Crazy Lucky


Better than EzraBetter Than Ezra comes to town.

by Lindsey Lowe

 

“Early in childhood you gravitate toward the things that you are most passionate about. Once you have the opportunity to do what you love for a living, there isn’t really any other choice,” says Tom Drummond, founding member and bass player for alt-pop group Better Than Ezra. Drummond has been lucky to do what he loves (for a living!) for nearly three decades. The band, which included Drummond and his original fellow members, vocalist and guitarist Kevin Griffin, drummer Cary Bonnecaze, and guitarist Joel Rundell was formed in 1988, when the original members attended Louisiana State University. “Short [story] is that I saw an ad in the student newspaper for a band looking for a bass player. Over 20 years later, we are still going strong,” Drummond says. In 1996, Bonnecaze left the band, and was replaced by Travis McNabb, who was a part of it until 2009, and current drummer Michael Jerome took over.

The band’s first release was a cassette demo, Chimes Street Demo, circulated in 1988; it wasn’t an official release, but it’s now sought-after by Ezra fans. Their first album, Surprise, was released in 1990. In 1993, they released their first nationally distributed album, Deluxe, with their own indie label, Swell Records. In 1995, they were signed to Elektra Records, who rereleased Deluxe. Their single “Good” reached No. 1 on Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart and the album surged to platinum status. Since then, Better Than Ezra has released seven records. They’re touring for their most recent album, All Together Now, released this year, and will be stopping in Birmingham on Nov. 23 at Iron City. “Birmingham was one of the first cities we played in! So it is always great to come back because you have been a supporter since the beginning,” Drummond says. “We can not thank y’all enough and hope you enjoy the show! We are incorporating new music from our new album, and of course [will] mix in some classic Ezra.”

Twenty-five years ago, there was no iTunes, no Spotify, no iPods; Drummond says it’s been quite the journey as the band has learned how to shift as the music industry does. “The most challenging aspect is to stay relevant in an ever-changing industry. It is probably easier to get to a certain spot in the music industry (not that it is easy) than to maintain it over years, if not decades,” he explains. “I think it is important to also challenge yourself to explore other opportunities. In addition to Better Than Ezra, I like to work with young and aspiring musicians because they have a fresh perspective on life and music. I can not only share my experiences and knowledge with them, but they also help me keep up with what is going on now.”

In 2000, Better Than Ezra created what is now an annual golf fundraiser, the Ezra Open; that year, it provided thousands of dollars for the Louisiana Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Five years later, the Ezra Open had to be postponed because of the effects of Hurricane Katrina, but the event spurred the opening of the House that Ezra Built, which worked to get people (including first responders) back into their homes after the tragedy. In 2006, $185,000 was raised toward this cause. The Better Than Ezra Foundation continues to grow its fundraising capabilities and contribute to its beloved Louisiana communities.

The group understands now, perhaps more than ever, the wonder of being on stage, playing music for a group of people. “The best part is the energy on stage and what you share with the audience,” Drummond says. “It’s all about having a good time. It is nice to be a snapshot in people’s lives, whether it is a lyric or one of our songs that takes a person back to a particular time, place, or event and reminds them of that moment forever. That’s pretty cool.”

From here, Drummond says the group is interested in going, “Up, baby, up!” But as a 90s kid who grew up singing along with “Good,” I’d say that Better Than Ezra’s music is classic, and that we’re all crazy lucky that they’re still here sharing it with us. And I’d suggest to Drummond that they’ve made it. But perhaps that’s the secret to their success—with sights on going up, you’ll probably get there.

 

Upcoming Events

11/14: Charlie Mars at Sound & Page. For fans of Apache Relay, The Barr Brothers, and Ben Sollee.

11/23: John Mark McMillan at Workplay. For fans of Judah & the Lion, Gungor, and Will Raegan.

12/7: John Hiatt at Iron City. For fans of Jackson Browne, The Band, and Elvis Costello.

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