Music's Elite Seat: With Dan Lewis

Music's Elite Seat // Episode 2 // Sean McDaniel

December 07, 2020 Dan Lewis Episode 2
Music's Elite Seat // Episode 2 // Sean McDaniel
Music's Elite Seat: With Dan Lewis
More Info
Music's Elite Seat: With Dan Lewis
Music's Elite Seat // Episode 2 // Sean McDaniel
Dec 07, 2020 Episode 2
Dan Lewis

Sean McDaniel is currently the drummer for the new Disney show Frozen. Sean’s accolades include playing for Grammy and Tony award winning The Book of Mormon on Broadway and for American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken. On Broadway he also originated the Grammy and Tony award winning Spamalot, 9 to 5, La Cage Aux Folles, and Violet. Other shows Sean has developed include Hamilton, Newsies, and Frozen. He appears on the Frozen soundtrack plus albums by Audra McDonald, Stephanie Block, and Clay Aiken. He has been seen on The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tony awards, Celebrity Apprentice, CBS This Morning, Live At The White House, The View, and The Billboard Music Awards. He has performed with Dolly Parton, Sting, Jennifer Hudson, Idina Menzel, Jake Gyllenhall and many others. Sean plays DW Drums, Sabian Cymbals, and Vic Firth Sticks. He currently lives in New York City where he is a busy freelance and session player. I caught up with Sean after a very busy week in New York.

[Episode Recorded In 2018] 

Show Notes Transcript

Sean McDaniel is currently the drummer for the new Disney show Frozen. Sean’s accolades include playing for Grammy and Tony award winning The Book of Mormon on Broadway and for American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken. On Broadway he also originated the Grammy and Tony award winning Spamalot, 9 to 5, La Cage Aux Folles, and Violet. Other shows Sean has developed include Hamilton, Newsies, and Frozen. He appears on the Frozen soundtrack plus albums by Audra McDonald, Stephanie Block, and Clay Aiken. He has been seen on The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tony awards, Celebrity Apprentice, CBS This Morning, Live At The White House, The View, and The Billboard Music Awards. He has performed with Dolly Parton, Sting, Jennifer Hudson, Idina Menzel, Jake Gyllenhall and many others. Sean plays DW Drums, Sabian Cymbals, and Vic Firth Sticks. He currently lives in New York City where he is a busy freelance and session player. I caught up with Sean after a very busy week in New York.

[Episode Recorded In 2018] 

Sean McDaniel is currently the drummer for the new Disney show Frozen. Sean’s accolades include playing for Grammy and Tony award winning The Book of Mormon on Broadway and for American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken. On Broadway he also originated the Grammy and Tony award winning Spamalot, 9 to 5, La Cage Aux Folles, and Violet. Other shows Sean has developed include Hamilton, Newsies, and Frozen. He appears on the Frozen soundtrack plus albums by Audra McDonald, Stephanie Block, and Clay Aiken. He has been seen on The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tony awards, Celebrity Apprentice, CBS This Morning, Live At The White House, The View, and The Billboard Music Awards. He has performed with Dolly Parton, Sting, Jennifer Hudson, Idina Menzel, Jake Gyllenhall and many others. Sean plays DW Drums, Sabian Cymbals, and Vic Firth Sticks. He currently lives in New York City where he is a busy freelance and session player. I caught up with Sean after a very busy week in New York.

So you’re currently playing drums for Frozen?


And, how is that all going?

It’s going great! It’s so much fun to be a part of a big Disney production and to have a really big orchestra, which I haven’t had in a while. There’s twenty-two people in the orchestra! So it’s a lot of fun to play with them every night.

So, is that one big pit?

Yeah…but the rhythm section is all separate actually, so we’re all in different rooms by ourselves. Because, the pit isn’t big enough to have everyone, so they just decided to put the acoustic instruments in there and put everybody else in isolation rooms. So it’s kind of designed like a recording studio. The pit is divided in to three sections for woodwinds, brass and strings, and each have their own little room, and then outside of the pit there’s a drum room, percussion room, bass and guitar rooms.

