My Morning Jacket’s Patrick Hallahan: Ten Years Behind the Drum Kit with a Friendship that Endures
You’ve been in the band for a decade. Looking back I’m sure you feel like you made the right decision.
Because it was such a big decision to make at the time, I often think about what my life would be like if I had said, “No,” because it was right there – it was a 50-50 shot. But I have absolutely no complaints. I am so happy with saying “yes,” because it’s been such an amazing journey. It’s a blessing to just sit in a room with those guys and make records and share small spaces on the road and just peel apart the earth one layer at a time.
Some critics have compared you to John Bonham of Led Zeppelin what do you think of that comparison?
I would consider that a compliment and if I hear something like that I’m immediately humbled. He had a major pull on my developmental phase as a drummer.
What other drummers influenced your playing style?
Ringo Starr, believe it or not. I don’t think drummers give him enough credit. He definitely showed people how to play drums in a band and be cool. Also Joseph Lastie Jr. of Preservation Hall Jazz Band. He’s been somebody that has changed my thought process on approaching drumming.
How has he changed your thought process?
He can do more with two pieces than I’ve seen drummers do with 40 billion. And just the overall New Orleans feel — getting to know that and learning accents to rhythm is so interesting and an enriching experience. Now I’m able to hold up Tom a little bit better on an incline because I’m doing a New Orleans stomp. He’s just very inspiring.
Can you talk about the influence of your grandmother Joni Brohm?
She was in a lounge act growing up – like a jazz quartet and she would watch me quite a bit for my mom and my dad. She bought me my first toy drum kit. She had a little playroom in the basement where she would practice with her band, had a stereo and 45s. Our playtime was with music and not with toys. She enriched us with her musical background early on.
Drumming is so physical and the way you drum is so powerful, what do you so your arms can endure such a pounding every night?
I just enjoy it so much. I don’t even know I’m there half the time. It’s more of a meditative thing than me being “Oh my God, I’m playing this song so fast.” I guess I’ll be able to answer that question a little bit better when my arms start killing me. There’s 30 minutes of stretching before shows and usually 15 after. I’ve been soaking my arms with an ice bath after every show just to do some preliminary fighting against carpal tunnel and I try to get a massage every once in a while just to stay loose.
In an interview you once said, when you play the drums, you don’t see rhythm structures, you play to guitar melodies in your head, can you explain?
I was a guitarist before I was a drummer, so whenever I hear a song and really moved by something, I play air guitar. The melody is what I hear up in front, but I said that a long time ago and since then I’ve been studying rhythm patterns. Now, I’m married to both. I love accenting guitar solos, building up with them instead of laying back and playing the same drum beat. I feel it’s more exciting when everybody is following each other and that’s what I’ve come to realize more.
Why do you think the fan base continues to grows?
I wish I had an answer for that because I’m so thankful for it. I just feel that we’re kind of a grass roots band to begin with. We’ve been blessed with a slow incline so far and our fan base has kind of mimicked our career. I guess that they just see five guys that love what they do, love each other and are excited to be doing this for a living. I hope the love that we feel up on stage is felt out in the crowd.
And finally, what can fans look forward to in 2013?
We’re booking studio time right now. We’ll be cooking up a new album over the summer and fall.
Any idea of what direction you guys might go with this album?
I think we’re just going to get together and do what we do. My guess is that we’ll record it live again, change up the venue and location and go have some fun for a few months.