Q’s With A Pollstar Live! Panelist: All-Star Drummer Steve Ferrone To Share Stories From The Road

– Steve Ferrone

Steve Ferrone’s resumé is lined with legends: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Average White Band, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Chaka Khan, Bee Gees and many, many others.

The well-traveled drummer has logged countless hours on the road and will be dipping into his treasure trove of hilarious and inspiring stories for the “I’m With The Band: The Trials and Tribulations of a Touring Musician” panel Feb. 12 during Pollstar Live!.

Ferrone graciously took some time to chat with Pollstar to let people know what to expect at his panel, and shared a brief taste of what is sure to be an educational and entertaining discussion.

Pollstar: What are most looking forward to about your Life Of A Touring Musician panel? 
Steve Ferrone: I always enjoy when people ask questions and I can answer. I’ve got a lot of stories, a lot of examples about being on the road, traveling being on the road, most of them positive. It’s always fun. People like to hear the inside stories from where I sit, and it’s enjoyable when they find out the people they are such big fans of are really good, cool people.
For example: Some years ago, I went to do a session and was driving back to London. I stopped to get some gas, wasn’t too far away from Henley[-on-Thames]. So I gave George Harrison a call, he said “Why don’t you come over to the house. My wife’s away it’s just me and my son Dhani.”
So, I drove over to his castle, Friar Park, he took us in and they were making French-fry sandwiches. He called them chip patties. He had a great way of making people feel comfortable, even in an environment where you really shouldn’t.
Obviously, you have seen live music has take on more and more significance in the past 20 years. Do you think the life touring musicians has improved, worsened, or is it more of the same?
Well, if you’re new and you haven’t done it before there’s a pretty good chance it’s gonna be fucked up. But if you’re experienced there’s things you can do to adjust. People will always try to work you into the fucking ground. It’s stuff that you learn about how many shows you can do and still give a good performance. You have to tell people that a day off is not a travel day. When you need a day to rest, it’s a rest day, you don’t do anything else.
I think a lot of people will have you out there when you’re 16-17 playing 5 or 6 shows a week just to make as much money out of it as you can, but you’ll burn out. Once you get old and more seasoned you don’t do that. But it is fun to be out on the road, it’s better than working for a living. [laughs]

As a musician what were some of your biggest accomplishments this year? 

Tom Petty
– Steve Ferrone
takes the stage at last year’s Pollstar Awards, which saw Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers pick up multiple major awards.

I stayed sober! [laughs] I got through the year without drinking. 
I did a really a fun gig [in celebration of Porsche’s 70th anniversary] with Dhani Harrison, Bob Weir, Benmont Tench, Seal. 
I played with Trevor Horn in London, those gigs were a lot of fun. I got to play with my friend who used to play in Dire Straits, with the guys that played [Dire Straits music] with Mark [Knopfler]. It was really fun. 
What was the live show or shows that most changed your life and why?
There was a gig that I did with Average White Band at the old Long Beach Arena. Robbie McIntosh passed away and I was subbing that gig. AWB was looking for a drummer but I was on contract with a band called Bloodstone. We went and played this gig and it was a bit difficult because with AWB, people weren’t expecting a bunch of white guys to play soul music. 
So when five white guys and I walked out on stage. They were like “Wow, let’s see if these guys can really play,” but it ended up being a really great show. After the show this little guy ended up walking up to me, very dapper, well dressed, he said “You’re in the band, you need to be in this band.” 
I told him “I’d like to but I’m under contract with this other band.”
He told me: “You’re out of that contract and you’re in this band,” and walked off.
I said: “Who is that guy?” Someone told me “That’s Ahmet Ertegun, the head of Atlantic Records.” 
That was a life changing moment. I ended up going to New York to work with Arif Mardin, and I started to do sessions. I learned about how to be a studio musician, about what it took to make a record.