Self-taught drummer and Owensboro native Christopher Lee seemed to be drawn to rhythm and beat as he remembered and was sure he had found his niche early on.
“I’ve always been a very fast-paced kid,” Lee said. “I did the typical pots and pans and stuff like that and I think I always knew…drums would be my thing. I feel like I know I’ll always be a drummer.
Lee, 32, took drums and music more seriously toward his fourth year at Burns Elementary School after being taught by music teacher John Shortt and being part of the “Orffestra” program, which Lee described as “a series of boxes of different sizes. (which) have great marimba bars.
“It was just making music. It’s a bunch of different people coming together in different sections to basically play a piece of marimba,” Lee said. “…It was really my first chance to …use the rhythm I always had when I was a kid….”
As a student at Apollo High School, Lee was heavily involved in music programs such as marching and jazz bands, which is where the idea of getting into music as part of his gain -bread began to take shape.
Around this time, Lee began attending local shows at venues like The Brothers Pizza to watch original music and was playing in worship bands at the Owensboro Christian Church, before moving on to Settle Memorial United Methodist Church.
“It was always kind of a thing on my mind….” Lee said. “…(The) drums (was) exactly what I did. For example, even in my spare time, I would spend hours playing the drums. And I think I always knew it would be something I had been pursuing.
However, Lee admits he wasn’t focused on a career in music when he graduated from Apollo in 2008 and initially went on to study nursing at the University of Louisville. .
But the music was still there, with Lee taking a trip to Europe with The Kentucky Ambassadors of Music program where he performed in the symphony band’s percussion section at concerts in five different countries.
The “surreal” experience made Lee reflect on pursuing his musical ambitions and not “putting it aside”.
Lee returned to Owensboro and took classes at Owensboro Community Technical College and felt the need to take music to the next level by beginning to practice his craft more regularly.
It wasn’t until his early twenties that Lee started his first blues, country and southern rock band The Bourbon Barrel Band with a few fellow musicians, before joining local musician Josh Merritt for The Josh Merritt Band a few years later. The latter band performed at Big O Music Fest in 2014 with The Charlie Daniels Band and Hank Williams, Jr. performing.
“As you get older and you get to 21, you can get into bars and stuff and you can really start to have places around town to play,” Lee said. . “I think that was when I was like, ‘Oh, this is for me. It’s my thing. ”
Lee also began learning to harmonize as a backing vocalist after being inspired by the works of Don Henley of the Eagles and Levon Helm of The Band, which he described as “big business”.
“I thought it was always super cool of them to…double up and do two different things at the same time,” Lee said.
Lee continued to play with Merritt over the years, as he also began performing as part of musician Andy Brasher’s live band, while also playing in the Christ Community Church of Owensboro worship band. over the past 10 years.
Lee kept busy, such as playing opening slots again for Daniels and Kentucky-native country singer-songwriter Chris Knight.
He was also able to expand his musical talents to other parts of the country with performances at the Flora-Bama Lounge and Package in Perdido Key, Florida, and made regular trips to Iowa and Nebraska.
“It’s just cool to be able to go somewhere outside of your comfort zone; somewhere so far… from my home and being able to perform for other people,” Lee said.
Lee has even diversified his musical genres and joined the lineup of WhytheyCame, a local indie rock band that Lee used to watch play when he was in high school and is currently in production for a new record.
“It was and still is super cool,” Lee said. “Everyone in this group is really great people; they are fun to hang out with, they are fun to be around….
Primarily a live drummer and backing vocalist, Lee notes that playing drums for studio recordings is a different animal than some may not realize and discusses playing with band members more freely. and a real-time audience.
“I think the biggest difference is the fact that a lot of people don’t do live recordings anymore. … You’re in separate booths and often they’ll record scratch tracks for a drummer to play and a bassist and once you’ve finished the rhythm section they come back and overdub the guitars. said Lee. “Playing live – you’re right there. You’re all there in the same room and you have a chance to feel everyone. There’s a certain thing that happens on stage that…is hard to capture in the studio…
“I think Jerry Garcia said, ‘Working in the studio is like building a ship in a bottle. Playing live is like having a rowboat on the ocean, you know? It’s like this are very different dynamics.
Although Lee continues to preoccupy himself with weekly sets and pickup gigs, the love of drums and music has not changed.
“I think the drums themselves give me purpose,” Lee said. “I have always felt…called to do this. Music means everything to me. There is no time when you will not find me alone without listening to music or humming or playing on the furniture with my hands…. It’s in my brain; it does not turn off…”
And he found his perfect place on the throne, ready to make some noise.
“The simplest description is (I feel) right at home…” Lee said. “Between muscle memory and just the mental rehearsal of doing this for so long. He feels good; it feels effortless, almost. Every time I play behind a kit – it feels good; it feels good.