Each month in 2021, we will be featuring a member of the worldwide Gretsch community as our spotlight “featured player” of the month!
Our featured drummer for September is . . . Ashlyn Shanafelt!
Ashlyn Shanafelt is an independent drummer based out of Austin, Texas. She spends her time playing gigs, teaching drums, and recording in studios around Austin. Ashlyn grew up in Levelland, Texas where she was in the concert band in middle school and junior high, marching band throughout high school, and a commercial music graduate at South Plains College. She moved to Fort Worth in 2013 where she taught drums and played live shows, all while working part time jobs. In 2019, she decided to take the plunge and move to Austin to be a full-time teacher and working musician. In just two years, Ashlyn has become a part of numerous working bands, including touring, playing festivals, recording for multiple artists, as well as work in the educational field.
We asked Ashlyn . . .
How old were you when you knew you were interested in becoming a musician?
When I was about 4 years old, I remember always going to our neighborhood friend’s backyard to play the drums that were in their shed. It would be in the middle of summer and I’d stay out there for hours playing his drums. I didn’t care how hot it was, I was obsessed. My parents got a “kid’s” drum set around that time and my only memory of it was setting it up in front of the TV in the living room and plugging in Hanson’s tour video on VCR. I played to all of their songs. Finally, when I was 10, my parents got me my first “real” drum set and it really took off from there.
Why did you choose Gretsch?
So many reasons! The history alone goes without saying. The fact that these drums have been around since the 1800s and still have that classic Gretsch look and sound, is pretty amazing!
Some of my favorite drummers play Gretsch drums. Mark Guiliana, Mike Johnston, Keith Carlock, Jason McGerr, Vinnie Colaiuta, Ash Soan . . . the list goes on! They all have an impact on my drumming in some way, and as I realized how their Gretsch drums played a part in that, I knew they were the right choice for me.
What Gretsch gear do you currently use?
My primary gigging kit is the Gretsch Catalina Jazz–18″ kick, 14″ floor tom, 12″ rack tom. I love that I’ve never actually used this kit for any actual jazz gigs. I’ve mostly played rock, blues, and country swing. This kick definitely has the power and punch of a 22″.
I record in my shed with my Gretsch Brooklyn in a Satin Black Metallic finish–20×14 kick, 14×14 floor tom (with an added second 14×14 floor tom), and a 12×8 rack tom. If you want it to be open and big or punchy and controlled, it can definitely do that.
I go back and forth between a 14×6.5 Hammered Black Steel snare and a 14×5.5 Brooklyn Standard snare. Both sound amazing in any setting.
If you’re sensing there may be a pattern of versatility here, you’re right. These drums can literally do it all!
Which musicians were the biggest influence on you and why?
Carter Beauford was the first musical influence I can remember. The way he played really stood out to me, with his hat work and blazing singles across the toms. Plus, the whole open-handed thing is pretty cool! I really enjoy listening to Nate Smith, Steve Jordan, Benny Greb, Ash Soan, Billy Cobham, Carter McLean . . . the groove masters! That has always fascinated me most; hearing a drummer sit in the pocket and just groove.
Lately, I’ve been influenced by progressive rock drummers like Matt Gartska, Bill Bruford, Anika Nilles, and Simon Phillips, to jazz drummers like Art Blakey, Tony Williams, and Max Roach. I try to take in as much as I can from all the greats and all the different styles of drumming. It’s something to be said when you can listen to a drummer and instantly be so inspired to want to go play drums, no matter what genre they’re playing.
How did you adjust and stay musical during the COVID-19 pandemic?
When Covid first hit, I didn’t play any live shows at all for maybe 3 months, which I was okay with because it gave me a chance to work on my own craft. I ended up renting out a storage unit (that I still have) and turned it into a drum room! For 3 solid months, I was recording and practicing every single day. It really gave me a chance to reinvent myself and fall back in love with the drums. It had been a goal of mine to start getting my social media in tip top shape, and finally having a place to play allowed me to do that.
Towards the end of 2020, I made the decision to get more studio work. I just wanted to track drums for people and help their songs come alive with my playing! Now, I have recorded for 5 different artists in Austin, and I’m well on my way to record for more.
You could be featured just like Ashlyn. Find out how!