We had the good fortune of connecting with Taylor Friesth and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Taylor, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
My website TFDrums.com is made for any drummer out there that is looking to go further with their ability on the drum kit and it will hopefully leave them with some universal skills needed for the music industry today. From finding a love for drums at the age of 6, I feel like I have seen music from an interesting perspective. Growing up, I would learn note for note how to play all the songs that my dad would show me, from Led Zeppelin to Def Leppard (dad bands). But what is great about learning an instrument as a kid, is you have no worries about “could I do this for a career?”. When you learn an instrument as a kid, you are doing it for only one reason, because it is fun. As we get older we need to start taking on more responsibilities and our time can become more limited, so the question of “can this make me money?” inevitably comes up. But I also was glad I learned as a kid because I have been noticing the changes that are happening with the music industry today. The Internet has totally changed how some people can be successful in the music industry. We live in a world where any niche, no matter how small, can get a following. It is easier than ever to make money on the thing that you love. You just need to know how to get the word out in the right way. Knowing this, and seeing others do this, gave me the feeling that I can actually play music for a living. So I began to look outside of just playing shows to make money as a musician. From early middle school I would always learn out of drum books (books consisting mainly of music notation and exercises). I always thought that It would be fun to make one my self, and it could be a good way to make money doing what I enjoy. So I found a specific drum technique that involves using the hi-hat (the two cymbals you close together with your foot) in a unique way and I spent a little time every day over the course of a few years, and my book “The Sly Hat” was made. It has now gone on to be featured in the #1 drum magazine “Modern Drummer” and has been endorsed by the drummer for the Steve Miller Band (Gordy Knudtson) and the head of the percussion department at Berklee College of Music (Rod Morganstein). Another reason for the making of the book, however, was that I saw a specific technique in drumming that was seldom talked about and I wished there was more information about it. Before writing the book, I wanted to learn the technique just to improve my drumming, and ended up not finding much material on the technique. I think this speaks to what is at the heart of entrepreneurship. It is being aware of something that is missing in a given industry and doing what it takes to fill that gap. Before writing my book, I knew the content was missing for this topic, so I went to countless drum teachers in the area, to all the resources online that I could find, and I put them all together to make the best instruction manual on the topic that I could. Although in the music industry things can get very tricky because of the lack of money we receive as musicians, and some of the mental beat down that can happen when we try to compare ourselves to others. As a form of reassurance, I have tried making a point of listening to those around me, and for me, when I would listen to people older than me and who have been around the block, many of them would say, “oh I wish I still played music” or “ya I had some opportunities as a kid but never took them” and how important it is to take smart risks. I have been lucky that being around these people has given me what I think is a good mind set when it comes to the things that I truly want to be doing in 10 years regardless of how far from the beating path they are. So what I am hearing from the old and wise, is to do what you want to do because that is what you will do best. From there you will do it better than everyone else because it doesn’t feel like work, so you are willing to stay up late at night and “do your time” because it just fun. With that mindset I would talk to some musicians around my area and hear what they would like to be doing in 5 years and many of them say that they wish they were doing a solo project and playing music that they like instead of what other people like. This may all seem that I am just going though life doing what other people like to do, but for me it is really hearing what experienced people have to say about what they have done and having the filter to say that “that sounds like something I would like” and “that sounds like a life of misery”. With that information I am willing to take the risk and go down the lesser paved road, if you will, and do a solo project with music that I make and that I like to make, along with teaching other people how to get better at drums. When people hear that I am a drummer, they go straight to thinking that I will play a few crapy bars until I find the right band, Ill make it big and live a life of luxury until the day I die with a bottle of whisky in my hand. Maybe for some (aside from the whisky part) that is the path that they would like to take, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but that is not the path I am looking for. That is not to say that one is better than the other, it is all dependent on what you want to do and why you want to do it, that is the only way you can ever be good at something.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As of right now, I am fresh out of College and looking to what my next endeavor will be, and what I know for certain is that I want to be a part of the drumming community. This is something I have known I have wanted to do since I was 8 and now that I am free from the weekly overnight procrastinated study sessions, I can put my all into this dream of mine. The funny thing about it all, is while I was in school there was always this dynamic of when any time I would meet someone, each of us had an obligation to ask what the other is going to do outside of college. Since I was getting a degree in sociology, people expected to hear that I was going to go into Law or social work, and for them to hear that I want to be a drummer, came as a surprise everyone I would talk to. That alone can act as a social pressure for me to get “a normal job” outside of school. But what it taught me is that 1) I am going into a riskier world where I have to do a lot of paving my own way instead of following the pre-paved paths of an institution, and 2) to go with my own gut, and be aware that this is what I want to be doing in 5 years so I might as well go all in instead of wondering what would happen if I did. So If my goal is to be as much of a part of the drumming community as possible, then I need to be firing on all cylinders. This means that I have to be looking at who is doing well in the industry and what their intentions are, and try to talk to and learn from many of them as I can. Some of the most successful in the drumming world have gotten to where they are because they started an online lesson site, or maybe they started their own solo project, or blog, or YouTube page. Then I looked at what I can do well and what unique voice I can add to the whole conversation and one of the reasons I love to drum as much as I do is because it is an outlet to create. With all of this in mind I started TFdrums back in 2017. This is an ever-growing site where I teach people ideas out of my book “The Sly Hat” and I am growing it now to where I teach other topics and I am beginning to create material for masterclasses for live-streaming. There are countless lesson sites that are focused on the basics and other general topics, but I am building this site to look a little deeper into drumming and give people a unique approach to drumming by providing some “out of the norm” ideas. To me the important thing is that it doesn’t feel like hard work when I am doing it all. There have been some nights where I was up till 3 am writing the book or woking on videos or editing a song, but it has never felt taxing on me.