Q&A with multitalented musician Burleigh Drummond of Tin Drum, a celebration of musical styles ranging from pop to rock to progressive

"Music is communication, from one heart to another, and can be a consolation, a reassurance, a kick in the butt. It can be your best friend or really piss you off, but it communicates. As long as we can communicate this world has a chance!"

Burleigh Drummond:

Tin Drum (Talented) Family Band

The Tin Drum Family Band was born out of an unlikely space that Covid provided the Drummond family. Burleigh Drummond and Mary Harris, married for 40 years and longtime veterans of the music world, recording and touring with Ambrosia, Tin Drum, Jimmy Buffet, Animal Logic, The Lost Dogs, Mighty Mo Rodgers, etc., were suddenly home and reunited with their grown children Burleigh M. Drummond (Micky) and Sierra Drummond. Both son and daughter brought forth their own creativity, having become accomplished writers and musicians in their own right. So, four musicians stuck in the same house/studio, what do you do? You play in a band and record an album that the whole family contributes to, in a place that helped sustain and inspire you. One idea led to another and soon a collection of songs took place that reflected not only the loss of loved ones but the encouragement and support those loved ones showed towards this music. So out of life’s tragedies came the birth of something beautiful, the TIN DRUM FAMILY BAND and their first release “Emerson Street” (2023), the place where both son and daughter were raised and still exists today.

(Photo: Burleigh Drummond, Mary Harris, Sierra Drummond, and Burleigh M. Drummond)

Joining the family on this album are other family members David Harris and John Wood, and our favorite musicians Marc Bonilla, best known for his work with keyboard legend Keith Emerson, and Devon Geyer. The group is already starting a new collection of songs and is receiving offers for live performances this coming summer. The album features 12 tracks, written by all 4 family members, and traces the loss and love they’ve experienced both individually and as a family unit. Burleigh Drummond is an American drummer, percussionist, producer, songwriter, and singer. He is a founding member and the only drummer/percussionist for the five-time Grammy Award nominated band Ambrosia. He performs onstage in the band with his wife and fellow band member Mary Harris, and the couple are also both active members of Bill Champlin’s Wunderground and their own band Tin Drum. Drummond recorded on every Ambrosia record from 1970 to the present, and toured internationally with the band throughout its history. Drummond and his wife, Mary Harris, formed the band Tin Drum in the 1990s, and have released three albums. Harris and Drummond, who married in 1983, have performed together onstage with Ambrosia and Tin Drum. Burleigh has also performed and recorded with Alan Parsons, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Frank Zappa, Michael McDonald, Mighty Mo Rodgers, Dave Mason, etc.

Interview by Michael Limnios           Special Thanks: Billy James (Glass Onyon PR)

How has the music influenced your views of the world? How important was music in your life?

Music has provided not only the greatest inspirations in my life but also the deepest consolations, and clarity to what is possible as a human being. It has taught me empathy and to look beyond appearances to the soul of what an artist has to say. Music and my wife (an exemplary musician) have kept me alive.

How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? Where does your creative drive come from?

I grew up as an Army brat spending two years at a time in one location after another until the age of seven when my mother, father and I moved to Ankara, Turkey. For three years I played with kids my age who shared no common language and few similar customs. But we got along, played and I was part of the gang. This prepared me in a strange way to engage musically with musicians from all over the world. You communicate with your eyes and the music becomes the language that you share. My creative drive now is in a large part driven by the creativity of my wife Mary and especially my son Burleigh and my daughter Sierra who have become so prolific and profound I am scurrying to keep up!             (Photo: Burleigh Drummond & Mary Harris)

"Music has provided not only the greatest inspirations in my life but also the deepest consolations, and clarity to what is possible as a human being. It has taught me empathy and to look beyond appearances to the soul of what an artist has to say. Music and my wife (an exemplary musician) have kept me alive."

Currently you’ve one release with Tin Drum Family. How did the idea of family project come about? Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album Emerson Street?

This release was born during Covid and as I have a studio and done a healthy amount of recording over the last 30 years it was only natural that once I heard the songs my family members were creating, I had to record them. One thing lead to another and soon we had an albums worth of material. Of course, now there are more than enough songs for a second album which we have already started. Unfortunately, during Covid we lost my wife’s Mother and Father and also our niece Darcie. Several of the tunes are reflections of that loss.

What moment changed your music life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

There are so many highlights that it’s hard to select a few, the most enduring of course was meeting and marrying my wife, Mary Harris. Beyond that working with Frank Zappa, Mighty Mo Rodgers, Ambrosia, the Lost Dogs, etc. My teachers have been profound in their influence: Leonard Bernstein, Allah Rakha, Quasi Badu, Freddie Gruber and very musician I’ve ever played with.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I was extremely fortunate to perform and produce the artist Mighty Mo Rodgers for years and toured extensively throughout Europe with him. If the Blues has a future I would hope that he could be a figurehead for it. I don’t think I have ever worked with an artist as profound as Mighty Mo Rodgers. I fear that in the USA the blues has lost a home.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Create and then create more!

"My creative drive now is in a large part driven by the creativity of my wife Mary and especially my son Burleigh and my daughter Sierra who have become so prolific and profound I am scurrying to keep up!" (Photo: Tin Drum Family Band)

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be? 

I appreciate how Europe and some other parts of the world support the Arts. I think it’s tragic that to produce art, especially as an artist develops, an artist has to suffer through a lack of basic funding or comfort to create. I would wish that the Arts are recognized as something that is essential to our humanity and not thought of only as a commodity.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

I once received a letter from an Ambrosia fan stating that a song, I had written stopped him from committing suicide. Music is communication, from one heart to another, and can be a consolation, a reassurance, a kick in the butt. It can be your best friend or really piss you off, but it communicates. As long as we can communicate this world has a chance!

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