Musicians In The Spotlight: An Interview with drummer Elijah Wood
on being an integral part of the Shania Twain Tour, the crazy and
exciting stage production, advice to aspiring drummers and more

Building Our Own Nashville
By hannahjessica31
October 1, 2018

When you go to a show of a music icon, a legend if you will and experience what is for many a once in a lifetime opportunity event then it isnít often that you come away blown away by one of the band members as much as you were the artist themselves. That is never to say that band members are not good enough or donít leave an impact but simply because you are focused on the main act. However, during the Shania Now tour many of us left completely captivated and blown away by her drummer Elijah Wood.

Elijah from the very start of the show caught the attention of the audience with just one drum beat. As Elijah began to rock the drumkit our hearts beat to the rhythm and we were sold! Heck, I would pay just to see Elijah.

If you are yet to see the Shania Now tour and do not want any spoilers then stop reading now and come back and visit us again after the show.

I went to see Shania Twain in Birmingham, UK and since then I havenít stopped watching videos of Elijah in action. Throughout the entire set she and the drumset were dragged all over the place, it was crazy. From being pushed on a moving platform all over the stage to being elevated up high flying on a moving cube, you just couldnít take your eyes off her talent and skill. Elijah makes it look easy but guaranteed it isnít but what was easy was seeing how much fun she was having!

Shania was generous with her time showcasing her band members and dancers and we got to see some awesome solo segments from Elijah in the show to keep the crowd going. There was a chorus of mad cheers throughout the arena on hearing and seeing her mad skills. An awe inspiring performance, Elijah is a musician we are going to remember for years to come!

Because we were so taken by Elijah, we had to ask a few questions. The band members along with dancers, crew and more are such a huge part of the overall production of a show and we were so intrigued by the behind the scenes part. Elijah was very kind to answer some questions about being involved on the tour, landing a spot on the Shania Now tour,  starting out in the drumming world, advice to beginner drummers and more.

Hi Elijah Ė How are you?

Hi Hannah! I am doing just wonderfully!

How has your week been?

Itís been a whirlwind. Still trying to adjust to the time zones over here. The UK is 8 hours ahead of where I live. The shows have been going amazing!

I just caught The Shania show in Birmingham, UK and was clearly blown away by Shania but my goodness, I think we were all blown away by you too. I was second row and completely mesmerised.

Why thank you. I try to make an impact every show!

How have the shows been for you so far?

Absolutely stunning.

Any particular memorable moments? More energetic crowds?

As I am writing this, we just wrapped up our shows in Dublin and itís certainly been a highlight. I am excited to see what London has in store for us in a few days at the O2.

How did joining the Shania tour come to be?

I auditioned for Shaniaís ĎRock This Countryí tour in March of 2015 when I was 19 years old. Through an unexpected series of events and networking, my drum videos and information got passed on to the musical director of the tour. A few days later, I got an email personally inviting me to audition in Los Angeles with the band. I soon found out that there were only five other drummers auditioning, which was such a shock to me that I was chosen at all. We were given six songs in Shaniaís catalog to prepare for the audition. I started to spend countless hours perfecting these parts and digging through the songs with a fine tooth comb.

Since I found out I was going to the LA audition, I never thought in a million years I would get this. I mean, I had just performed with Americaís Got Talent in Las Vegas and I had never done anything as big as an arena tour with an A list artist. Nevertheless, I gave it my all. I knew that even the chance of getting in front of the Shania band, musical director, and Shania herself was a dream all to itself. The day of the audition, I went in, played through the set twice with everyone and before I knew it I was done. Everything felt so right. I loved the music and the team and I did the best I could.

Long story short, three weeks after the audition, totally assuming I didnít get it, I get an email from Shaniaís team inviting me to play drums on Shania Twainsís ďRock This CountryĒ tour. I audibly screamed. The rest is history.

You are pretty much thrown about all over the stage. You are pulled up high, pushed across the stage Ė how did you feel when they told you that is what would be happening to you and your drumset whilst drumming?

Ha! When they first told me that they were thinking about having a drum set fly above the stage, I was like, ďbring it on.Ē A part of me didnít believe it until I actually saw it in person in Vancouver for production rehearsals. Even then, Iím like ďthis is crazy, but amazing.Ē

Was it scary at first or just exciting?

It was mostly excitement with a hair of ďoh ****Ē! It took a few days to get used to the harness and the height. Because of how high I am, we had to take extra safety precautions. Everything on the kit is tethered to the platform. My drum sticks are even tethered around my wrists so I donít drop them on the boss! Ha!

It must be pretty cool to start the show off too. Has it been easy to sneak onto the B Stage or have people always noticed?

