081 – Wes Little: Backing Super Stars Like Sting, Stevie Wonder and Beyonce at Obama’s Inaugural Ball, Touring and Recording with Robben Ford, Building a Session Resume
On a historic night in the Winter of 2009, drummer Wes Little proved beyond any doubt that he is the nimble, adaptable, professional musician he wanted to be even before he left his small Southern home town. The occasion: the inaugural ball for newly elected President Barack Obama. The job: to back a jaw-dropping lineup of legendary talent, including Stevie Wonder, Sting, Mary J. Blige, Faith Hill and Beyonce. Through a wild variety of styles, arrangements and temperaments, Wes Little held down the groove, satisfied the most demanding stars and made the whole event bolder, smoother and better.
Star-studded as it was, the Inaugural Ball was by no means the first validation of Little’s multi-faceted musicianship. For a decade in New York and recent years in Nashville, Little has been patiently taking his place among the elite session drummers, supporting major artists in rock, jazz, hip-hop and country.
Wes is from Wingate, North Carolina, a small college town southeast of Charlotte, where his parents were both educators. Lacking big city distractions, Wes was drawn to music. After seeing a picture of fusion great Billy Cobham seated behind one of the world’s biggest drum sets in a Tama catalogue, Wes knew that’s what he wanted to do.
Most drummers get on-the-job training only, but Little had his eyes on a jazz career, so he pursued formal studies in music, including a master’s degree in jazz drumming from the Manhattan School of Music. As a new professional in New York, there was certainly jazz around, but there was also a smorgasbord variety of styles and gigs. Little played in theater orchestras, sideman sessions and rock bands. He connected with hip-hop legend Chuck D and worked in several of his post-Public Enemy bands, including Confrontation Camp and Fine Arts Militia.
While in New York, Little met his future wife Britt Savage, who moved to Nashville ahead of him. Since 2004, Little has been based in Nashville where he’s earned respect in the Music City studio scene. That said, he’s frequently on the move for work back in New York or tours across the country and world with Robben Ford, Joe Nichols, Jo Dee Messina, Billy Dean and others. He has also expanded his work as a producer and songwriter.
In this podcast, Wes talks about:
Building studios / practice spaces
Evolution of the home studio
Studying at East Carolina University
Moving from New York to Nashville
Working with Chuck D and his band Confrontation Camp
Playing at Obama’s inauguration in 2009 with many artists including Sting, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder and Mary J. Blige
The difference between studio and live playing
Recording and touring with Robben Ford
Rhythm section master class at PASIC
Being married to a musician
This episode is sponsored by Sakae Drums
His wife’s hilarious fake Craig’s List post:
Britt (AKA Joey) i don’t need floor tom. what would you charge. Do you have a snare?
I live in Lebanon and am working until 9. please get back to me right away cuz I’m looking at another drum set on friday. do you know if I can get a loud sound with these drums. My favorite drummer is Travis barker (blink 182) and John Dalmayan (System of a down) let me know if I can use different heads right away and if any famous drummers play this kind of drum set.
Joey, These drums are loud. I’ve played them on quite a few gigs and records where they needed to cut through. I’ve also got a set of Yamaha Recording Customs, and they are definitely louder than the those.
I don’t have a snare to sell with them, and I would not like to break up the kit. The sizes work well together.
Hope this helps.
are the yamaha drums japanese? I definitely dont want a japanese floor tom because I heard they can mess with the sound. how much are they? are they black because I’m gonna paint them black with my brothers air brush ID sprayTvolume.
i do not want anything japanese or from Hawaii
Both Tama and Yamaha Drums are Japanese. If you don’t want Japanese, then you’ll need to go with an American drum maker. The 15″ tom is a mounted tom, so there are no traditional floor toms with this kit. the drums are a cherry stain, with a coat of lacquer on the outside. If you want to see what they look like, then, please check the listing again and you can get the idea. You could fairly easily refinish this kit with some sanding and the you could paint them. Let me know if you are still interested.
What kind of drums are made in America? Is Tama less Japanese than Yamaha? I am interested but I would want to play the drums first. I would like to bring my band to your house or maybe even outside in a park where I can find out is the sound is big like I need. Can we meet tomorrow? Can you bring a snare that really pops and it would be good if it was black. Do you have black drums made in the US of A?
