David Steinmetz was still finishing up his last semester of jazz studies at Humber College when he was offered what you might consider the opportunity of a lifetime.
Thanks to his accommodating teachers, Steinmetz was able to graduate a week early and head off on a European tour with young Canadian pop phenom Scott Helman. A few weeks later, he was invited to continue with a U.S. tour.
That’s led to a career as a professional drummer that so far has been concentrated on the pop world — Steinmetz does a lot of work with Scarborough’s rising R&B singer Myles Castello, while backing up several others — but he certainly hasn’t left the jazz scene behind. You can still catch the 22-year-old frequenting jazz clubs in Toronto with a variety of bands, and he plays regularly with a funk group called Steinwall.
“I try to spread out what type of music I play as much as I can — whether it’s jazz, hip hop, country, indie, pop or whatever,” he says.
Steinmetz participated in our Jazzology program in 2017. We asked him to tell us more about the exciting beginning to his music career, why support for young musicians is so important, and what his goals are for the future.
Tell us more about touring with Scott Helman. He’s a rising Canadian pop star, so getting to tour with him right out of college must have been huge.
I will never forget how lucky the timing was for getting called to Scott’s gig. I was able to coordinate with my teachers to do my exams a week early so that I’d be able to go on the European run. Scott was in between drummers at the time and I was able to play with him during that period for a European and American tour. We toured at that time as a duo act; I was playing a small hybrid setup between of acoustic and electric drums, running tracks to support the low end, while Scott sang and played guitar.
We were in Europe for three weeks, flying to a new city almost every day and playing almost every night. The highlight of that tour was our time in Spain. We played a Spanish music festival called Primavera Pop, which had three shows in Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga. The Madrid show was really special to me because it was my first time playing in an arena, and Barcelona was an amazing experience because it was a free outdoor festival that ended up going way over capacity.
You’ve gone on to work a lot with Myles Castello as well. What’s that been like?
Working with Myles has been so great. We met around three years ago in my audition for his band, but we have become close friends since then. He was the first artist that I ever ran tracks for, which was a huge learning curve for me, but it forced me to learn Ableton and now running tracks is something I do on a regular basis with multiple artists. Myles and I also write and produce music a lot together, which is great because we see eye to eye musically and he is a beast in the world of writing and producing.
We recently went on a Canadian tour to support Scott Helman, and on this tour we were able to share Scott’s tour bus. I have to say the tour bus experience is the superior mode of travel. With the stress of airports, cancellations and delays, or in the case of a van, having to do lots of driving and sitting around, the tour bus life is much less stressful. On the bus Myles and I were able to do a lot of writing in our down time. Myles has a new single coming out in July and an EP hopefully not too long after.
Any other notable names you’ve played for?
Artists who are coming into town and may not be able to bring out their full band sometimes call me to drum as well as run tracks for them. The artist-and-drummer duo setup has been getting more and more popular due to the ease of running backing tracks along with the performance. Acoustic drums are usually the hardest instrument to replicate the volume and sound quality through tracks, and they’re also visually appealing. One of the artists I’ve worked with this way is Faouzia, who is an incredible singer-songwriter out of Manitoba. She has one of the most incredible voices I have ever heard live and I really hope to work with her more. I also recently worked with a singer-songwriter out of Edmonton named Martin Kerr, and the French-Canadian artist MAIA.
You’re also keeping in touch with the Toronto jazz scene as well. Why is it important to you to diversify your playing?
One of the most important things for me is to be able to play as many styles of music as possible. This doesn’t just come from the standpoint of getting more gigs, but it’s more fun for me! Jazz is one of my favourite styles of music and I have so much fun playing it. Although I am gigging mostly in the pop scene at the moment, I still make sure to set up jam sessions with friends to play jazz, as well as accept as many jazz gigs as I can to keep up with my playing. Jazz is an important style technique-wise, and I feel like a lot of what I play has been influenced by it. At the same time, I think when I started playing pop more, the sound I got from hitting the drums improved. Each style will improve part of my playing, and that is why it’s so important to musically diversify.
Steinwall is a fun band that I have been a part of since the end of high school. It’s a 10-piece funk band and we play around Toronto quite often. We have an EP that will hopefully come out in the next few months. I’m also part of a band for corporate events and weddings called Nightingale Music Company, and I play with as many jazz bands as I can.
Tell us about your experience with the Jazzology program. What did you like about it?
I took part in the Jazzology program during my fourth year at Humber, and it was a really fun experience. I was able to pick five songs including one of my own to talk about and play on the program. Heather Bambrick had such a relaxed vibe during the interview, which made everything flow so easily.
How did the program help with your personal and professional development?
Jazzology was my first formal spoken interview, and it was great to experience what that’s like before getting out of school. One of the biggest highlights of my Jazzology experience was when I realized some listeners started to keep an eye out for me when I played in Toronto. At a few shows I played soon after the interview I had audience members tell me they came after hearing me speak on JAZZ.FM91, which was so nice to hear. When playing a jazz show, it’s so important to have people in the audience who want to keep in touch with the Toronto jazz scene, because they are the people who care about the music and will keep coming back.
Would you recommend it to other young musicians?
I would definitely recommend that young musicians take part in the Jazzology program. It is an opportunity for young musicians to have their own music played on a well-known and -loved radio station. It is quite hard for young jazz musicians to get their music heard and supported, but this program makes it possible.
Why is music education important to you?
It’s so important to expose children to music as well as other arts. It’s unfortunate that there are so many cuts being made to the TDSB and arts programs around Ontario, because this is where at least general interest, if not inspiration and passion for music, can start. Even for those who have a lower interest in it, there have been several studies indicating music in younger grades helps language development and reading, among other things. I was lucky to be surrounded by a musical family as a kid, but for those who aren’t, music in school can be so eye-opening.
Music education at a college level isn’t a necessity for some, although I think it is a very important outlet for many musicians. I know I got a lot out of my years at Humber College for my playing, and making a lot of great connections. For me, I think the structure of college helped me with my time-management skills when it comes to learning material for a deadline or getting charts ready for my own rehearsals. Also at Humber I was able to learn from some really inspiring musicians, such as Larnell Lewis, Mark Kelso, Mike Downes and so many more.
What about your plans for the future? Where would you like to be years down the road?
In the future my main goals are to produce more music, continue touring, and make progress in my own playing. Production-wise, I’m hoping to have a couple songs out this year, but a few years from now I’m hoping to be more active in the songwriter and producer fields. No matter where I am, I just hope that each day I can learn something new for my playing, or general knowledge of music and the music business.