Itís always fun walking to the B stage. I like to get out there about 15 minutes before the show starts so I can warm up and watch the people. At the beginning of the show, most of the fans donít know who I am yet, but as I walk back to the main stage after my intro, I get a wave of high fives and screams!

After the show is over, if I end up going through the audience at all, I get completely mobbed and people freak out. I like watching the same people who didnít know me at all while I walked through the audience before the show now completely freak out when they see me. I love gaining new fans. Iím so honored.

Tell us about the drumset you used on the tour, what the whole set includes, what make it is and anything else that may be helpful.

Fun fact, I actually have two complete copies of my main drum set. One that rolls around on stage and another that flies in the air on a platform. The one in the air is hidden above the stage until I need it about half way through the show. At that point, the one on the floor is taken apart behind the stage and put into cases for the next show. Iíve proudly played Gretsch drums for all of my professional career. Itís a six piece drum kit with eight cymbals. My drum technician is Colin Strahm (aka Gravy), he sets up and tunes both of my main drum kits and the plethora of other drum hardware around the stage.

Is it your own equipment that you bring over?

Yes! I am endorsed by Gretsch drums, Ahead drum sticks, TRX cymbals, and Remo drum heads. They supply all the gear I need on tour.

Is there a certain pattern you stick to every night on the solo segments or is it completely improvised?

I was given a certain time period to fill with my drum solo, so at the beginning of rehearsals I wrote the two solos that you hear me play now. I pretty much stick to it, but I sometimes add things here and there if Iím feeling saucy. When I wrote it, it was important to me that it built up musically and also kept the audience entertained. Even I get bored sometimes during drum solos!

Do you have any pre show rituals?

Yes! An hour before the show I go in ďlock down.Ē I put my phone away and go in the band dressing room to start stretching. I stretch my whole body, focusing on my personal problem areas that are affected by drumming. I had pain in both of my wrists for almost two years prior to this tour. I ended up having carpal tunnel release surgery on both wrists and now Iím currently 100% pain free Ė Iíve never played better! I donít take this for granted, so I make sure to continue to do the exercises that my physical therapist prescribed. After I feel limber and ready to do a show, Iíll get dressed in my wardrobe and meet my tech backstage about 15 minutes before show time. He escorts me to the B stage. Once I get there, I have a pair of drum sticks and a practice padĖI just basically run through my basic rudiments and get my hands ready to play for two hours! I get psyched up watching the people and talking to everyone that works at front of house.

Shania has such a great team on tour with her Ė the band, the dancers, everyone. It seems like a very close group of friends?

Everyone is like a big family on Shania! Since I joined in 2015, the band and crew have been just wonderful mentors, inspirations, and friends to me. The dancers were a new addition in the 2018 NOW tour and theyíve all been pretty bad ass. They are incredible. I also happen to be dating one of them. Ha!

What have the responses been like for you after the shows via social media? I keep seeing people rave about you. That must be a nice feeling because the musicians are such an integral part of a live show but fans can often just focus on the main artist.

Itís been incredible. I couldíve never imagined the response Iíve been getting. For this show, Shania has put me out front and trusted me a lot more than last tour and I think people are noticing. I give my all and try to make Shania and her fans proud every night. I know that many people in the audience have never seen Shania live or will never see her again so itís a big responsibility and very humbling.

Have you had a chance to site see over here? If so where have you been?

Yes! Thankfully weíve had a few off days while in the UK. We spent quite a bit of time in London last summer when we were doing the promo run for the NOW album and tour. I love it.

Have you been to the UK before?

Iíve been to the UK many times working with various artists over the years. Iíve done all the classic tourist-y London things, but Iíve enjoyed more simply exploring the city. Iíve also visited surrounding castles like Windsor. Apart from work, I still havenít explored all of the UK, though. I plan on coming back at some point for sure.

What do you do in your down time between shows?

Ah, it depends! I try to take it easy before a show, always. That comes number one. Sometimes, we have days off in the middle of nowhere, but often times we find ourselves smack in the city center. Iíll look up on my phone to see whatís around and just go walking, do some shopping, find some amazing food, and have a relaxing day off.

Tell us a little bit about your background Ė Where you are from and what made you want to become a drummer? How long have you been playing?

I was born and raised about 30 minutes outside of New York City in the small town of Port Washington in the United States. Both of my parents are professional musicians so I was surrounded by it my whole life. Originally my Dad, whoís an electric violinist (Mark Wood, worth a google), wanted me to play violin. That lasted all of five seconds. I gravitated towards the drums pretty early on after watching the drummer in my Dadís band. I jammed on pots and pans and made a bunch of noise. I started officially playing at age 7. So as of writing this, itís been 15 years behind the kit. Iím mostly self taught but I did have several key teaching moments from mentors over the years.

Can you play any other instruments? Sing? Write music?

