Debbie Flood has been performing since age 13. She’s an accomplished musician who has toured nationally and locally for three decades. Flood grew up in New Jersey, and was exposed to many musical genres at young age, ranging from marching band to orchestra/pit orchestra to jazz band to rock bands. Early in her playing she would spend hours and hours practicing by listening to records and playing along to her favorite bands.
She has toured with Roni Lee, who has a Gold album for her work with Joan Jett And The Runaways. The highlight of the tours with Roni was working with the GRRRRLLLSS ROCK organization located in Portland, Oregon, inspiring a new generation of female musicians. Flood has been a longtime advocate for woman and girl musicians. She also supports Richmond Girls Rock.
In January 2019, Debbie moved to Nashville, to continue pursuing a career in music. During that time she has also worked with some incredible country artists, including Karen Waldrup, Liz Moriondo, Lucy Angel, and Tim Lynch Band.
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What kind of gear do you use?
I have a lot of gear, which I have listed below. Nowadays, I think if you want to play professionally you must incorporate some form of hybrid (electronics) and triggers into your kit. I have some gigs where I have to run backing tracks and this requires computers and software. Who knew a drummer had to be so tech savvy?
Drums: DW Collectors Broken Glass/Maple 10″, 12″, 16″, 22″; DW Edge Snare (maple) 14″ x 6″; DW Performance Drums Acrylic 8″, 10″, 12″, 16″, 18″, 22″; Baltimore snare 13″ x 6″; Pork Pie 14″ x 6″; DW Performance Acrylic 14″ x 5″
Electronics: Roland SPD-30; Roland SPD1- Electra; Roland SPD1 Kick; Roland SPD-SX Limited Edition
Cymbals: Paiste 10″ Signature Splash Crash; Paiste 12″ Signature Splash Crash; Paiste 16″ Signature Series Full Crash; Paiste 16″ Sound Formula Crash; Bosphorus 16″ Collectors Series Crash; Paiste 17″ Signature Series Crash; Paiste 18″ Signature Series Crash; Paiste 14″ Signature Hi Hats; Paiste 22″ 602 Crash; Istanbul Agap 15″ Traditional Hi-Hats; Instabul Agap 20″ Traditional Crash Ride; Zildjian 15″ Sweet K Hi-Hats; Zildjian 20″ Traditional Ride
Inner Ear Monitors: UE8 Ultimate Ears
Triggers: KT-10 Kick Trigger
Sticks: Vic Firth 8D; Vic Firth- 5B Greg Bissonette series; Vic Firth mallets and brushes
Heads: Evans EC2 (toms); Evans Genera Dry (snare); Kick Evans EMAD
Accessories: JunkHat by Baldman Percussion; MacBook Pro; Ableton Live; Protools; AA Meinl Subwoofer Cajon
What’s your setup?
I have different configurations depending on the music I am playing. My kit ranges from four to seven pieces and anywhere in between. The most unusual part of my setup is having two rides. I am all about tones these days.
Do you have endorsements?
What bands/groups do you perform with, if any?
I have performed in almost 30 bands in my career. Currently I play with Tim Lynch (March 2019-present), Prince Parker (June 2019-present), and Karen Waldrup (March 2019-present).
What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?
This is a funny story but true. I was a serious ice skater and I injured myself. One of my friends was taking drum lessons and her parents were irritated by it so I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to irritate my own parents? So I asked my mom if I could take lessons. I was immediately hooked. All I wanted to do was play drums, and after my homework was done, I played until bedtime. I am so grateful my mother supported my playing. For that I will be forever grateful.
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
This question is so difficult. Buddy Rich, for his creativity, independence, and speed. John Bonham, for his pocket with innovative fills and also proving that playing less is more. Eric Moore and Chris “Pat” Bounds, for their chops. And Sheila E., for giving women visibility in the drumming world. She kicks it for sure.
How do you practice? Do you have a routine?
When I practice I always use a metronome. I am currently working on independence and using the book The New Breed by Gary Chester. This is opening up new ways for me to play by creating more flexibility around the kit.
When I am practicing, if I find myself not being able to play something, I will break it down and go very slow and work on speeding the tempo up. If I get too frustrated, I will take a 15–30 minute break and come right back to it. I find taking a break will help me to break through a major stumbling block. I may even do breathing exercises to relax.
Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you’d like to share with Drum readers?
I just went to a Benny Greb clinic here in Nashville last week and he said something that was so simple but profound. He said basically if you are trying to play like Steve Gadd you are not him, so you will never be able to do that, but in learning to just be yourself, you know that there is really no such thing as perfection. Basically he was saying find your own style and own it. We are all our worst critics. Be grateful for playing. If you ever get a chance to see him, do. Definitely worth your time.
As for technical tips, I learned on the snare first, then moved to kit. While this may not be for everyone, learning rudiments has helped me on the kit in so many ways.
As artists, the goal post for “success” is always moving. There’s not one “I made it!” point. How do you think about and define success?
Great question. I have struggled with what success in drumming is my whole life. I would say at first I thought it was to play in front of huge crowds, which is still a goal (and I have played in front of very large crowds already). However, I have begun to realize more and more what music is to me personally and I would say that no matter what size of the crowd, if I have made one person experience the joy that music can bring—either because they are dancing or singing or otherwise having a great time—then I have succeeded. Seeing people move and groove! The love the music brings out, I think that is the best form of success. Making others feel good through music.
Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?
“Work hard, play hard!” And, “To be early is to be on time.”
When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?
I create beats. I find this process fascinating. Usually I will go up to my studio and just start playing and see what happens. I will find moments that are incredible and moments that are horrible and everywhere in between, but I love to build on each moment, to take what I like and discard the parts I do not. I save all of it though, as I may come back later and actually like something I disliked last week.
How important is failure in making music/performing?
Failure is no fun, but I think it is a motivator for me. The key is learning from mistakes and always being really prepared for a gig so that the mistakes are minimal. Stuff happens live but learning to keep moving through them is key to making that moment no big deal.
Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
Do not listen to anyone who says you cannot do it or that girls don’t play drums. You can do or be whatever you want if you work hard at it. Drumming is so fun but to get really good takes a lot of work and time. Put in the work and you will realize you actually can do it. If it’s what you want to do never give up. There are moments of disappointment that can make it so hard but if you want it, just do it. Never stop!
Also, there is so much debate over being self-taught vs taking lessons. I was fortunate that I was highly trained at a young age, as my family had the means to give me that. For some, that might not be possible but that should not be a deterrent. Things like Drumeo, YouTube, and Drum Channel exist now and are great ways to figure it out. I do recommend taking lessons though, if you can. I have been fortunate to take lessons from some really well-known drummers and that has helped me so much. I get something from each drummer I interact with as well. Go to shows, pay attention to what the drummer is doing. Going to concerts for me is so fun, but it is also a drum lesson, too.
If you had to put together a school or resources for would-be drummers, what would the training include?
Teaching that include: rudiments, fills, stick control, independence, pocket (playing in time is soooo important), and the importance of musicality, which means listen to the music around you and find your place in it do not overplay or underplay.