Describing JP Bouvet in just a few short sentences is a tremendously tough task. Bouvet, a drummer and clinician based in New York City (originally from Lakeville, Minnesota) has already accomplished more in just a few short years than many drummers do in their entire lives. Bouvet is the definition of a “connector”, having traveled all around the world as an educator and performer and sharing his talent and knowledge with students, peers, and legends alike both in-person and online. We sat down with JP today to discuss his breakthrough year in 2011, his time at Berklee College of Music in Boston, how this superstar stays so darn humble and the unveiling of his updated website.
Entertwine: Let’s start back in 2011; what can you tell us about your winning Guitar Center’s drum off and Roland’s V Drum competition in the same year? What kind of impact did those accomplishments have on your career from that moment onward?
JP Bouvet: That year was certainly an epic spark in my career. Along with those two competitions I also dropped out of school and, within a year, moved to New York City where I live now. As far as the competitions go, I attribute my success to the amount of preparation I put in. The preparation I’m referring to is both long term and short. By long term preparation, I mean that I had already done the GC Drum Off the previous 5 years, and Roland Drum Off the year before, which was the first year it was held. Long term preparation gave me experience in the matter. I knew what to expect and I had now accumulated many failed attempts to reflect on and analyze. By short term preparation, I’m referring to the few months leading up the final rounds of these competitions. The most appropriate word to describe my attitude at that point would be obsessed. I really believed I could win, which, once realized, was the main driving force behind my practice. While in college still, I started being very strict with a 4 hour per day practice routine, no matter how many classes, rehearsals, and shows I had going on. Fast forward to the month leading up to the finals in LA, and I had dropped out of college and gone home to Minnesota so I could literally practice all day. I spent half the day practicing on a real drum set for the GC Drum Off, and the latter half of the day practicing on an electronic drum set because the International finals for the Roland V-Drums Competition were the week after the GC Drum Off finals.
The impact of winning those competitions is often misconceived by the public. Winning the drum off is not equivalent to being handed a magical drumming career on a silver platter. What it gives you is an opportunity to build something upon the massive amount of publicity. However, if you chose to be idle, the public’s eyes would eventually settle on something more interesting or someone trying harder than you. Basically, from the moment I won the GC Drum Off, my mentality was by this time next year, I need to be something OTHER than the guy that won the GC Drum Off because at that point, there will be a new winner, and if I haven’t evolved, I will be nothing. So those two events turned a lot of eyes toward me. It was then up to me to give them something to continually focus on. I feel confident in saying that about 1% of people who heard about me through the drum offs actually have enough in common with me to be real fans. That’s how the world works, and that 1% is what my career is built on. It’s the same way with bands, artists, and the likes.
ET: You attended Berklee College of Music in Boston for two years, correct? What was your Berklee experience like?
JP: I have a similar mentality about Berklee as I do about the Drum Off. Simply attending Berklee will not make you into anything. The school is not a machine where on one end of the conveyor belt is young, untrained talent, and at the other end is an output of job opportunities and gigs for everyone who came and got good grades. Berklee is fertile soil for you to make something of yourself. In no other place in the world is there so much passion, so much hard work, so much determination, or so many people who left their homes and countries to commit their lives to music. It’s the perfect place to learn. The classes taught me a lot but the majority of my progress as a musician and person was because of the environment that I was immersed in and the people that I met, befriended, and worked with along the way. Today, most of my best friends are from Berklee and almost all of the people in the bands I play in are from Berklee as well.
ET: How did you first become involved with the companies you endorse? What does it mean to represent them?
JP: My story with endorsements is an exception to how the endorsement world generally works, and I always make sure that people understand that. My situation was not the norm because of the GC Drum Off. Part of the prize was that I got to choose which companies I was associated with. Notice I did not say “endorsed by” because it was up to the companies whether or not they actually wanted to endorse me, and if so, to what level. With most of the companies, I wasn’t actually an endorsee until 6-12 months later after I had proved to them that I wasn’t just a contest winner, but a hard working professional who had a plan and wanted to realize my potential. I now endorse Meinl, DW, Remo, Vic Firth, and Ahead Armor Cases, and I couldn’t be happier. The gear is amazing but what makes me smile every day are the people involved in the companies. They are so supportive and loving and they really care about me and my career. The fact that they pretty much endorsed me solely on the potential they saw, as opposed to actual achievements, inspires me to work even harder on their behalf to feel that I have proved my worth and am a true asset to the team.
The important thing to remember about endorsements is this: The endorsement will never get you the gig. The gig will get you the endorsement. Don’t make “get endorsed” the end goal. It happens when you’re ready. It always happens when you’re ready. I don’t know a single person in the world who should be endorsed, who isn’t. Conversely, I know a lot of people who aren’t ready to be endorsed, but think they should be. It happens when you’re ready. Artist reps are smart people, and they’re always watching.
(J.P. Bouvet, Winning Performance of Guitar Center Drum-Off 2011)
ET: Totally! I agree with you on that 100%! Speaking of large endorsements & companies…what is it like to see yourself featured in large publications such as Modern Drummer and Guitar Center?