(wes didn’t respond.. ha!) I’m sorry if I offended you but I need to here back from you today. We’ve got a big show on the 3rd and I NEED DRUMS. It will take me one day to paint them and I have to get a snare. Do you know where to buy quality rocked out snares that can pop and carry? I do not like Phil Collins. I want to drive the band and our crowd. We have some industry people coming to our show and I can’t be waisting time with painting when i need to pracitce the drums all day. It is raining today and playing the drums in a park might not be a good idea. do you have a garage. My bass player is working today . can you play bass.
Joey, I’m not offended, just confused. It sounds like these drums might not be for you. They are 100% Japanese. But, a lot of rock guys play Tama drums. I’m not sure what Phil Collins has to do with your preferences, but he plays Gretsch Drums that are made in the USA. Also, DW and Ludwig are made in the USA. My drums are not black. Painting them in the way you are describing is not advised either, as you would need to take the lugs off of them and then sand them down and refinish them. I don’t have a garage, and I don’t play bass, so testing them out with you band is something that is not an option. You might want to check out Guitar Center, Forks Drum Closet, and Nashville Used Music.
wes, my roomate just told me that Travis plays Japanese drums so I’m cool with it. Are they made good in Japan? are they smaller? I want to see these drums. I have an idea to cover them with black cloth. Can I use them for $200 for two days for our big show and a rehearsal that would be inside not at a park or ware the drums could be damaged. I still need a snare but I have emailed another person on craigslist who hasn’t returned my email. Phil Collins is from England but he plays drum from here? are there any english drum companies? How old are you? Joey
(wes didn’t respond)
what will it take to hear from you. I am losing my patients and NEED DRUMS. If you don’t write me back and tell me how I can play these drums the deal is OFF, yes OFF. I dont want to keep running in a circle looking for doors to nowhere and never finding the handle of the door. I’m sorry but I’m gonna get fired if I keep using this computer and it’s not funny. I work til 9 everyday even on weekends but I don’t want to leave the work cause it’s easy. I can also play CDs loud and dance in the break area of the office after the other people leave at 6 or 5:30. My brother thinks over $1000 is too much for drums especially if there not black and the trouble it would take for him to spray them might not be worth it plus he works at a garage on the weekends and my big show is on August 3 at 10. I am now worried becuase I heard some drums need to have a microphone on them. WHat the FUCK IS THAT? I want drums that rock. Do your drums rock?
I am SO FRIGGIN FRUSTRATED.
Dude, Is this a joke? I have never dealt with anyone quite like you in the many years that I have been a professional drummer.
I don’t think that these drums are for you, so the deal is “off” as you put it. I’m beginning to think that this is one of my friends screwing around with me. Obviously, if your favorite drummer is Travis Barker, and you don’t even know that he plays Tama drums, then I don’t know what to tell you.
I’m finished here. I’ve emailed you all the information on these drums several times. Thanks for your interest and good luck with your gigs.
It’s YOU who is making it a joke. You are joking with me by not even helping me with the drums even after I offered you $200 FRIGGIN BUCKS to rent your drums and I never ever saw them. My Dad said a lot of these ads are fake and they try to meet you and steal your money and never even had drums to sell. I’m beggining to think that’s what you doing because you are being very odd for someone who wants to sell a kit to me. Why are you being so hard to deal with? Do you think you are so much better than me? You don’t even know me and if you did you would know that I play my ass off. And as for your comment about Travis, HOW THE HELL WOULD I KNOW WHAT KIND OF DRUMS HE USES IF I JUST HEAR THE SONGS ON THE RADIO OR GET THEM ON ITUNES> ??????? Do they tell you what kind of drums on the radio? or on Itunes? NO THEY DO NOT. So don’t come of flike you know more than me. I don’t want your drums. I am so sick of deeling with people on craigslist and the people who put ads in the scene they are all losers. They don’t know what rock is and it’s all gay Avril pop crap. Why is it so hard to find drums taht rock. I will give the music biz 6 more months.if I don’t find quality people to jam and rock with I will do something else like grafic design or modern dance. At least I don’ need to buy expensive drums to dance. I already have a pair of tap shoes and a leotard. I am sorry I was angry in the last email. The hours are going and we don’t have a lead singer yet. We hope we can find a lead singer who has songs written cause we don’t have any songs yet. We had 4 songs but the lead singer quit and then died from a car accident in November. I am so tired of this shit. why is it so hard to just buy a FRIGGIN DRUM SET ON CRAIGSLIST? I don’t know if you sold your drum kit and are not big enough to tell me or if you never had a drum kit -if that is the case you are really uncool. Bye and good luck with your real or fake drum kit. Joey