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Interview with George Barnett - YDOTY Winner 2008

George Barnett at the Bath Rhythm Course

A year after winning ‘Young Drummer of the Year’ in 2008 Richard Rayner has now been crowned ‘Young Drummer of the Year’ 2009 but how did life treat George Barnett, winner of 2008? His one year reign has brought him opportunity and promise that can only add to his learning curve. I took time out throw him a few questions.

What was winning ‘Young Drummer of the Year’ 2008 for you?

Winning ‘Young Drummer Of The Year’ opened so many opportunities for me, and winning was a fantastic feeling! I had entered twice before and reached the finals, so to win in 2008 was brilliant. I don''t think of YDOTY as just a competition, it''s a platform for the beginning of a career, and a helping hand into the music business. The competition gives you that chance and it''s up to you to take it. I''ve done as much as I can to get my name out there this year, and I''m so thankful to Mike Dolbear and Gerry McDonnell for setting up YDOTY, and for their continuing support throughout this year.

What have you achieved during your one year reign?

As for clinics through the year, I opened Drummer Live and The International Music Show at London''s ExCel in June which was a blast! I performed at the HES FES 2008 festival in July, gave a clinic at the IDF Bath Rhythm Course in August, toured with Jojo Mayer at the beginning of September and performed at both days of the National Drum Fair in Birmingham on 27th & 28th September. In between I''ve been gigging with various local bands, doing theatre work, recording, setting up my own percussion group and generally getting my name spread about as far as possible. I''m hungry for more work!

The Rhythm Course was my first ever clinic, so I was slightly nervous beforehand, but everyone there was great and really supportive and I'd like to thank James Hester for inviting me, Tim Brown for his never ending support, Craig Blundell for his inspiration at the course and Rhythm's own Colin Woolway for the jokes! I did write a full Rhythm Course report that can be found on the mikedolbear site.

Mike D, Geoff Dunn, Jojo Mayer, George

The Jojo Mayer tour last year really opened my eyes to the clinic world, and I learned so much from Jojo and Geoff Dunn, who along with me was supporting Jojo, in his ‘Secret Weapons For The Modern Drummer’ tour of the UK. I own Jojo''s groundbreaking DVD, so meeting him and playing before him was a real honour. I learnt a lot from his session stories and he gave me some very useful tips on my technique and grip, not to mention showing his incredible right foot - as a single bass player myself, this was such a learning curve! Jojo is a big inspiration and a great guy, and on that note I''d like to thank everyone involved in the tour, it was a brilliant experience.

Now that that Richard Rayner is the 2009 winner, what''s next for George Barnett?

Well I''m determined not to "fade away" after I pass my Young Drummer torch over, I''ll continue striving for more work and exposure, and earn my right to be in there with my own name, not leaning on the Young Drummer title. It has been a great support and platform and a monumental help, but for me it''s time to move on (but big congrats to Richard!) Making reappearance at this year’s Young Drummer and to be given a dedicated spot was awesome and to be supervising and helping out at some exclusive Young Drummer auditions just reminded me of how far I’ve come since last years win.

This coming year will be clinic tours with Aquarian drumheads and with session supremo Mark Heaney. In between I''ll be gigging with various bands, taking my percussion group places and recording for various sessions, generally keeping busy. Everything is really going great. I''m very excited about a call from a certain big artist - nothing is confirmed yet, but watch my website for updates, I''ll keep you posted - this will lead to good things and I''m chasing them.

Music is my life, and totally I''m set on becoming a professional session drummer - I won''t settle for anything else. This game is my ultimate focus and it''s my destiny to play music - I have this talent and I will use it. I play piano, guitar and bass and I sing as well, and I write songs, so I''d like to maybe do something on the side with those, a different project? I don''t know, I''ve got options on that side! My main priority is with music in general and within that scope, drumming is where my heart is.

What''s important for any other young drummers is just getting out there playing music with other people. It''s so important not to just stay playing in your bedroom forever, and not just wait for work to come - it never does! You have to get out there gigging, recording, whatever - if not now, when? And listen! Listen to the other musicians! When you listen to the individual components of the band, you can choose which element to lock in with, and when you lock, that''s when the magic happens. I think what''s up to you is measuring your hunger and desire to create something special, and act upon those instincts. In terms of getting to a level in exposure, it''s the same - start gigging and playing with other musicians. Listen to the other musicians. But also I would encourage anybody under 16 to enter for YDOTY, because it really does give you that chance to shine.

And don''t start drumming to make money. I have never understood anyone who can reluctantly pick up the sticks to earn some cash, with no desire to create something better. I don''t know why anybody would do that, and make something that is not the best they can do. That''s one of my principals in playing - "This is what I can do, let''s do it! "Y''know, it''s got to be for the love and passion of playing music that fuels your drumming, NOT money... The music business in corrupted and an astonishing mess at the moment. There are so many things going on, and it''s probably the hardest time ever in our history to get noticed, there is so much incredible competition and with completely unnecessarily processed and produced one hit wonder acts that appear talent shows such as X-Factor etc, the hype can seriously brainwash and overshadow some beautifully unique voices, which is a real shame. With that as competition, there are times when you think, "Cor, this is a bit mad," and it can be overwhelming, which invokes negative energy within your artistic expression and causes many people to be of a defeatist frame of mind and give up.

Remember, don''t stop doing what you love. Focus, and if you have a strong enough vision, you will prevail. But above all, it''s your attitude that will get you places. To get on with whoever you''re working with is extremely important. Take a tour, for instance. You''re going to be playing for, say, 3 hours every night - the rest of those 21 hours is spent with the other musicians. It''s essential you all get on, and it certainly makes the journey all the more enjoyable. Be nice! I''m not comfortable giving advice - It''s always hard when I''m giving a clinic and I just realize "I''m only fifteen years old - these guys are listening to me." It''s an honour.

I''m currently working on a pretty cool project which includes Spanish singer Alexander Gabilondo and great guitarist Jonny Scaramanga. It will be a first of its kind worldwide project and our individual recorded parts will be sent via email and the web to each other. This means that other internationally spread musicians will be able to get involved, even if we don''t speak the same language... As I said, music can break all barriers. Music is my language.

Sian Barnett

From a parent’s standpoint it can be daunting trying to cope which effectively noise and encouraging and understanding your child’s passion to play drums so I posed a few questions to George Barnett’s mother Sian Barnett for her insight. How difficult has it been how noise, practicing, etc to support George''s passion for drumming?

Well, you have to suffer for your children''s art... Haha! No but seriously, it hasn''t been a problem for me, as I fully support George''s passion for what I consider a creative and healthy pursuit. It has however been a problem with some neighbours over the years, but personally I find strimming the hedge on a Sunday morning more offensive!! Has it interfered with his school, education etc.? It is an education - for as long as I can remember, George has played music, read about music, written about music, listened to music, talked to everyone about music, performed music etc, etc, etc. He is home educated, which has given him time to develop his skill, and it has enriched and enhanced his education. He does have other interests as well, and is currently taking his GCSEs, but I believe education should holistic - only if you are allowed and have the freedom to follow your dreams can you truly learn to enjoy learning.

Any advice from a parent standpoint would you give for supporting your child’s headstrong passion for drumming? You should allow them to develop at their own pace, introduce them to as much variety in music and as many instruments as possible, expose them to as much live culture as possible, and just let them have fun and be creative. Life is meant to be joyful, and in particular music a way of expressing yourself.

For more information: www.youngdrummeroftheyear.co.uk

Interview Jerome Marcus

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