How is that?

Umm…it took me a little while to get used to not seeing people while we were playing, but now I’m used to it and I really like how comfortable it is in there. The sound is really good, they really designed it well.

And the show you were with before this was The Book of Mormon?

Yeah! On The Book of Mormon I was right in the pit, and I could see everybody while we were playing, so I kind of miss that a little bit, but I don’t miss the bleeding sound that would go through the plexiglass.

Because I bet, like you said, with the isolation rooms you probably have a perfect balance of sound?

Yeah, it’s really well designed.

And are you enjoying the show?

Yeah, it’s really, really fun. There’s a variety of different grooves, and I get to play the songs from the movie, plus the new songs that I got to help create the grooves for, and we have a really great band and rhythm section and it’s so much fun to play with them every night.

That leads me nicely on to my next question with regards to the developmental process of it…I read you helped develop the music for this show and numerous others including Hamilton, Newsies and Spamalot, can you talk me through that process, what does it involve?

Yeah. So, usually musicals start with a reading, it’s called, and a reading is like maybe a week long and they’ll have a couple of actors and maybe a piano and drums and they’ll get together and just read through the script and play through the songs and they’ll usually just give the drummer the piano music or sometimes even lead sheets, and so we get to be creative and we get to come up with our parts which is my favorite thing to do, and I’ve gotten to do it for a few shows now which has been really exciting. And so, we kind of just go back and forth with the composer and musical director and the arrangers and we play it and then usually at the end of the week we do a presentation for maybe some producers or some friends and family. And then after that first reading, maybe there will be a workshop which could be anywhere from two weeks up until six weeks. So, for Mormon we did about five workshops, Frozen did three, and so you’re just kind of developing the show throughout those, because they want to make sure they get it right before they put it on a stage and spend all that money. It’s a lot cheaper to do them in these rehearsal studios with just a smaller group of people…

Yeah! And so how, as a drummer and musician…do you just intuitively come up with what you think is right for that part? 
Yeah. I mean, I’m used to doing it now. So, I can see a piano part, and I usually know if the left hand is playing this rhythm, I’m going to probably play that with my bass drum, and I can tell if it’s like a floating kind of thing, or if there’s a groove happening, and sometimes there’ll be a demo. So like, with Hamilton, Lin does really detailed demos and Alex Lacamoire, so with those, we would copy a lot and maybe expand them a little bit, and Frozen sometimes there were some demos that had drums on, or sometimes just piano demos and so I got to make up stuff, which is exciting.

That’s incredible..

Yeah…every show is different. With Mormon and Frozen, I got to have a lot of input, which was very exciting…

I sat in on Mormon a few months back, and it’s crazy to think that you helped create that incredible musical score…

Oh yeah! It’s crazy. And I guess…starting with my first one, which was Spamalot, so any time Spamalot is done around the world, people are playing the parts I came up with in the room, which is so crazy.

Yeah…especially in that line of work where you’re playing music that has been created by someone else, especially over here when we have the transfers from Broadway, but is that nice feeling to know that you’ve created a lot of the hit musicals out there today?

Yeah. It’s a really nice feeling. I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to do it, it’s people like Stephen Oremus and Alex Lacamoire that have given me these opportunities, and Todd Ellison with my very first show, and Michael Kehler with Spamalot, you know, just to trust me to develop these things and just bring my knowledge of other kinds of music to it, and try to just make it have a variety of different grooves and feels and authentically sound right for that style of music that they’re trying to accomplish.

That’s incredible, I never knew that…

Yeah…sometimes you’ll get a show where the orchestrator will write the drum parts for you and you just read them down, but a lot of the way that musicals are written now is, the drummer gets a lot of input going in.

And what’s it like getting to work closely with the genius that is Alex Lacamoire and Lin-Manuel Miranda?

