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What were you doing in 2013? Rich was working with Sara Bareilles to help create the songs for the musical Waitress. Now what were you doing in April of 2019? Rich was touring with Steven Van Zandt (of The E Street Band) in Australia, New Zealand, and LA – where Bruce Springsteen made a surprise appearance.

Rich returned to the diner in May of 2019 to continue the gig he originated: Drummer for the Waitress band. Even after a few years away he was welcomed back like a best friend.

The band is on stage for the majority of the show. Are you all characters?

Whenever you’re on stage, you’re always a character ’cause someone’s gonna be looking at you. We definitely got direction, like “here you’re supposed to be engaged with the conversation at table X, or you saw the big bang happen to her when she dropped something so look over that way, or something heavy is going on at one table so look disinterested – be in your own world.”

Was the whole band game to perform like that on stage?

I think everybody loves being on stage. I mean, I’ll always take the job and work. I love to play music and whatever, but I’d much prefer being on stage.

Marques Walls of Be More Chill said he prefers playing next to the musicians backstage. Is it the same for you?

It’s impossible to be that connected when one guy’s on the fifth floor, two people are on the third floor, etc. I mean if you were going to sessions when everybody is isolated it’s cool, but when the band is together you feel the energy around you. It’s night and day.


The mug is a prop he uses during the show. If we labeled drum keys like that maybe we wouldn’t lose them as much.

Shoshana Bean (the lead actress when I saw the show) was so happy/surprised to see you, so I get the sense you’re just as connected to the cast.

Being with these actors walking by on stage, everybody knows your name. There’s another level of commitment to it because I’ve been here from the very beginning, as has most of the band. And you’re looking at your people – these are the actors – and they’re the muse for us. There’s a responsibility and ownership to it.

You said you were brought on before the songs were written. Please tell me Sara Bareilles is as nice as she seems.

She’s the best.

It started out just with us four: Sara, Rich, Nadia DiGiallonardo (Music Director/Piano), and Lee Nadel (Bass). They didn’t know what it was yet. For every song in the show, there are probably four that aren’t. Each one is great but they had changed for some reason. Sara would go home and write – it was bizarre, “We need another bah bah bah…” – and tomorrow or the next afternoon comes another brilliant masterpiece. You scratch your head like ‘I gotta be better and up my game.’

Then we’d go to my recording studio here in town and we would just flesh them out and work on them. “Let’s try kitchen utensils.” One day she came in with whisks and we’re banging spoons on the floor.

So this was a lot more collaborative than normal.

Sara was pretty adamant about not wanting to just hand her music off to some orchestrator who doesn’t know anything about her or what she’s about.

She’s used to being in a band and working with a band or doing records and it’s such a collaborative event. So as time went on, we finally put the band together and we’d go to a studio with a really big library and we’d just set up in a circle. We also had amps and we were recording everything. And you’d say, “Let’s try this. Well yeah that’s cool but what if the piano dropped out there and a guitar goes brrrrr.”

Everybody was just throwing ideas around and there was no ego in the room because everybody loved it. And Bareilles, just without even trying, brings the best out of everybody because that’s who she is in the room. That’s the biggest coup of life: If you can make everybody else in the room be better, you’re in a very elite class of people that can do that. We did that for about seven straight days.
 

Rich, the original band, and Bareilles all received an orchestrator credit because of the collaborative way they created the parts for each song. It’s rare for a Broadway show.

 

You’re doing your first show tonight since coming back from vacation. It’s gotta be in your blood by now.

I’ll always go through it. I’ll really run it down in my head. I’ll take a quick listen to the music. I haven’t read a chart in a long time; since the first preview, I was already off-book. I’m afraid if I looked at the book right now I’d probably be a wreck, even though it’s super accurate! But it’s in my DNA.

Favorite song to play?

I love playing “She Used to Be Mine.”

The ballad (and 11 o’clock showstopper)?

These singers that are up there…it’s a pretty special song. We all laugh about it, we still feel it.

Everybody plays fresh here. I’ve never been in here and watched anybody phone it in because they’ve played the show a thousand times. Ever. Not once. It’s incredible.

Crack the track:

“Bad Idea”, the Act One finale, is in 6/4 time. It’s an excellent test for your internal metronome and how well you count. The chorus has a pulse of 1+2+3+4+5+6+ with varying orchestrations per measure on the kit using your left foot on the hats. I hope you learn from it! (The drum part…not how to cheat on your spouse, which is what the song is about)

Inspired by:

Philly Joe Jones
Ringo Starr
Charley Watts
His Father
Hal Blaine
And many more

The artillery:

Rich uses and endorses:
Yamaha Drums & Hardware
Zildjian Cymbals
Vic Firth Sticks
Big Fat Snare
Ultimate Ears

Follow Rich:

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Website

Get tickets to Waitress (on Broadway until January 5, 2020, and on tour)

Feature Photo: Joan Marcus

Brian Cudina

Brian Cudina is a lyricist, writer, and drummer based in New York City. After studying sportscasting at college, he fell back into the music world to indulge in his love of drumming, musicals, songwriting, and STYX.

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