JP: It’s encouraging. It’s encouraging because you know a lot of people see it. What that instills in me is a burning desire to be a thousand times better, more experienced, more together, and more everything the next time they see me. Part of this is based on the very human feeling of dissatisfaction with whatever you’ve previously released. I know what exists publicly, and I never feel that it properly represents my current state or potential, which makes me want to dwarf it with newer, more accurate representations of who I’ve been working so hard to grow into.
ET: How has your website, blog, and in-person clinics and drum camps aided in the process of building your brand? What’s the best advice you can give an artist or musician who is working to make their mark on the web?
JP: There is one, overarching, golden rule in not only online content but content delivery in general: It has to be real. It has to be honest. You have to actually want to do it because people have an uncanny ability to sense BS. Don’t make youtube videos because you think it’s a good business move. Make youtube videos because you are excited to share what you do and what you’ve learned with the world. Don’t become an educator because it’s a more regular paycheck. Become an educator because it excites you to help sculpt a young talent into the best possible artist he or she can become.
My whole career is based on me being real with my audience. I tell them my thoughts, I let them in the door, I respond to messages, I meet tons of students whenever I travel, I make house calls, but most importantly, I do it because I want to. My most valuable “branding asset” is the fact that from the very beginning, I made myself vulnerable to my audience. This was an honest debut onto the stage. It was not a “performance” or an “act.” It was a “town meeting” and an “invitation.” This attracted a certain type of person. It attracted people who take themselves seriously and accept that they are not perfect, but have a burning desire to figure this crazy music industry out in the long run. That is what my “branding” is based on, and I’m using the word “branding” in quotes here because that is what the question asked, but when I am making decisions or making an effort to evolve, it is never for the sake of “branding,” it is for the sake of evolving, with the assumption that the audience is evolving at the same rate right along with me. If I am not growing, my audience will simply outgrow me and move on. This is the most beautiful part of our community because it pushes me to push myself and to grow, which pushes other members to push themselves and grow… and the cycle continues.
ET: What can you tell us about the current Common Thread clinic tour you’re a part of with Mike Johnston and Matt Halpern?
JP: It’s the bomb. Ha! It really is though. It’s just fun. It’s fun for the three of us. It’s fun for everyone who attends. It’s fun for the stores that host the event. It’s just a great time. It’s really laid back and the structure is loose. The point of the tour is to explore the “Common Threads” between not only the three of us, but other people who have found success in their industries. These common threads that we speak of are internal things like drive, passion, hard work, and being a do-ist. The best part about doing clinics with two other guys over and over again is that you have someone there to push you. Unlike solo clinic tours, we push each other to cover new topics each night and explore new solo ideas each night. I can always feel when I’m taking the easy road or playing my “go to licks.” Alone, this would be a bummer, but with two of my best friends that I respect immensely, it kills me. And since we are pushing ourselves, it’s more exciting for us, and that excitement comes through to the audience so it’s more exciting for them as well! I think it’s important for the audience to see us exploring new things and occasionally messing up. Again, the point of the tour is to be real and honest. It’s not a display of dominance but a true effort to demystify the path that has lead us to where we are today in our drumming.
ET: Can you even describe what it has meant to travel all over the country and the world (places like Indonesia, Istanbul, Philippines, Malaysia) playing and teaching behind a drum kit?
JP: No, I cannot properly explain this in a short enough paragraph for you to actually want to read. But I can tell you that nothing means more to me than this. There is nothing in my life currently more special than the few opportunities I have had to travel to remote places and teach drums to a room of people who support me from the other side of the planet even though I have never met them. These trips bring a tear to my eye when I think too hard about how special they are to me. During these trips, usually traveling alone, I learn so much about myself, about the world, and about the beauties and differences of different types of people.
What I hope everyone who reads this from a far away country will realize is that all it takes to get me to your country or hometown is for you to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will respond and there is a very good chance, if you are a do-ist like me (which you probably are if you gathered up the nerves to send me a message), that we can make it happen in real life.
ET: In late 2013 you released the second iteration of your website; how did you conceptualize this idea (the online lesson marketplace/database) in the first place and what enabled or encouraged you to begin breaking ground on this project to get things started?
JP: The point of JPBouvetMusic.com is to serve as an extension of me that is accessible by the public, as if the public could just plug into my brain and see and hear what I’m most excited about… my ideas… my thoughts… my drumming approach… and anything that I want to share with the world. The website idea was born a long time ago. When the drum off happened, it was time to bring it to fruition because all of a sudden, the audience was there to care. I designed it all myself, and the only other person involved, since the beginning, is my friend, guitarist, and programmer, Mike Linden. It didn’t go live until almost exactly one year after the GC Drum Off. I designed it, redesigned it, and continued tweaking and trying things until it did what it was meant to do. Version 2.0 introduced some exciting new features and pages, but in my mind I’ve already created Version 3 and 4 and designed the iPhone app that will be released later this year. Web design projects are slow and steady and involve more people than just me, but I love the website dearly and the people involved in it. Our online community is a special one, especially now while it is still young and simmering.