Oh they were amazing. Just…they’re so smart with the art form and just the styles were so fun, and they really get inside the styles and make them authentic, so you know, we did a lot of listening and we did a concert at Lincoln Centre one time where it was all the songs that inspired Lin to write Hamilton…they were like covers…so we did those songs, then we played like, a thirty minute version of Hamilton, and it was so cool to see all these Hip-Hop songs he grew up evolve in to how he writes now.

And just from an artistic process, do you find that you learn a lot from these people?

Oh yeah. Everyone I work with I get to learn so much from and with those guys it was about like…Alex is so precise and getting it so precise every night, nailing the grooves and the feels and all the notes and everything, and he’s so consistent, he never misses a note and everything is always perfectly in time so it’s such a high level of musicianship, so it really is challenging to play with it every night and so rewarding.

And so, taking it back, what major steps did you take to get where you’re at right now right now? I know you went to university and things like that…

Yeah, I went to a big drum school, the University of North Texas, so in my freshman year there were one-hundred and fifty drummers there, and you had to play in all different kinds of situations and I always knew I wanted to move to New York and I knew how competitive it would be, so it was good to be in a school where you were always being challenged in an orchestra or a big band or a musical or an opera, just all different styles. At the same time while I was studying percussion I was also an intern at the theatre where all the national tours came through in Dallas, so every summer I got to meet like six different shows worth of drummers, conductors, stage managers, actors…and you know, they were all shows from Broadway, so you were getting to meet these New York people, it was so exciting for me, and they were all so nice. When I moved to town I kept in touch with a lot of them and some of those people were the ones who gave me my first jobs on Broadway.

So you moved to New York once you finished your studies…

Yeah after the last day of school I moved the next day. I didn’t even go to my graduation ceremony, I just kind of left [Laughs].

And then how did you go about getting your first job?

Well…I was in grad school at NYU for composition, and I was starting to play some random drum gigs around town and someone who I’d met in Dallas on one of the tours knew someone who was looking for a substitute at a dinner theatre in Westchester which is north of New York City, you have to take the train there, or take the subway to the last stop and get a ride with somebody. So, I started subbing there and, you know, I thought I’d hit the big time, it was like sixty dollars a show and I was playing with Broadway actors, it was so exciting, and I started doing that, and then the same guy connected me with an Off Broadway show that was happening, so I got to play Off Broadway, and at the same time I was still in touch with some of those drummers from the tours, and one of those drummers was Gary Seligson who originated Aida and Wicked and he was the drummer for the Les Mis and Miss Saigon tour.

So, when they were in Dallas I got to hang out with them and I actually served him a meal in the buffet line [Laughs] and we kept in touch, and when he saw I was subbing at some places around town and was doing some Off Broadway stuff, he needed an extra sub at Aida, which was the show he was on at the time, which was an Elton John musical, and I went in and watched, and it was a really challenging show, there were a lot of electronics and a lot of hard hitting rock, and all kinds of dance stuff, and I was like wow, can I really do this? So I just set up in my studio the exact set up he had and I memorized the whole show and just really tried to be prepared. I spent like a whole month on it, and I went in and I subbed on the show and I was able to come back and do it again and just subbing on that show lead to subbing on a bunch of other shows. So, I subbed on a total of thirteen shows over three years, but the most at one time was eleven shows.
Then, I went onto my first full time show, which was Spamalot, because they needed a drummer at the time and they wanted someone who had a background in a bunch of different style of shows, because that show had a lot of different styles that were kind of parodies of other Broadway shows and things like that. And so, I interviewed with the conductor Todd Ellison and the choreographer Kasey Nikolai and the next day I was in rehearsal. And that was all from a recommendation from Michael Kehler who’s a contractor…I think in London you call them Fixers…and he I was subbing on a lot of his shows, so he seen my name and put my name in for that show, and that’s how I got my first one, and luckily, since then I’ve been doing my own shows, which I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to do that…

That’s absolutely incredible. And that’s all from, kind of, putting your neck out there and getting to know the drummers who came to your theatre in Dallas, and seizing the opportunities that were presented throughout that internship I guess, right?

