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Interview with:

Greg Best [gregbestinc] 

What do you do? What is your musical specialty?
I am primarily a drummer, but I also write and arrange. I place musical limits to learn what works the best musically. I love hearing new things in reference to what is timeless. I just honestly enjoy exploring the wonderful world of music.
Do you work alone or in a group? If in a group, who are the others you work with?
I work by myself and with a variety of artists and songwriters. A lot of my current work is done through my church, The Father's House (tfhny.org) in Rochester, NY. I get to work with some really brilliant friends like Brian Moore, Nate Cronk, Dillon Lovall, Dan Plants, and Denis Johnson. Without these guys, I don't know what I'd be doing musically right now.
Is there a web address where one can listen, see, or read some of your work?
The official music video for "Sing Hallelujah" by The New Collective can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8qTnqB-Sk8
Please list any awards, competitions, or other acknowledgments you would like to mention.
Excellence in Music Performance Award (2011), Raymond Shiner Jazz Award (2011) both from Nazareth College of Rochester
Please list discography in which you have participated.
"The Gravity EP" by Avenue You, released July 2011. The New Collective EP released Nov. 2012. "Greater Still" by TFH Live to be released 2013.
How did you begin making music? Who introduced you?
I began making music at our piano when I was three years old. I came from a musical home. My mom is a classically trained pianist and taught piano lessons in our house. I was constantly listening to music at a young age, from Mozart, to MJ, to Metallica. It didn't matter what style it was, I just wanted to listen -- all the time. I played alto and tenor sax for a few years and later picked up percussion at age 12. From then on, I was hooked! I started playing drum kit and formed a rock band within a few years. My sister, Jessica Best, became a professional singer and that gave me the confidence to go after music as a career as well.
What was your musical education?
I went to Nazareth College of Rochester and received a B.S. in Music Business. Before that, I mainly learned by ear and taking lessons from drummers and percussionists like Ryan Barclay, Josh Soto, and Kristen Shiner McGuire, who later became my percussion professor at Naz. I took studied jazz with Dr. Paul Smoker. This was an incredibly rewarding experience, and I highly encourage the challenge of getting a musical education. I couldn't be where I am today if not for these incredible teachers who believed in me, pushed me, and invested in me.
When did you realise that making music could be a way of life for you?
After I got into my senior year of high school. I discovered quickly that I simply wouldn't be happy doing anything else.
What is your creative process?
All of my music is a response to my environment. I like to reflect on things and bring out that reflection musically. So whether I am being inspired by my present or past circumstances, or what I am seeing for the future, I am responding to something. It could be a place. It could be a person. It could be a situation. I usually hear a melody line or motif I can latch on to and build around it. Sometimes, I just hear phrases or words. Sometimes just a rhythm. Whatever my foundation is, I just build on the main theme until I can really feel the music. When the message is being released, I listen and see if there's too much or too little. All the tweaks happen over time. I like to make sure I'm not over analyzing, or not giving enough attention to the music. If something's wrong, I wait until I can pinpoint it. If it seems really good, I try not to touch it.
When do you have your most lucid moments, in the morning or night?
It could happen at any time, honestly.
Have you ever awoken with a melody created from your dreams?
Many times, yes. In fact, the guitar line for "He Is Yahweh" on The New Collective EP is one of those melodies.
How do you know when a song is finished or needs no more changes?
I can usually just feel when it sits right. There's not necessarily a formula to it for me. Some times are easier than others. If I keep hearing something that I'm not getting out, I know to keep going until that sound can be produced. If I get too burned out, I leave it for awhile and expect it to come later. I have an entire library of ideas that are still unfinished just because I didn't want to risk the music's meaning by adding something or taking something away.
How did you discover your creative territory? How would you describe it?
I constantly have musical ideas I'm hearing. It's just a matter of releasing them. Sometimes I can sit down and pour it out. Other times, I have to sit on them because I'm at my desk at work or I'm traveling or something. A few times, I've drawn a staff and written out a melody during a business meeting. It's not always the case, but I've done it because I didn't want to lose the sound I was hearing. I love writing with other people, too. I'm a people person and I love building on the ideas of others.
