny part. You never get to see what it takes to get there. I bet I couldn't have done any of the stuff that I've done without a lot of help, luck and thousands of hours of work. We're going to dive into your story. I know you have a story to tell, but first, before we get started, are you ready to rise up now and inspire our listeners? Of course? Yeah, that's why we're all here. We're at a point now, I think in our history where it may be the most exciting time to be a human being in the history of human beings.

I would agree there's a lot going on in the world. So there's a lot for us to step up Rise up. It's really time and I think we're starting to get shaken out of our slumber and really having to take a look in the mirror. I think what's going on is very hopeful in a way, yes, because it forces us to look deeply, what do we really want for our lives. I decided a long time ago to pursue a career in music instead of going off to work for a corporation, but said, this is not my path. And in some respects, for a lot of people, the easier route is the path of least resistance and to just go ahead. Succumb to that pressure rather than really following their heart and their dream and what they really, I feel, you know, deep down inside. Well, it's an enormous amount of pressure that we put on people to appear a certain way.

Absolutely. I felt very early on about the age of 13 or 14 that that's not going to happen. I actually never was concerned about what other people thought about me, my music or what I was doing. One question I was gonna ask you, but I'm gonna save it for later, but I really would like to get into you sharing a story in your journey where you really encountered some challenges where you really had to and you mentioned just a few moments ago about following your heart with music and you had from parents and family and maybe even friends to do something different, possibly share with us a story in your life where you had to really dig deep to know what you really wanted, Maybe there were pressure from others, but if you could share that would be great. It's hard to think of one particular experience, but really it's been kind of uphill since the beginning.

There have been a few plateaus, but really it's been kind of a hard road, stressful upbringing in Fairfield county Connecticut. The public education we had is on the level of most private education and 90% of my peers went to college, which is unusual, but in our area it was expected going back a bit, I actually started playing piano at 3.5 with the nuns. It was really an eye opener. Even for somebody at 3.5, I still have nightmares about it, occasionally flashbacks. So my beginning piano education was quite torturous. Oh wow. Got off to a real rocky road, As I mentioned right from the beginning and started playing violin at seven and started playing violin professionally at 14 And discovered the wide world of engineering and production at 15 or 16 and have never looked back. So did you know once you hit 15, 16 that that's what you wanted to, whatever it was that we were doing, you had to be the best.

So right from a very early age it was but kicking for a long, long time. So any lessons learned from that experience when you were going through the butt kicking In Connecticut, our house was on 3.5 acres of woods beyond that was a 20,000 acre state forest with a very large lake. I spent a lot of time in the forest growing up. It's not like now nothing was connected, no Apple watches, no itunes, no, nothing. There was a lot of boredom to, nobody's bored now, everyone is engaged. What I realize is that I could get solace by wandering around in the woods by myself for long, long periods of time. Was there a point in your life where there was a real awakening or something that triggered that just accelerated the momentum for your journey. When I was 15, my dad was teaching in Switzerland and we lived there as a family for a time. However, when I was 15 I was a rebellious teenager and I wanted to go off on my own and since my folks both grew up in southern California, I went to the grandparents house and I wanted to be a way part of that summer.

My mom's parents who lived outside san Diego took me to the Reuben H Fleet space theater outside of balboa park California. It was the premiere of a nonverbal film called Kronos. This is the summer of 85 it's about a 45 minute long history of Western civilization done in time lapse. It was a groundbreaking film at that time. The soundtrack blew my mind. The soundtrack was written, composed and produced by Michael stearns. I sat in awe watching the credits and standing there, Everybody had gone except my grandparents and I was thinking, you know what, this is what I want to do with the rest of my life? Is write music like this. I love it, I love it. So what steps did you take? I went down to that gift shop and I bought the soundtrack, wow, that's a good first step went immediately back to my grandparents house Because the Imax Theatre was 92 channels of surround sound. It was coming from everywhere to simulate that.

I took the left speaker and put it next to my left ear, the right speaker, put it next to my right here. They were facing each other and my head was in the middle, about a foot away from each speaker and I played that tape until it broke that whole summer and when it did break, I went back to that gift shop and got another. So how did it change you for the better? As you were going through that? I had a benchmark I've never heard sounds like that. I believe Michael was using the surge modular synthesizer. And if you saw this thing, you wouldn't believe it. It's like the fist of God of electronics. It's A wall sized synthesizer. That would take hours to make one sound and it might not be any good. It took a great deal of mastery to get these kinds of sounds out of that instrument. There was no looking back after that. I said this is it. So have you ever failed at something? It's 90 percent failure. The bio is those 10% or 5% of successes? At what point did you really have to dig deep and rally yourself to rise up to a higher level?