Yeah. And this was before the internet, so it wasn’t through Facebook, I’d have to write letters and make phone calls when I was in New York and I think it was harder to stay in touch back then, and you know, I had my parents who were always pushing me to call someone and stay in touch with them, so they were really supportive in helping me doing that. And also, I had practiced a lot and got a lot of good experience in college, so that when the opportunities came up in New York, I was able to succeed, and it’s such a small community here that if you sub on a show or play a gig somewhere and don’t do well, the word will travel fast, so you really have to be prepared when the opportunities come up. That’s why I always tell people ‘Don’t move to New York until you’re ready.’

And so what kind of things would you do to stay in touch with people? I know personally it’s a lot easier said than done, and there’s quite a thin line between being keen and bothering people perhaps…

Yeah, I didn’t want to bother anyone, and I was pretty shy. So, I would run into them sometimes, or I would go and see peoples shows with their bands and just try to be supportive and sometimes people would let me go and sit in the pit with them and watch them, which I do now for people…a lot of times I’ll let someone come and watch me play the show…that’s a great way to how it really works, and get to know people, and I was just trying not to bother people, but I was trying to do enough gigs on my own where they would see hey he’s working, and maybe I can give him a chance. So, I was playing in some bands, and there was a rock gig I was doing, I was doing the Off Broadway subbing and the Westchester subbing, and any kind of gig that would come up I would do. I always tell people now…Do any gig, don’t ever say no to a gig…because everything can lead to something, and a lot of my Broadway gigs came from those other gigs, and a lot of gigs I’ve done in other styles of music have come from knowing people in Broadway pits that do other kind of music.

I think that’s some great advice, to not limit yourself to one kind of work…do you find that yourself as a musician gets pigeonholed into getting offered one kind of work because you primarily do theatre shows now?

I mean sometimes that happens, but I guess I don’t hear it to my face, but I’m sure that people might say those things behind my back, like ‘He does a lot of Broadway’, but hopefully when I do a gig that’s not Broadway I show people that I can play authentically…I was able to get a pop gig a few years ago with an American Idol singer called Clay Aiken and I got to do a few tours with him and it was like real pop and I was trying to play it authentically, so when I play a pop song in a Broadway show I try to play it authentically like it would be in a pop gig. So, I just try to stay authentic in the Broadway styles, so that it never sounds like a watered down version of something. But, I do try to do as many gigs as I can and it’s hard to not just do Broadway, but I think it’s important to do as many things as you can, and one of the best things about playing on Broadway is that we have a contract that lets us take off a lot of time to do a lot of other gigs, so we can stay fresh and do a lot of other styles and have variety in our careers…

And I think that’s a great personal attitude to have too, because I’m sure you know guys out there on shows that will get on to one show and have been there ever since. Then there’s also guys like you that are willing to jump around shows and do as many gigs as you can…I think it’s great

Yeah! You don’t want to get bored or complacent at a show.

So playing the same show night in night out, I know you move shows a lot, but I’m assuming you do have long stints on some shows, how do you keep up the motivation and energy to keep playing at your best, you know, on like a Tuesday night in the middle of the run?

Well…there’s several things. One of the things is that there’s always different actors on, you know, there’s understudies, so sometimes there’ll be a different person and you’ll hear something a totally different way or someone will sing something slightly different, so that’ll be exciting, or there could be a different conductor one night, or one of the different people in the band especially the rhythm section, it could be a different bass player or a different guitar player or even a horn player, it changes the band, so every night there’s really a different band so it keeps it really fresh. One of the other things I really try to remember…it’s hard sometimes when you’re tired and you’ve had a long day…is that there’s a kid in the audience somewhere who’s maybe wanting to do this someday and it’s like the biggest night of their life to get to be in a theatre, so I want to make sure I’m playing for that person every night.