What part of your job is your least favourite?
My least favorite part is when I feel like I'm working too hard to create. My worst ideas came out when I forced them. I also don't like being in pit orchestras or anything with written out music. I can read music, but I don't feel like myself when I do. I always have order in my playing, but it comes out more comfortably and confidently when I'm without restraints or stressors.
How often do you practice?
I used to practice every day for at least two hours or more. I don't have that liberty these days, though. When I was in music school, I was expected to practice for at least four hours. I'd be braindead after two, so I knew I had to stop or I'd burnout. Keep in mind that on top of the two practicing alone hours, I was playing in large ensembles for most of my evenings. I came in knowing the parts, but to me, that was practice for a group performance and was in some contexts more important than just knowing my part. I needed to hear how my part fit the ensemble.
How do you feel right before going out on stage?
It's my favorite thing to do. I feel like myself!
Which musicians or groups have been inspiring to your career?
Debussy, Dvořák, Samuel Barber, Eric Whitacre, Paramore, P.O.D., Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine, Incubus, Sirens & Sailors, Killswitch Engage, Mae, Blindside, Deftones, Raul Midón, Earth Wind & Fire, JT, Avishai Cohen, Bill Evans, Miles, Coltrane, Ella, Brubeck, J5, Nicki Minaj, MJ, Ellie Goulding, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Bon Iver, Sigur Rós.
List three songs that are key to your life.
"Alive" by P.O.D. because it saved my life from becoming horribly depressed at age 12. "So What" by Miles Davis because it was the first piece I learned how to groove with in the jazz context. "Pardon Me" by Incubus because it was the first song I really discovered by an artist all by myself. Nobody showed me that song, so I felt like I owned it. Most music was recommended to me by other people, but that one was unique to me. It got me to really start listening for more music. Now, I just keep listening. I can thank Incubus for a lot of that, really. They made me keep discovering. Every record of theirs is such a unique journey, and I wanted to hear where they got ideas from.
What should be done to stop piracy?
I'm not sure. I think piracy is wrong, but I've seen it help some artist's get their names out there and gain a following. Everything is free on YouTube and Spotify anyway. I think people will probably pirate music less just because of these services, and new ones like iTunes Radio. At least some of us still buy music!
What type of music do you detest?
This is a tough one. I think I detest music that isn't sincere. I don't know how else to put this. I could name songs, artists, and albums that I would argue are not sincere, but that's not even worth getting into, since it would just start a war with their fans. I can say that even with music that I don't necessarily love, I can find something to learn from.
What time did you get up this morning?
8:00AM. I am not a fan of morning, but I am a fan of coffee!
How do you sell yourself? What has been your experience with record companies and representatives?
I am a very relational person. I don't strive to "sell myself" because this just sounds like prostituting my soul. I don't need my music to hit it big to know that my gift has value. It's not that I don't expect to make it in this industry. I'm just happy that I get to create great art with great people! I do what I love and get to be with people I love. Who wouldn't wanna do that?
What other things have you done to make a living?
I currently work full time as a college minister with an organization called BASIC. I also coordinate the worship music and artists for our conferences. I love college students and I love seeing them succeed in their field. My biggest joy is knowing that I have the privilege of introducing people to Jesus. I'm so glad I met him when I did or else I would not be here sharing all this with you today.
Have you ever played on the street or in the subway? How much did you collect each day?
No I haven't. Rochester doesn't really have that kind of thing going on, actually. That would be pretty cool, though!
Who would you play with, without a doubt?
If MJ was still with us, I'd keep dreaming of playing with him.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the business?
Don't let other people forecast your future. It is possible to make a living as a musician. Everyone's approach is different. Find yours. Take the time to understand good business and marketing skills. Say yes until you're too booked, then say no. Don't strive. Be genuine and honest. Care about people. Really care.

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Greg Best
Rochester, NY, United States

[gregbestinc] Greg Best
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© Greg Best
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