ANDREW DICKSON BRINGS A HARD EDGE TO NASHVILLE DRUM SCENE
Musicians are often passionate people. They live and breathe their craft, and Andrew Dickson is no exception. In fact, he might be the poster child for intense musicians. Born in Geneva, New York, in 1977, Dickson’s parents exposed him to all genres of music at a very young age, taking him to concerts at the former Finger Lakes Community College Amphitheater. Seeing bands as diverse as Air Supply, Mike + The Mechanics, and Duran Duran as a child, ensured that Dickson would embrace all kinds of music, and perhaps, catch the bug to perform it. While his parents were not musicians, they were avid music fans, which created a solid environment to pass that love down to their son.
Dickson joined the school band as a fourth grader in Geneva. Drums were a good fit, as academics weren’t necessarily his strong suit, and he was constantly in need of an outlet for his boundless energy. This led to his first drum kit in the sixth grade. He now had the equipment; the obvious next step was to start a band, which is how Obscurity began. Comprised of a number of friends, including Dickson on drums, Shaun Smith on bass guitar, and Dan Smith on lead guitar, they eventually moved to Nashville together. Vocals were shared among the Smith brothers.
During these formative years, Dickson gravitated toward Metal, Punk, and Hard Rock, being heavily influenced by Metallica, Rancid, Kings X, Ozzy Osbourne, and Alice in Chains. He is certain it was Def Leppard’s 1987 blockbuster album, Hysteria, that threw gasoline on an already passionate musical fire, and it was becoming clear that, even at ten years of age, Dickson would likely become a career musician.
At the private Harley School in Rochester, New York, Dickson widened his musical field by playing in the Jazz Band and All-County Orchestra. He continued to hone his skills at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, majoring in Jazz Studies and Ethnomusicology. While in college, Dickson spent four months in India studying Mridangam, the drum used in South Indian Classical Music. At a mere 21 years of age, this was an incredible opportunity that he appreciates to this day.
It was after college that his new band, Second Generation of Blue, was formed with the Smith brothers, who eventually made the big move to Nashville, Tennessee. Dickson describes his move to Music City as, “The best thing I’ve ever done.” Following his time with Second Generation of Blue, he joined another band, Hillbilly Casino. Still a thriving band today, Hillbilly Casino plays American Roots/Punk music, which challenged Dickson to not only swing using his usual punk style of playing, but occasionally to use a softer sound, utilizing brushes on a snare drum. He enjoyed his time with Hillbilly Casino, even relaying one of his greatest road memories. For two consecutive years, Hillbilly Casino played the “crazy” back rooms of Irish pubs during the Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots Festival. The band was also a fixture at Layla’s in Nashville, and still is. Dickson cites Layla’s as one of the best venues to play in Nashville.
Hillbilly Casino was Dickson’s main gig from 2005 to 2012, putting out four records, playing over 150 shows a year, going to Europe five times, and also to Canada. Not only was it a fun ride for a drummer eager to play as often as possible, it also helped perfect his skills for his next gig with country artist, Jason Michael Carroll. It was via his old Geneva, New York friend, Shaun Smith, that he landed the gig with Carroll. Smith was already playing bass in the band. Carroll has a very loyal legion of fans and gave Dickson the freedom to play the way he likes, all the while, being cognizant of “playing to the gig,” meaning, you play the songs in a manner that fits the venue and the crowd.
Living in Nashville has been good to Dickson. He met the woman he eventually married, and the living is easier than in other cities if you’re a musician. The opportunities to network with other supportive musicians is what keeps him here. David Parks, a friend to Dickson, and the former drummer with LoCash Cowboys who shared shows with Jason Michael Carroll, provided a connection to the Nashville Drummers Jam, an event organized by Parks twice a year. Tom Hurst, another integral player in that event, saw Dickson playing at CMA fest one year and was so impressed by his skills, that he asked him to join the fold. Being invited to play the Nashville Drummers Jam is one of the greatest compliments a drummer can get in this town. Only the best are sought out to play a set of songs that pay tribute to a different legendary drummer at each show. Dickson is very grateful for the honor. He is also playing in Tom Hurst’s Loud Jamz series of shows, which gathers well respected musicians together to play a wide range of cover songs from every genre and era.
Not surprisingly, when he isn’t drumming, Dickson is listening to music. He listens “all the time.” He is always curious to learn about new music and is currently a big fan of the bands Off!, Clutch, Banner Pilot, and Dropkick Murphys. He is such a fan of Dropkick Murphys, that he and his wife spent two separate St. Patrick’s Days seeing the band live in Boston and Dublin, Ireland. When posed with the age old question, “If you could take only one album to a desert island, what would it be?,” Dickson, without a second’s hesitation answered, “Rancid’s, ...And Out Come the Wolves.” The album was released in 1995 by Epitaph Records and peaked at number 45 on the Billboard 200. Five months after its release, it was certified gold.
While Dickson may bleed Metal and Punk, oddly enough, he says his favorite venue ever, to play, is the “Mother Church of Country Music,” The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. This was interesting, and solidified how diverse and free thinking this drummer is. Like a chameleon, he blends seamlessly into his surroundings and can play just about anything put before him – exceedingly well.
As for the future, Dickson is just looking to play and tour as much as possible. He enjoys the usual Wednesday to Sunday schedule that many Nashville artists adhere to, but is always willing to play more often, as much as a few months at a time. He is fortunate to have a wife that supports his music career, so he is free to take touring gigs with heavy schedules. He has an incredible work ethic, and after seeing him play myself a few times, I am astounded by his abilities as a drummer. It’s almost as though he turns into another person when behind the kit. He will stop you in your tracks, just because you need to try and figure out what is driving this person to become a human drum machine. “As long as I can keep on rockin’, that’s what I’m all about.” Attitude is everything, and Dickson radiates positivity and the desire to play.
In closing our interview, I asked Dickson what he would say to young drummers thinking about a music career. His response was immediate, and one of the best I’ve ever heard. “Be stoked, because it rules.”
Visit Andrew Dickson’s website for booking and contact information:
Photographs courtesy of Bill McClintic of 90 East Photography.
Hillbilly Casino photo courtesy of Joshua Black Wilkins.
©2015-nashvillethreesixty.com. All rights reserved.