And I guess it’s a fairly extraordinary job too right? I’m know there’s a lot worse jobs out there [Laughs]

It’s amazing yeah [Laughs]. We’re really lucky to get to do it. I also have a big screen of the stage and like, if we’re doing Let it Go I’ll watch Caissie sing Let it Go and watch the scenery change and just thinking that I’m in this huge production, even though I’m in the basement I’m still part of it and it’s a really crazy feeling.

Yeah, well I mean certainly from outside of the pit from the audience the music…if you took the music away then the show becomes nothing really.


But yeah, speaking from experience I’ve been auditioning for a few cruise liners recently, and after botching a big cruise companies audition and falling short at the sight reading stage, I was wondering how important it is in your line of work?

Well…it’s really important, but people think you have to be able to sight read to do a Broadway show, but if you’re subbing, you can take the music home and memorize the whole thing and never have to read a note, but…if you want to originate a show, you really have to know how to read piano charts and lead sheets and know chord progressions and stuff like that so you can follow along, and then also be able to read drum music because a lot of the times you’ll be reading from piano charts and making up stuff, but then sometimes you’ll just be in rehearsals for a show and they’ll be writing you songs at the last second and all of a sudden there’ll be a drum part in front of you and you have to sight read it with a click and with a band, with the dancers, following the conductor, so there’s a lot of different things, so the better you can read the more comfortable you’ll be in those situations.

…yeah! And do you have any tips to becoming a better reader or is it just through practice?

I mean…I had great teachers in college, especially Ed Soph and we did a lot of big band reading, so we would play charts where not everything was written out, but you’d see accents and you had to know how to play around the accents and then you’d play in the big band and do that kind of stuff, then we would do things in lessons where we would have to transcribe famous drummers and write down their solo’s and their grooves so I don’t remember ever sitting there and working on it, I just remember always having to do it, starting in middle school band and so all those music classes in school really paid off, because it just became a part of me and I never was thinking about practicing reading it was just something I always had to do.

It sounds like a really good drumming education…

Yeah! I got really lucky, I was in the right place at the right time [Laughs]. But the other thing with reading is that you have to be able to read so that it doesn’t sound like you’re reading, because nobody wants it to sound like you’re reading off a page, so you need to be able to know when to inject feel into it and when to ignore what’s on the page, unless someone’s specifically saying ‘Play every single note I write’. You don’t want it to sound stiff, that’s another thing you don’t want to be doing while you’re sight reading.

And you want it to sound like you too, right?

Yeah definitely.

And so would you say…you’ve mentioned you’ve pretty much been continually in work since you got your first job…what would you say is your secret to that?

Umm…I don’t know…I guess I always try to be positive on the gig and be fun to hang around with, and always try to do a good job. When I was first starting out I just tried to let my playing speak for itself and not try to be cocky or anything…I don’t know…people kept calling me for things and when I was subbing I would always just try to copy exactly what the regular drummer did and try to really fit in the band, and capture their feel and their volume and their fills and everything, so that…the best compliment you can get as a sub is when someone says, ‘Oh I didn’t even know the drummer was out today’, and so that would happen on different shows and then one drummer would tell another drummer and then they would just keep asking me to sub, so I just kept doing all that subbing and it just kept piling up.

Yeah. And when you’re looking for a sub, what do you look for?

My subs are great. They’re so consistent and they’re so prepared, so as great as the drum charts are on some of these shows, you can’t write down everything, so a drummer is always going to have to transcribe a fair amount depending on the show, and my guys are always willing to write down everything I do and watch a bunch of times and record it, come in and they always have good questions and they always do a great job and they’re always dependable, I’ve never had someone not show up for a show or mess up a date, so they’re really, really great and I can count on them, and you know, we all have about five subs, and we give them work, but they’re also helping us out so we can have a night off or do another gig, so it’s a great relationship that I have with these people.

And when you’re spending time with these people…I’ve heard many quotes from musicians that say they spend more time with these people than they do their own family…what qualities in the other musicians you work with do you admire and look for?