You knew that the potential was there As a senior in high school. Going back a moment. By the time I was 17 or 18, I had been playing professionally violent for some time. The highest level of competition for string players is called Allstate Allstate Orchestra. And Connecticut was very highly competitive for young people and string players at that time worked under the baton of the conductor and composer. Benjamin Zander. He could have been conducting any major symphony orchestra in the world, but at that time he chose to work with young people. I am very grateful for that because he lit something in me to really up my game. The audition process was quite rigorous. It was a difficult solo piece that you played by yourself in front of for adjudicators. That was very intimidating. Yeah. The pressure is intense pressure to perform and be the best at everything. So how did you get through that? I have incredible stage fright from the beginning.

From my First piano recital at seven years old up until then senior year, Every audition, every time I went on stage, which was hundreds of times played in front of two people played in front of 20,000 people, solo by myself. every time I had nearly unconquerable stage fright. I care a lot less what people think now. So it makes it easier. I thought I had a terrible audition. Well, I got a call a couple of weeks later after all the results were in and visit hundreds and hundreds of kids in our school system auditioned well, I got to the first rehearsal. It's a weekend long thing where you rehearse and then you give a performance. I had been in youth orchestras taking private lessons and been a professional light opera company for years. Nobody knows what the results are until you show up at the first rehearsal really, my friends came up to me, the principal oboe player, my girlfriend at the time who was a cellist and a couple of the other violinists who, you know, we all have played together for a long time and my girlfriend came up to me and she said, you're first chair, this cannot be, this is impossible.

There is no way that I am number one in the state. She just knew they had placards on your seats when you get to the rehearsal in the hall there, everybody's got their name on their seat about how they did. I had been 3rd in our region the past year. So it's not that much of a surprise but to be the best at something perhaps my audition was not as bad as I had thought. I got up there and I was looking for my name on each one of these chairs as I went up through the first violin section and I didn't see it. And I got to the concert masters chair and I saw my name and I said, oh no, we've got to re audition, I don't belong here. Oh, you weren't telling yourself that, that utterly terrified because some of these people were so good. Really, really good. But I got through it the whole weekend and apparently I delivered, thank God that's over who knows, to you? Yes, that's an awesome story and that's a really nice story, particularly for someone like you, that where you went through such stage fright uh for so many years there and then for that crescendo to happen at that point in time in your life?

Sometimes that can be a real turning point for someone, just in terms of their confidence, their self esteem? Well, it was for me in the sense that I thought it was a mistake really. In the beginning, I thought it was a mistake, but it was helpful later because then I had a reputation to uphold it, catapulted me into other things. I was able to do bigger and better things with the violence that really puts you on your path if I want to fast forward a little bit to present day and just get a sense of what you're currently working on. Is there one or two things that are really, really exciting you at the moment? The past year has been spent really refining. I upgraded my studio about a year and a half ago and really refining my sound because I've been at this for a long time at the right hand of the great Ed Kelly engineered classical engineer. Ed Kelly, whose equipment list includes basically every great piece of gear ever made. So I was very spoiled working with him because I got to work with phenomenal engineer and the best equipment money could buy.

He spared no expense. And so when it came to doing my own work outside of that, after I came to Atlanta, I knew I could not pony up $300,000 for a basic setup. I worked with what I could afford and I got as good as I could with the equipment that I had, however, I knew I needed to step it up. So I just went for broke. Almost literally the past year has been spent finishing three albums of other artists here in Atlanta and those have been completed, you were ready and able and capable to take them to the next level and that's part of what you do. And I think I know one of the things that you're a real stickler about is excellence hardwired. If it's not excellent, that's why it's taken a year by the way, Are you a perfectionist? I would have described myself as a perfectionist maybe 20 years ago, but now I don't think so. I don't think so, perfection is an illusion. I think perfection like beauty is different for everyone. It means different things. And I think that's an interesting observation, great insight.

But unfortunately, unfortunately my standards are very high and if it doesn't meet those, it's not going out the door. Right. Well, that's good. I mean, I think for someone in your profession, if you want to continue to elevate higher, you've got to raise the bar on your own standards, basically, you gotta, you know, exceed beyond what you've done before. I also have to give credit. It's a wonderful mystical world. We live in with the internet and I've been able to communicate and collaborate with lots of other great engineers. There are lots of really great people that do what I do. It's a very difficult job and we all stay up all hours of the night for days and days trying to get it right and we know when we do when we do it's magical and you do it because you're into it and you've got to get it done and you're inspired and motivated to do that. So what's on the horizon for you now? What new projects? My own music? Finally, I've been making everybody else sound good for so long. I decided it was time to come out with my own Kronos soundtrack.

