Multi-GRAMMY®-nominated drummer, Eric Harland is one of the most in
demand drummers of his generation. He has already been on close to 200
recordings at the age of 36. He leads his own group, Voyager, and has
played and recorded with greats Betty Carter, Charles Lloyd, Dave
Holland, Josh Redman, McCoy Tyner, and Kurt Rosenwinkel among so many
others. He accompanied Betty Carter until her death in 1998.
Harland was born in 1978 in Houston, Texas, graduated from Houston’s
High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He attended the Manhattan School of Music on a full scholarship. After music school, he went on to study
Theology at Houston Baptist University and was ordained as a minister.
I became aware of Harland, the ’08, ’09 and ’10 Downbeat Reader’s Poll Rising
Star winner, by our son, Chase, also a drummer. My husband Steve and I are
Charles Lloyd super-fans, and saw Eric with Lloyd’s band at The Dakota in
Minneapolis last year. I was absolutely floored by Harland’s taste, his
speed, his creative input, his energy.
Eric was gracious to answer FIVE QUESTIONS:
1) My first question is about your practice habits. Do you remember when
you made that shift in your playing from really good to REALLY great?
How much/what were you practicing at the time? How do you practice on
the road? What/how do you practice to get so fast!?
EH – Well, I do remember a certain shift in my playing when I got to NYC from
Houston. I believe the exposure to a new environment really gave new
direction to my playing. Being that I was in college at Manhattan
School of Music, I got to practice every day, either by myself or with my
peers, plus the NYC music scene gave much more access to be able to go
to sessions and play there as well. But truly… getting better is a
personal journey. I try not to analyze my own. I just immerse myself
in music. Definitely when I was in my teenage years, I practiced as
much as possible… but it wasn’t defined as practice… it was basically me
just expressing myself on the drums. I love both being technical and
That being said… on a technical note, For Speed… I recommend for
drummers to practice with heavy sticks on a pillow or other non-responsive surface. The non-responsive surface will help build finger control when used as a practice surface. The stick naturally will have no bounce back, forcing the practicer to use more of their fingers and wrist to get the same bounce they would on a responsive surface. This routine naturally leads to faster speeds and more stick control.
2) You are such a spiritual player. Do you meditate regularly? How has
that informed your playing?
EH – I don’t necessarily meditate according to the definition. I just remain
aware of the divine presence that’s in us all. And yes, this does
inform and transform my playing. It’s kind of hard to explain… but
basically when you feel the divine presence, you just feel amazing.
3) You’re very open about your battle with weight, and you say you’ve
been heavier, and you’ve been lighter. How does your weight affect your playing? How does it affect your everyday life?
EH – The only time weight affected my playing was when I was so heavy that I
couldn’t do tom fills across my body. I literally had to keep right
side to right side and left side to left side. But with regards to my
everyday life… well, it was a bit more complicated getting past
insecurities and learning to truly love myself for who I am.
4) How is it to be on the road so much? Are you able to have a personal
life? Will you let the single ladies know your status? 🙂
EH – Its awesome to be on the road… seeing the world and how music is such a
universal language. Its also equally awesome to be a father and a
husband to a beautiful wife and children, who are wonderful. Managing
the 2 worlds can be an emotionally challenging at times. I definitely
miss them, but I (we) also understand that traveling is part of my
profession and helps to finance those comforts we enjoy as family. 🙂
5) You’ve achieved so much, and are at the top of your game. What are
your goals for the near future? Long term goals?
EH – I wouldn’t say that I’m even close to the top of my game. I’m always searching for new ideas. But as far as goals are concerned, I tend to just take life/music/career a day at a time. I can’t say I actually aim for goals anymore, I feel that everything I would choose is within reach and all else is up to the universe. I’m also careful to not put career before just living and having a good time.