Umm…I like the ones that always have a positive attitude and are always listening. I don’t like it when people stop listening at a show, because, just because it’s been running for a while you still want it to be spontaneous, so, the best musicians in a long running show are the ones still listening, and if I do one slightly different fill, two seconds later my phone lights up because the bass player heard it and is like ‘Oh that was cool!’ and you know, so those are the best kind of things…me and the bass player on Frozen, Michael Olatuja will go back and forth and the percussionist Dave Mancuso and the guitar player Mike Aarons…because we’re not in the same room, so if one of us plays something cool we’ll have to send a text during the next break [Laughs], and so that’s my favorite thing when someone notices if I do something slightly different and someone notices, that’s great, and then on top of all that playing stuff, when it’s intermission and when it’s time to hang out with everybody, you want to hang out with all the fun people that make you want to come to work and hang out, that’s one of the best parts about having these bands.

Yeah, in the last interview Jake Sommers mentioned that its mostly seventy percent hanging out and thirty percent playing! So I know that having people in the bands who are easy going and good people to be around, is extremely important…

Right! Yeah, no one has the patience anymore to hire someone who’s not going to be a positive vibe to hang out with. It was maybe different a while ago, but now I feel like music schools are sending so many people to these big cities around the world that there’s a ton of people willing to do the gig and have the talent, so people aren’t going to tolerate having a mean person on the gig anymore.

Or like you said, someone who’s not a good vibe or someone who brings the mood down…

Yeah…and a lot of times when there’s an audition for a gig now, they do a playing audition but then they’ll do either a skype call or a coffee meeting, because the vibe is so important…

And I think that’s a comforting thought for a lot of musicians out there who maybe get too caught up in this YouTube era of watching these guys who can shred for days, but they may not be the best person to be around, and they spend hours trying to emulate that style when maybe what is them is enough, and they are a good person…

Yeah, everybody wants to have nice guys in the band.

Absolutely. Although Frozen is relatively new, and you’ve already worked on some incredible other projects, are there more on the horizon? Or are there specific people you’d like to work with?

Yeah, I mean I’m always wanting to do more jazz gigs and more pop and rock gigs and I also write music, so I’m always hoping for time where I can work on my own stuff, and it’s hard to find the time. I also have a little son, so he takes up a lot of my time, but I’m just happy now to be making a living playing music, and just grateful that people keep asking me to do it, so if I can just keep riding this until retirement that would be amazing [Laughs]. But in terms of new things, since Frozen has been open I think I’ve done three readings and workshops of new musicals that are happening, so that’s been fun to start up again and start being creative, and you never know, it may be something you’ll be able to do when it goes to Broadway, or if it’s something I’m just goanna help develop and I’m happy to do either one because I’m happy to do the long run, and then go away for a little time to do new things and getting to put my creative stamp on new things is really exciting, and then keep my night gig which is Frozen. When I was at Mormon, through the seven years there, I probably did twenty or thirty workshops…I left to do Hamilton at the Public Theatre, and I left to do Violet on Broadway because it was a limited run I was allowed to do that, so you know, it’s nice to have the flexibility to do new things while you’re at a show.

Yeah! And with these workshops and early looks at these potential Broadway shows, do you have an instinct about how far that show will go? And the success of it?

Yeah…I mean, I remember with Hamilton I remember thinking that; This is the best thing I’ve ever played. I didn’t know it was going to turn into the huge phenomenon that it is now, but I knew that; This is something really special. And I knew it meant a lot to be in that room whilst it was being created.

Yeah I bet. I read it took him like seven to eight years to write it?

Yeah he worked on it for a long time.

That’s crazy.

But with things like Spamalot, and you’re working on a comedy and you do the jokes over and over again in the rehearsal room and you stop getting laughs and you’re just thinking; Wait, is this funny still? We didn’t know, and then when we had our first audience in Chicago and it was like one of the craziest responses I’ve ever heard, people were like going crazy for that show and screaming with laughter, and I was just like ‘Oh wow, I guess this really is going to be something!’

Yeah, I bet it was similar with Mormon right?