What challenges have you been going through to push that forward and bring it to fruition? Well this is the thing I actually I'm a little bit not embarrassed to say this, Let's just put it this way. I've probably got about 10 albums worth of material in the can. Oh I love it. The problem is by the time I finish something my head is in such a different space that when I listened to it I said I can't put this out. I am totally not there anymore. I'm not that person when I started. So this is not a good representation of where I am now. So you're going in the vault and you need to get them out there. Sometimes I'll go through some of these old hard drives and press play on some of this stuff and listen to it. I think it's somebody else. Oh I did that 15 years ago. Not bad, I'm sweeter with myself now. I'm glad you are. We can be our own worst critic and we don't really need to beat ourselves up like that. Right? It took me a long time to get it's a journey. It's a journey it is. I'd like to just get into our final wrap up round, call it the lightning round if you will.

This is the fun part. This is where we kind of step it up and I just wanna have some fun but also get you to share some tips and insights and any resources that you might have to point our listeners to. First of all, I want to go back to that one question I wanted to ask earlier, do you have a personal mantra or some sort of quote inspirational quote that carries a lot of meaning for you. There are a million paths to the mountaintop. We've all got our own path and it's all the Right one. It's all the right one. It might be best to turn to rumi. He always has been helpful to me. Hold on, let me see if I can read this when I am with you, we stay up all night when you're not here, I can't go to sleep, praise God for these two insomnia as and the difference between them. The minute I first heard my first love story, I started looking for you not knowing how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere. They're in each other all along. We are the mirror as well as the face in it. We are tasting the taste this minute of eternity. We are the pain and what cures pain. Both we are the sweet cold water and the joy that pours. I want to hold you close like a lute so we can cry out with loving. You would rather throw stones at a mirror. I am your mirror and here are the stones. Every time you hear the laughter of a child, this is what you're hearing a babbling brook, a waterfall. This is it. And now at this time of great transition and seeming chaos. The light needs to shine and it needs to shine everywhere and there is no healing without that. Alright, I have a few other questions here. Maybe more than a few what lifts you up every day breathing when you wake up in the morning, open your eyes, take your first breath, it's a new day and you're alive again.

You get to do it all again. I love that answer. How many people could have been born? We made it, we won the lottery, this is it. We're the winners. That's a very interesting perspective. Yes. And we could probably do a whole other podcasts just on that topic and maybe we will one day. What helps you feel grounded and centered diving deep into the wilderness. But I can't do that all the time. So any silence that I can produce you meditate a lot, don't you? It's all right here right now. Just being out in nature is a meditation. Being aware is a meditation. Let me ask you this one question, Are there people in your life that don't like the changes that they've seen in you. People don't survive long in my world if they're not artists or seekers, how do I handle it? I just listen, I just listen and smile awesome. Good response. I love it. Now I know you're an avid reader. So are there one or two books that you would recommend or that you would just like to just say, hey, this is a great book.

I recommend nearly everything by adding Ashanti. If I could choose one or two, they would be the way of liberation or my personal favorite. The first book I read of his, it's called The End of Your World awesome. So the way of liberation and then The End of Your world and Peter Ralston's the book of not knowing the book of not knowing. Wow, I got to get that. Thanks for sharing that. What is the best advice you've received from someone? I don't know if this was advice but I took it as advice. An old man from Shimla in northern India. He was on the National Geological Survey of India and traveled all around the Himalayas for 40 years. Running around the mountains. He said Christopher, Let me tell you something. Health is wealth. Everything else is bullshit. What you put into your body. The relationships that you cultivate, are they supporting your health where you live your environment?

Are you at peace with your environment and are you at peace with yourself? All this has to do with health. So I think that probably has been one of the most helpful things someone has offered. Well I love that because I think we all know that our health is important and sometimes we take it for granted, particularly when we have it. Yes. What tips or advice would you give to others to rise up to their best self. If I might offer something, it might be Winston Churchill's famous quote. Never, never, never, never give up. That's a good one. When the going is so bleak and you are challenged to the max. You're overtaxed. That's where you find your truth. I think that is a great quote. And thank you for sharing that. If you were to leave this earth today, what would you like to be most remembered for? That's an expansive question. That assumes that I'm actually on earth right now.

It's a struggle. I don't know if we can choose that. I think that's up to other people. I think it's enough simply to have lived and let other people sort it out. If I were to offer a response to that question, it might be. He was a great lover of women, of music, of life and he was a great friend. I like that. So, any other parting comments before we wrap this up? Be sweet with yourself. Be sweet with yourself. I like that. A lot of times were just too darn hard on ourselves. Well, thank you. This has been a great conversation and a great interview. I have so enjoyed the opportunity of bringing you on our show and I hope to bring you back at some point in the future. Once you get into some of these future projects, where can people find you sonic S o N i C hyphen Ocean o c e a N dot com. Awesome. Sonic Ocean dot com. And for our listeners, I want to thank you for listening.

You can go to our website, Hearts rise up dot com to find the show notes to today's show. Thank you everyone. Okay. Okay. Mhm. Yeah.

Ep. 2 - Sailing the Sonic Ocean - An Interview With Christopher Drummond
Ep. 2 - Sailing the Sonic Ocean - An Interview With Christopher Drummond
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