If you’ve listened to rock or pop music in the last 15 years, you may have heard the drums of Jason Sutter.
Recently, the drummer, who has toured and recorded with artists such as Marilyn Manson and Smash Mouth, was one of the featured clinicians for the Alabama Percussive Arts Society Day of Percussion, a drum clinic hosted by Troy University and featuring drummers from schools around the state.
The day before, however, Sutter lectured TROY music industry students and then worked with POPulus, the University’s pop music ensemble.
Sutter grew up in New York, graduated from the University of North Texas and received a master’s degree from the University of Miami. But he made his name in Los Angeles, playing with artists as varied as Pink, Babyface, Our Lady Peace, Vertical Horizon, Foreigner, New York Dolls and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell.
“If you’d picked one of those bands and told me I got to play with one of them, I’d be amazed, but I got to play with all of them, and the opportunities keep coming,” Sutter said. “It was a smart investment in time to go out to L.A., and it was a smart investment to go to school. It served me well, trained me and prepared me with the skills I would need to throw my hat in the ring and have a fighting chance.”
Jason Sutter performing a snare solo
He drew upon his experiences in school and on the road, but especially in the hard-hitting world of the music industry, when talking with students.
Sutter stressed to students the importance of networking.
“You have to force yourself to get out there and promote yourself, but with tact,” he said. “Utilize the tools that are out there – YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, things like that are ways to utilize and emphasize your talents.”
For the musicians in attendance, Sutter said versatility is key to long-term success.
“In my drum clinic, the main theme is diversity and adaptability,” Sutter said. “Those two things have allowed me to play pretty much anything. I’ve become known as a rock drummer, but to be honest it could’ve been any genre. That’s what keeps it interesting for me, to go from gig to gig and change it up, almost like a character actor where I assume a role when I’m in that scene.”
His experience gives him a unique perspective to offer students hoping to one day work full-time in the industry.
“I’ve experienced an entirely different way of going about the industry side of things, whether it’s management or tour negotiations or auditions, and I realized I had a unique perspective. When I was in college, nobody ever told me any of this stuff about auditions or breaking into a scene or setting yourself up for success in the business. I look at this as this is boot camp for the students and I’m out on the front lines, so I can come back and say, ‘Here are some pointers from somebody who sat in the chair you’re setting in.’”
POPulus, which includes TROY students playing rock, pop, country and r&b hits along with original material, impressed Sutter, especially as he worked with the group and tweaked aspects of its performance.
“Playing with the POPulus group is especially cool, because it is really unique to this school to have that program,” he said. “You can talk about the music industry all day long, but to have an actual living, breathing test kitchen for these students to be able to walk the walk and have these real life scenarios what will come up, to me that’s everything. To actually put you through your paces before you’re there, that’s unique and important. More and more schools are going to follow suit.”
Sutter helped the band through performances of songs such as Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” and praised the group’s skills.
“It’s going over quite well because the kids can relate,” he said. “I can share some real stories of what it’s been like to follow this journey, and I can also to try to bring a little positivity. It’s a beautiful campus, and it’s an honor to stand up in front of these students who obviously care so much. As for the music industry program, Troy University is fortunate to have this kind of forward-thinking faculty.”