Yeah, Mormon was another one where I was like ‘This is amazing, and it’s one of the best things ever…’. I was worried some people would be offended by some of the language or some of the humor, but you know, that never happened and everyone loved it because it’s such a great show.

I also think because it offends everybody I don’t think anyone can be offended…

Yeah that’s right [Laughs]

I’ve seen it twice, once from the pit and once in the audience and it’s just incredible…

Yeah…I miss that one, it’s a really special one.

Is that still on Broadway?

Oh yeah! It’s still doing…it’s never not been full, it’s over seven years now and it’s sold out every night.

It’s crazy how it’s the exact same here. It’s still impossible to get tickets now…

Yeah, it was hard to leave that, but you know, it’s the same music team on Frozen…Bobby Lopez and Steven Oremus and Michael Kelher and Mike Aarons…I kind of took a gamble by leaving, but I knew because it was Disney and because it was such a huge movie, that it wasn’t going to be a huge disaster, you know, there’s no guarantees but it seems to be doing pretty well, and we were having great audiences over the summer and it’s sold out every night, so I think I made the right move, and if it didn’t last as long as Mormon, I could try and get on another show, or I could sub on shows, so I’m not too worried about it, but it’s been really nice to have the change of pace after seven years at Mormon.

It certainly looks like Frozen is setting itself up to become the next long lasting Disney musical
Hopefully that’s going to happen. I know they’re working on a tour and hopefully they’ll be in London at one point. We actually came over for a week when we were working on the show because our director is from there. We came over and did a week long dance workshops, so I was playing there with some of our music people, and Andy McGlasson came in, do you know Andy?


He’s a West End drummer, and he came in and took over for me when I came back, there were some great musicians over there.

Who does he play for?

I think he plays for School of Rock

Oh great, I work just around the corner from there.

Yeah! Andy’s the nicest guy in the world. He took me out when I came to London, he was so great.

Did you enjoy it here?

Yeah it was great. I’d only been there to vacation so it was my first time coming there to work, and so I had a hotel and I could walk to the studio every day. It was really fun. And I also got to see Dave Weckl at Ronnie Scotts.

Did you?

Yeah! And I got to go and see Aladdin which is right next to Ronnie Scotts.

Did you get to meet Dave Weckl?

Yeah, I talked to him. We had a lot of friends in common. It’s funny, because in America, after a gig like that, you wouldn’t be able to get close to the drummer at all, but for some reason there I was just able to walk right up and talk to him and he was so nice and down to earth. It was with the Buddy Rich Big Band so it was an exciting gig.

Is that the first time you’ve been to Ronnie Scotts?

Yeah! It’s beautiful. I have albums that were recorded there so it was fun to hear it live, it has its own sound. It was a cool place.

And what kind of advice do you have for musicians wanting to achieve what you have?

I think you just got to…like I said earlier…make sure you’ve done all your homework and studying, I think you have to know the artform, just like any other style of music. If you want to play in symphonies you have to know all the repertoire. If you want to play in jazz, you have to know all the tunes, and I feel like a lot of people want to play Broadway but don’t know the sound of Broadway…not necessarily the style of music but I mean like, the history of it and all the shows that have come before, I think it’s important to know all that. And a lot of the younger people don’t have that, sometimes they just want to come in and just get a gig right away. So I think it’s important to do a lot of homework, but you also have to be versatile and play a lot of other styles, so a lot of people on Broadway don’t want to hire someone who’s right out of school, they want to hire someone who’s played gigs in all different styles of music so they can bring that to Broadway and keep it authentic.

​So I always tell people to do as many different gigs as you can in as many different styles as you can and maybe don’t try to get to Broadway right away, try to make a living as a musician and you’re going to end up on Broadway someday because all of the musicians that work on Broadway do other things, and everything will lead to Broadway at some point, because you’ll meet someone who’s doing a show, and they’ll say ‘Hey, you should come meet this person’, and networking starts like that, it’s more organic than trying to call all the Broadway musicians and say ‘Hey, can I come and sub for you?’.

