Are you an aspiring drummer? Then take your time to read this exclusive interview with Steve Barney - proof that with dedication and talent, you don't need to be a full-time band member to be successful!
Steve Barney may not be a famous star, but this talented drummer is certainly one of the busiest and most respected professionals in his field. This Natal Drums artist keeps busy touring and recording with some of the biggest stars in the world of music. Most recently, Steve contributed to Anastacia's highly successful 2016 “Ultimate Collection Tour”, playing to packed venues worldwide.
Other notable works include playing with Annie Lennox on her solo tours of North America and Europe, US tour co-headlining with Sting, Live 8 London, 46664 concerts (for Nelson Mandela) and 2007's Nobel Peace Prize Concert. He also contributed to Lennox's "Little Bird" for the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.
“Steve is my kind of drummer. The drummer is like the foundation of a house... That’s my boy Steve. He’s right there in the pocket, always. Economy, consistency and power. He’s the man for the job!” - Annie Lennox
Steve also joined British guitar legend Jeff Beck for live shows, besides recording his 2003 album,"Jeff" - including playing on Grammy-award winning track “Plan B” (which won ‘Best Rock Instrumental Performance’ at the 46th Grammy Awards).
Other top names Steve Barney played with include Sugababes, Kelis, The Wanted, Brian May, Bernard Butler, Roger Daltrey and many, many more - check his Natal Drums bio for more details. With this impressive CV in mind, we had a little chat with Steve to learn a bit more about himself, and to find out what knowledge he could share with our readers who may wish, one day, to have a career as prolific as his.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A DRUMMER?
My dad took me to a Genesis concert when I was 9 years old - drummers Phil Collins and Chester Thompson and the immense wall of noise they made lit a touchpaper in me... that night was my catalyst for wanting to become a drummer.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE DRUMMERS?
Almost impossible to make this a "short list"! Obviously Phil & Chester - but then, Stewart Copeland (The Police), Philip Fish Fisher (Fishbone), Joseph Zigaboo Modeliste (The Meters), Steve Jordan, Ringo Starr, Steve Gadd, Hal Blaine, Phil Gould, Chad Smith, Matt Cameron, Abe Laboriel Jr. And although best known for their singing/songwriting... I love Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Karen Carpenter & Prince 's drumming - they all approach drum parts from a different place which are integral to the song.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT TO BE A FREELANCE DRUMMER, COMPARED TO BEING A FULL-TIME MEMBER OF A BAND?
I always wanted to be a "band drummer"... in fact, that's what brought me to Liverpool in the mid-90's to join reggae-rap-rockers, Bullyrag. The positives of being in a band is sharing creativity & a musical journey together... however, your days/career is also very dependent on the other band members personalities, "agreeing" on musical choices & business decisions.
When the 'Rag eventually imploded, although scary for me, "what to do next?"... it was actually a breath of fresh air. I didn't realise it at the time, but it was the best thing that could've happened to me.
A freelance career can be extremely fulfilling both musically & professionally (just without the "excess baggage" of being in a band). Ultimately, you're a hired hand to assist "the artist" perform material - of course, it's not your name on the poster outside the venue - however, for me it's a great feeling contributing to "the show" or studio recording.
YOU'VE PLAYED WITH SOME OF MUSIC'S GREATEST NAMES - WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE CAREER HIGHLIGHTS?
Thank you! I've been very fortunate and always find "something" in every gig. Touring with Annie Lennox was an incredible experience - she's such an emotive singer and creative artist. Playing Live 8 London and opening for Sting (2004 tour) were both massive highlights.
Working with guitarist, Jeff Beck was both jaw-dropping and inspiring... I contributed to his 2002 career retrospective shows and played on his album, "Jeff" (which won him a Grammy award). Working with JB was by far my biggest stretch mentally and "work out" musically.