Piano has turned into my second musical love. During my off time, Iíll break out my keyboard and just play. I love the electronic aspect of it, so I also like designing sounds and using the keyboard to execute ideas in my head.

Despite what my Mom says, I am not a very good singer. But, I did happen to sing on a swimming commercial for a company called Safety Swim when I was a kid. Currently Iíve been singing the soundtrack to Hamilton non-stop. Itís on my list though to improve at some pointÖ

I do write music! Iíve only released one song to date though! Itís called ďSomnium.Ē Itís a little gem of mine that I wrote back in 2012 when I was 16. Itís heavy metal. This is also something on my list to continue doing. Eventually Iíd love to release an EP of my own music, but Iíve been busy, which I canít complain about!

Learning to play the drums is hard to be quiet, did you ever practise at home? Pull all nighters?

This is true. While I couldnít play drums at all hours, I watched videos, played on a quiet practice pad, or thought about drums almost 24/7. I discovered who I liked to listen to and what I aspired to be like during this time. When I was old enough and began getting serious, my parents surprised me with an electronic drum set. I preferred to make noise on my acoustic drums though.

I love my parents for dealing with my suckingÖvery loudlyÖfor many years. But their auditory investment has paid off, Iíd say.

Tell us about some of your other projects as you were part of Americaís Got Talent team?

Iíve been so lucky. Other than Shania, some of my more notable projects have been working with Gwen Stefani, Americaís Got Talent, and Grace VanderWaal, who I worked with before and after she won Americaís Got Talent in 2016.

Americaís Got Talent was my official first professional opportunity in 2014 after working for many years with my parents. I played for the more edgy ďrockĒ musical contestants and was featured quite a bit. I just went crazy on stage, performing my ass off, and no one ever told me to tone it down. I think someone commented online once ďis this drummer super happy or on drugs?Ē I suppose thatís a compliment! I think itís kind of funny!

After the season ended that year, I went on to be in the house band for the AGT Live! Las Vegas residency. Of course Shania happened in 2015, but I continue to work with Americaís Got Talent on their live season when Iím available.

How does it differ from playing for TV and live shows?

Oh man, itís a different beast. Playing on live TV in front of 5-10 million people is an incomparable rush. Especially when hearing the director say ď5, 4, 3, 2, 1 applause applause applauseĒ and the camera indicators turn red indicating we are live. Because itís a talent show, the acts are limited to 90 seconds, so it goes by pretty quickly. Sometimes Iíd do several acts a night depending on who went through and what they needed. After I left the stage, I would return to the dressing room with a flood of texts from my friends asking ďwere you just on TV?Ē Or ďI was flipping through the channels and I was like hey thatís Elijah!Ē Itís also such a tremendously wonderful group of people, I would be honored to work for them again.

Have you ever been a part of any session playing or recorded music?

I personally prefer the live medium so I havenít really done too many session recordings outside of my personal projects. But I have some new music Iíve played on that I am excited to share soonÖ.

What have you planned after Shania Now?

Sleep. Ha! I plan to take a little bit of time off then Iím gearing up for whatever 2019 holds for me. Itís always exciting as I have irons in the fire.

What is on your bucket list?

Playing drums for Paul McCartney is at the top of the list. Heís been such a musical catalyst for me and his drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. is also a huge inspiration to me.

Also going to space. Elon Musk, if youíre reading this; Iím in.

If you could have a live stage ďDrum offĒ with one or more drummers, who is in the dream team? I hope Animal from the muppets is on the list haha.

As Iíve been compared to Animal from the Muppets, letís do it. I also see the headlineÖ ďDave Grohl and Elijah Wood drum off.Ē

What advice would you give to any aspiring drummers out there? What is a good affordable start off drum set?

Just keep playing, listening, watching, and learning. Practicing is not just behind the kit. To be a good drummer, you also have to be a good musician. Itís important to note that you donít have to have dreams of becoming a professional musician to take up music. Music makes you smarter and helps in all aspects of life. I think everyone should have a creative outlet, regardless of their career path.

Gretsch offers some affordable options, but Iíd always say your local music store is the best bet. Itís great to have someone in person that can direct you to the right instrument for you. Because sometimes the sound level can be prohibitive, electronic drums have become cheaper and is definitely worth the research if you live in an apartment or where noise is an issue.

I always tell serious up and coming musicians and artists that it takes 10,000 hours to master your craft. Donít let this number scare you, but instead let it inspire you to constantly work towards it.

Thanks so much for chatting today. It is so nice to come away from a show and be taken by the musicians as they are of course such an integral part of the show. I keep hearing people rave about you too which is brilliant.

Take care and hope to see you play again soon. Enjoy O2 Arena.

Find out more about Elijah here:

Follow Elijah on Socials @elijahwoodmusic