Yeah, and I think it’s the age old thing of; if you’re in the job, it’s a lot easier to get another one as opposed to if you’re out of a job it’s hard to get one.

Of course! And I know hard it is to move to a new city and start from scratch, it’s really tough and so a lot of people get day jobs. One of my subs, who’s become a successful sub on a lot of shows, he was working at a restaurant that I used to go to and I had so much respect for him, that even though he was playing Broadway shows he still kept that restaurant job and he didn’t take anything for granted and I really appreciated that he was working really hard. And so sometimes you have to have another job if you want to make a living when you’re living in these places.

Another piece of advice I’ve heard through this series is that you have to move to the area where what you want is happening…

Yeah definitely. If you want to do theatre I think you have to be in London or New York. And if you want to play on movie scores LA is the place, and Nashville for country, and for recording probably LA or Nashville, but that’s happening in more places now too and there’s a lot more home studios, but you have to be established in the city to get called for things.

And so how is the rest of your week looking?

This week is pretty busy, I’m playing with an actress called Jane Lynch, she’s from Glee and a lot of movies and she has a kind of jazz cabaret act, so I’m doing that in the evenings, doing a concert with a friend, rehearsing today and then performing Sunday, and I’m trying to play Frozen on the matinee’s. Last week was even crazier because I had a gig with my rock band that I play with, I had five shows with Jane Lynch, Frozen matinee’s and I was developing a new musical during the day, plus it was my sons first week of school, so it was a lot of things to juggle around [Laughs]. I had my mom come up and my mom helped with a lot of the childcare duties.

You’re like, one of the busiest musicians I’ve ever spoken to [Laughs]

Oh [Laughs]. It won’t be like that the whole fall, just sometimes there’s times like that, so I want to try to appreciate those times when they come up, sometimes when I have three gigs in a day it can be a little stressful, but after the week is over I really feel like I’ve accomplished something and it’s nice to get to do a variety of things.

And so have you got any more pop gigs coming up?

Yeah, I have a gig with Clay Aiken on October 6th, which is in North Carolina and I’m playing with an actor from Dear Evan Hansen in a few weeks and I have a few other random things and I’ll try and squeeze in as many Frozen’s as I can and this new band I’m playing with is trying to book some more gigs.

And how is Ben?

He’s doing great! He’s in Denver now for the Dear Evan Hansen tour.

Oh great, is he setting it up or is he playing the tour?

Yeah, he’s the associate music supervisor, so he has to go and train the actors and train the band and make sure it sounds good and then he’s there for three weeks and then I’m goanna go down there for the opening night, and then we’re going to take the red eye flight to North Carolina because we’re both playing for Clay on October 6th [Laughs].

What’s all that goanna be like?

It’s goanna be interesting, because I’m going to leave early here, get there with the time change, watch the show, go to the party for a little bit, hop on the plane, get off, maybe sleep for a few hours, then have a rehearsal, soundcheck, do the gig and then fly home the next day, and then hopefully we have the next day off.

And what’s it like playing with your husband for Clay?

That’s one of the best things ever. If we could do every gig together we would, but it’s probably safer not to be on the same show at the same time in case it closes and you know, at the moment we still have another show’s income. But that would be a dream if we were on the same show one day.

I definitely think that could be on the cards [Laughs]

Yeah [Laughs]. I played the workshop of Dear Evan Hansen with Ben, and then Ben played the Mormon workshop with me, and we actually appeared on the same cast album for the Dolly Parton musical ‘9 to 5’, he’s playing piano on that album and I’m playing drums.

That’s amazing! 9 to 5 is actually coming here soon.

I heard! It’s the first ever West End production, that’s exciting. That’s actually one of my drum books that I originated. It’s a really fun one. They’re hiring a different orchestrator and arranger so I hope they keep some of the stuff we did here.

Well thank you so much for your time and it was great to find out all about your career and all the stuff you have going on

Yeah! Thanks so much for asking me!

A huge thanks to Sean again for a great look into to his life and career.

Thanks for reading!

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