In 2009, I was house band drummer for the "Children In Need Rocks" concert in which i played with everyone from Take That to Dame Shirley Bassey to Dizzee Rascal... again, a special night. In the pop arena, I've enjoyed tours with Sugababes, The Wanted and played on Will Young's UK number 1, "Leave Right Now" .
In recent years my mainstay gig has been with US singer, Anastacia - it's such a great play and I'm grateful for her loyalty - she's an amazing performer and powerhouse singer. Together with her and the band, we've covered a lot of musical ground (and miles!) together touring Europe, Australia and Russia.
YOU'RE A NATAL PLAYER. CAN YOU TELL US WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO USE THE BRAND?
With many drummers I already admired playing their drums, it was a very natural decision for me to join the Natal family. After recently completing a 60-date tour using the kit, I'm blown away by the power, projection and warm tones - not to mention, the rock solid hardware. It also continued my longtime business friendship with Natal's artist relation manager, George Frederick.
LIKE MANY PRO DRUMMERS NOW, YOU USE A HYBRID SETUP, MIXING ACOUSTIC WITH DIGITAL. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT THE GEAR YOU USE?
Natal customised split lacquer Bubinga kit (Black sparkle with red sparkle stripe):
- 1 x 22”x18” Bass Drum
- 1 x 10”x6.5” Tom
- 1 x 12”x7.5” Tom
- 1 x 14”x14” Floor Tom
- 1 x 16”x16” Floor Tom
- 1 x 14”x8” Main Snare
- 1 x 10”x6.5” Piccolo Snare
- 6 x Boom Cymbal Stands
- 1 x Hi-Hat Stands
- 1 x Double Tom Stand
- 2 x Snare Drum Snares
Zildjian Cymbals (L-R)
- 15" A Mastersound Hi Hats
- 11" Oriental Trash Splash
- 18" A Custom Crash
- 20" K Custom Medium Ride
- 19" A Custom Projection Crash
- 20" Oriental "Crash Of Doom"
- 20" Oriental Trash China
- Roland KD7 kick electronic trigger
- Roland RT-30K acoustic kick trigger
- Remo drum heads
- Sennheiser HD25 headphones
- Behringer Eurorack MX802A mixer
- Vater "Universal" drum sticks
- Vater stick wrap
- Protection Racket cases & drum rug
- SlapKlatz (drum dampening)
- 2 x Premier 6000 series kick drum pedals (1 for acoustic kick & 1 for Roland KD7)
- Porter & Davies BC2
WHY DO YOU THINK THIS TYPE OF HYBRID SETUP IS BECOMING SO POPULAR?
In today's musical climate, it's essential for drummers (especially freelance/session players) to have a palate of sounds and options at their disposal. The combination of acoustic and digital definitely gives me those options, especially when using Roland's SPDsx & their acoustic drum triggers.
Again with acoustic drums, it's important to have "options", especially snare drums - it's amazing how one drum can influence the sound/feel of the entire kit. Same with cymbals, a good combination of sounds really helps to punctuate and colour the music you're playing. I've been playing Zildjian cymbals all my professional career and they have such an array of options to cover all musical situations.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG DRUMMERS LOOKING TO HAVE A PRODUCTIVE CAREER IN MUSIC?
LISTEN! LISTEN! LISTEN! When playing in a band situation, listen to what everyone around you is playing & play appropriately - to me, there's nothing worse (& more arrogant) than a drummer playing for him/herself with no connection to what's going on around them.
I mean, I love drums... I REALLY love drums! But the older in years I become, I've realised the sooner an individual realises it's not just about them, it'll lead you to grow into a more rounded player and musician.
As far as getting work - again, while it's important to have your drumming chops together, it's essential you have your "people skills" together, too. OK, you might be the best drummer in town, but if you're a nightmare to be around & hard to travel with - well, fellow musicians/managers will remember that first, before your amazing drumming. Be cool and thoughtful of others... and nail the job!
Listen! Steve Barney Playlist
To cap it all, why not listen to a "best of" of the studio recordings Steve has contributed to? Here it is... enjoy!