We met Andrew Ehrenzeller at Open Skies Festival in Holland (2017) when he was leading worship there. Andrew is a really warm and open man of God, whose heart is to lead people to the heart of the Father. His lyrics are deep and his music is strong and compelling. We asked Andrew a few questions about his experience with drummers and we hope you enjoy his input and advice!
How can a drummer serve you best musically?
Preparation is always a good thing. If you’re gonna go from being an amateur to a professional, the switch is a mindset. You have to switch your thinking to: I’m doing this for a living, I’m gonna serve my gifting, gifting that God has given me, I’m gonna serve it by being dilligent and treating every person that I play for as I’m even doing it for the Lord, unto Jesus. And preparation is key. If you’re playing with a musician or an artist or a singer, you need to know their music and spend time with it, not just in your head, but let it get into your heart. So it’s important for a drummer to not just be a gigging drummer, but to align himself or herself with people who they can minister to and be ministered to by. It’s a relationship, music is a conversation, it’s not just performing a soulless, sterile thing, it’s very alive so whatever you align yourself with you’re going to be given and receiving. So it’s important for a drummer to be dilligent and prepared and to honour the people they are playing with, but also to be wise in who you choose to be with, because there is a conversation and there is relationship that forms and you end up taking on those characteristics, so align yourself with good people. That’s basically the gist.
What are you looking for in the character of a drummer?
Drummers tend to be wild dudes, they have that by nature. They’re different than bass players, they’re usually like ‘let me just lay down the groove, let me be chill’, but drummers tend to be the wild guys. I think what I look for in a drummer is someone who is humble, teachable, even if they’ve got amazing chops and can play everything, and someone who’s willing to learn something different. Not like, play their own style but play the style that’s appropriate to the artist or the song. I also look for someone who is mature, even if they are young, and able to tame their own soul, because music and worship is very alive and you have to learn how to steward you own life. So someone who’s mature, humble and teachable.
How do you communicate with a drummer on stage?
When it comes to the actual performing of my music, I don’t approach it from this perfectionistic mindset, like we need to go and execute something that we’ve rehearsed. I actually don’t like rehearsing. It’s necessary at times because you need to be prepared and you need to know the music, but I think that has to happen individually, and then when you get into an environment where you’re actually playing together, I prefer to not rehearse to much, cause I like spontaneity of what happens when we play together. I don’t think I ever play the same song twice. Every time I perform one of my own songs, it tends to be different in nature, especially if there’s different players, and I like that. So when I’m on stage for example, I’m okay with just talking to the drummer right on the stage, because the whole thing that’s happening is not just me performing for people, it’s actually me and my band, and our responsibility is to create and atmosphere and an environment where our conversation begins to included the whole room with the goal being that we hear the Father’s voice. We wanna hear the Father’s voice in our songs, but often times we go in and abandon a lot of our songs that we planned to do, because we get in to this spontaneous type of section, and then we feel like we’ve gone on a journey. So it’s less about performing songs, it’s more about going on a journey together and including everyone in the journey and all of us hearing from the Father.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few drummers in my life that just know me and anticipate well, so I would even add that to the ‘drummer question’. A drummer who can anticipate what’s next and not just be so focused on what they’re trying to accomplish, but can really anticipate where people are going. Great drummer’s do that, I mean, I think of like any kind of jazz drummer, Al Sergel is a great example, he does that really well, Dave Matthews Band, Carter Beauford, he’s that kind of drummer, he’s the leader. Drummers are leaders by their role, by their nature, and have to learn how to anticipate where things are going as well.
When you prepare for a set, are you looking for very specific grooves or fills for a drummer to play or do you think a drummer can have a certain freedom to play what he or she likes?
Yes and no. Both of them actually. Because I’m also an arrange, orchestrator and producer, I write a lot and I have that background, so when I compose a piece, I’m very intentional in what I put in certain places, so there’s that component where I expect: ‘I want you to play this’, but I always tell my drummer: ‘I want you to be you’. This is a good word: you have to learn the rules in order to break the rules. We have to learn the context in order to expend on the context. So yes and no.
What’s the best advice you would give to drummers?
Know Jesus! Follow Him. I would start there. You gotta develop your gift, you gotta practice, but most drummers don’t need to be told that, they do that anyway, because they love it. I think honestly all we do is worship, everything really is worship. Worship really begins when you wake up and it never ends, even when you’re sleeping. To know the Lord, to know Him, and not just to feel like you’re walking with Him, but to know that you’re walking with Him. When you have His confidence, you know nerves are good, I get nervous every time but I depend on that, if I’m not nervous then that’s an issue. I need to be nervous cause if it’s just me going up there doing my thing, than it’s just about me, Andrew, just relying on his own strength. I depend on You God to be able to sing right now cause I’m sick, and for drummers it’s the same thing: learn to depend, because there’s opportunities where you feel like you can do it on your own, and when you start to feel like ‘I’ve got this, I don’t need the help’, that’s when you need to get on your face and get on your knees cause that’s when you need Him the most. Stay in that place of humility and dependence, and really know Jesus, and enjoy Him there, it’s an enjoyable thing. And then the gifts and the talents, that stuff comes.