(J.P. hosts a website of his own which provides drum lessons of all different styles and genres.)
ET: It seems as if one of your main goals is to be as transparent as possible through your drumming (and everything that surrounds it); how do you manage to not only keep up with your extremely busy lifestyle and schedule but also document it across a variety of different formats at the same time?
JP: At this point, I don’t find that the filming and documenting process take all that much time. I’ve streamlined it as much as possible and since I enjoy it, it rarely seems like a task. For example, editing video blogs is one of my favorite things to do because I get to relive all the most exciting moments of whatever I was blogging about. Having said that, I have definitely gotten better at knowing when to film and when not to film. When I first started video blogs and lessons, I would film everything, and everything had multiple camera angles, and I was trying to go overboard in every way and then I needed to make a 12 minute blog so 95% of the footage went to waste. I’m much better at knowing what kind of things translate on camera. And by translate I mean that they are as cool when you watch them back on your computer as they were if you were standing right there. Those are the most important things to capture. But I always say, you’ve got to run off the cliff to find the edge, so going too far, in this case, was necessary for me to be able to scale it back and be smarter about it.
ET: You’ve said in interviews before that believing you can do something is an essential part to actually following through on that respective goal, as is intense preparation; how important are both of these qualities in actuality, and what do they mean to you?
JP: Those two ideas are extremely important in every aspect of my life. They are simple concepts. In terms of preparation, think of it this way: You never want to look back and say “What if ___?” What if I had practiced harder? What if I had spent more time learning those songs? What if I had looped that difficult section before the recording session instead of meeting Tommy to play catch yesterday? Preparation is your chance to iron out any potential “What if”’s. If you approach every task like this, two things will happen. 1) You will do the best you possibly could have done. If you really did everything in your power to prepare, then the final result is an actual indicator of your best. 2) You will feel better about the final product because, even if it isn’t perfect, there is nothing else you could have done. You will feel like, well… that’s where I’m at. That’s me at my most prepared state and now I have a better idea of what I’m good at and what I need to work on.
Believing you can do something will fuel this desire to prepare. Once you realize, “if I prepare as much as I possibly can for this recording session, I can do all the songs in 2 or 3 takes, make a great impression on this band that asked me to record, and probably ensure future recording opportunities with not only that band, but the recording engineer, the producer, and anyone else who is present at the session, and go home feeling like a total badass… then why wouldn’t you be fired up to go put in the necessary hours to prepare?
If a God of Logic exists, he would say:
“If you spend time preparing (aka, doing what you love most, while simultaneously challenging yourself, making you smarter, quicker, stronger, and happier), then you will make everyone involved in the event you’re preparing for feel inspired, smarter (for choosing you), quicker (because you saved them time), and happier (because no stress = no mess). The result: Happier, inspired people get together to make more inspired music and who will they call? The guy that stresses them out, or the guy who helps them feel like the brilliant artists that they truly are?”
… and why would you not want to play your role in this cycle of inspiration? Hell, I want to go practice right now!
ET: Haha you can NEVER practice enough, isn’t that true?!
….Ok this is my favorite section! It’s called, Quick Q’s – pretty straight forward aaaand GO!
Sticks? – 5A Extremes but have also been experimenting with Vinnie Colaiuta’s signature Vic Firth Stick.
Drum Heads? – This changes frequently as I continue to experiment and I find the sound I like best but lately I’ve been really happy with Remo Coated Emperors on toms, a Coated Ambassador on snare, and a Powerstroke 3 on kick.
Kit of Choice? – My DW Collector’s Series Maple Mahogany, sunburst Matador Red to Black with gold hardware, is my most prized possession. However, I really like sitting down at different kits too because they inspire different ideas. I change my set up all the time and I think it’s important to do so. I love a beautifully tuned bop kit with an 18” bass drum.
Cymbals? – Again, I’m always changing things out and experimenting. Luckily, Meinl has an unbelievably vast selection of cymbals to choose from. Currently my kit has the following:
14” Byzance Sand Hats,
19” Byzance Brilliant Medium Crash
18” Byzance Dark China
22” Mb20 Heavy Crash (for after the big fill
22” Byzance Vintage Pure Thin Ride (which is new as of 2014 and is amazingly dry, dark, and beautiful)
and a stack comprised of an 18” Dark China and a 16” SoundCaster Trash Crash
Snack of Choice? – Anything from the bakery a block from my house (Arsi’s Pateseria on 47th Ave in Queens). This Armenian couple bakes everything in the store every morning and nothing… nothing… rivals their home cooked croissants filled with spinach and feta. Get outta town.
Favorite Cities? - Istanbul for the history and the culture. South Africa for the same reasons plus having the most breathtaking landscape I’ve ever seen. Lakeville, MN cause my parents live there. Venice at 2am once all the tourists have gone to sleep. Ubud, Bali because all the people who come to party stay by the water and all the people who want to learn about the culture go here. Chiang Mai, Thailand because it’s quaint and beautiful and full of what I call “travelers” as opposed to “tourists.”
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