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well that is a tricky one because there is so much to do in Colorado, especially depending on the season! But lets say it is summer time. Although it may not be ski season, there are a lot of great 14ers that anyone can do. The go to one for me is Mt. Sherman, because if I can do it, anyone can do it. Especially for an out of towner, seeing the view at the top of a 14er in Colorado is something else. For one, looking back at how high you climbed in its self is as much of a reward as any, but then to see the view at the top of the mountain is incomparable to anything. After hiking we would head to Dots Dinner for their cinnamon roll that I swear comes with a cup of butter but it is the perfect way to put yourself into a food coma. To finish off the day, we of course have to find a local show to head too. There are so many good local bands in the Denver area, that anyone coming into town would be missing out if they did not see at least one in some of the great venues that we have.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I think if you are a drummer that grew up being able to play in your parents basement and your answer isn’t your parents, I’m not sure who it would be. The fact that my parents would deal with hours of drumming a day, and especially at first not very good drumming, is amazing to me. Having access to be able to play as much as I did was a blessing that not a lot of people have and it is by the far the biggest reason that I am able to be doing what I am doing today. Along side that, my dad had a very successful running career in his past which was in part due to his approach to everything he does. When talking about his running career he tends to mention having a “singularity of purpose” and going 100% into something. Growing up being surrounded by that mind set allowed me to look at the world with a very positive view. With enough work ethic and ability to focus on the positives, it is quite astonishing what we can do. So I would take the practice time that I had access to and combine it with the work ethic that has been passed down to me, and to see how far those two things have gotten me so far is very humbling. So after I got a little bit better from practicing away in my parents basement I began to play with other people in a few little middle school rock bands, and the best one of course being Burnt Toast. We would play small shows like the Boulder Creek Fest and others. The band, along with my drumming, took a positive turn once we started doing a camp every year at a place in Lafayette called Dog House Music. This was a week long camp where we would learn a few songs to perform to our parents at the end of the week. So we would learn some originals and some covers as a band, but the coolest part was working with people that were pro musicians and taught us all about our instruments and how to get up on stage. From there I met a mentor that would go on to be a huge influence to what I am doing even to this day, his name is Nate Barnes. He got his name through playing with a band called Rose Hill Drive who has warmed up for big bands like The Who, Wilco, and Van Halen and so on. He was willing enough to teach me for 6 years and showed me more than any other teacher has. Things from how to play drums but also how to be a well rounded person and the importance of showing respect and staying humble. Not only is he an amazing musician but he has a unique superpower of being able to get along with anyone he comes across, which can sometimes get you farther than your talent. Then in the 8th grade, I began to teach drum lessons to a neighbor of mine. I loved the whole process of showing someone something new and trying to treat it like a puzzle. I had to figure out a way that this person could learn this groove in the most efficient way and what the best way to practice it would be for them. I liked it so much that I began to make some flyers that I could pass around in school and some business cards that I could hand out to the people I knew (who almost certainly had to interest in learning drums), but I enjoyed the process of creating something of my own. Eventually, someone named Chris Beers, the owner of After Beat Drum School in Downtown Louisville, found one of my flyers and asked if I would want to teach in his side studio which I gladly took. Chris was a huge part of my career as well (I couldn’t just pick one mentor). Chris exposed me to a whole other world of teaching and playing music. Not many musicians have such an understanding of music from other countries and how they can play into our everyday. He is a master at approaching music freely while applying a deep history and understanding of the instrument when he plays. His playing along with his approach to life were two huge impacts own my own life. From teaching at After Beat Drum School, I had access to teach more students which just gave me more motivation to see how to teach each student in the most efficient way, which led me to new ideas and ultimately give me inspiration to write my book “The Sly Hat”. The Sly Hat is a book that is focused on a specific way to use the hi-hat foot (the pedal that closes together the two cymbals on the drum kit). Just this year the book got published by my dream publisher Hudson Music, which has been an honor just to be a part of their list of authors. To be on the same roster as some of my favorite drummers as a kid is crazy to see but most importantly gives me a great sense of accomplishment and realization that I might be able to be a part of the drumming community after all. The success of the book has driven me to start my own lesson site, TFdrums.com, and to start my own solo project where I play multiple instruments and play music featured around the drums. My thought process being that TFdrums is just a culmination of all the teaching I have done in the past but now put into the internet so it is available to everyone, and the solo project is the result of my love for playing music and creating music that further pushes my ability. Although they my be new projects for me, they are in a way just what I have always been doing.