Artist Interviews

Drummer Camille Gainer Jones reps her borough on ‘A Girl From Queens’

Tue., Jun. 11, 2013 2:35 PM EST
by Stereo Williams

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Camille Gainer Jones is one of the most gifted drummers in music. Jones has shared the stage with a host of musical luminaries; ranging from pop stars like Alicia Keys to jazz great Roy Ayers to hip-hop icons, The Juice Crew. She counts her early experiences with Ayers, in particular, as a major moment in part of her crash course on being a professional musician. “One of my first professional gigs was Tom Browne and Roy Ayers,” she says with a chuckle.

In working with Ayers, “The Drummette” learned the flexibility, professionalism and knowledge that it takes to gig. “You have to know the music,” she says, and knowing the music has never been a problem for the talented instrumentalist from Queens. She says she understood what drumming was going to mean for her life at a very early age. “I knew day one,” says Jones. “My parents played instruments–piano, violin guitar, etc. They got me drums for my birthday and that was it for me. I knew before I even tried them but after I got them there was no turning back.”

Now, Jones is realizing her dreams. Having played with some of music’s most respected artists, she’s now embarking on another facet of her musical journey with the release of A Girl From Queens. The album is a tribute to her home borough, as filtered through her artistic experiences and the rich artistic heritage of Queens. “[It’s inspired by] my coming up in Queens, home of the basement band,” she explains. “[There’s] a band on every block. I had wonderful experiences at the time when I was growing up.”

Citing legends like Count Basie and Billie Holiday as well as the native hip-hop icons like Run-D.M.C. and Ja Rule, the music of Queens is front and center and obviously at the heart of Camille Gainer Jones.

Another major impact on Jones as a professional has been percussion guru, Michael Carvin. “[He’s] definitely one of my musical fathers,” she reveals; and says that she benefited greatly from seeing him work.” [He was] in the business at a high level, playing at a high level, with the top artists.  He taught me the business–as far as just showing me the tools. [I got to meet] a lot of people that I normally would’ve never met. [He taught me] how to dress, what to look for in a gig, sight-reading, and marketing. Having your instrument together and being on time. Things I wouldn’t have gotten hanging out with people my own age.” And now, she’s actually producing work for Carvin. “The relationship has continued,” she says. “Even past being a student.”

With so many accomplishments under her belt, Jones still has much to do in her musical journey. Prince, Bonnie Raitt and Chaka Khan are among the artists at the top of her professional “bucket list.” She acknowledges that the road isn’t easy, but it’s more than worth it when you truly know you’re doing what you were meant to do.

It’s just love,” Jones shares. “To do this you have got to have love for what you do. There are periods where nothing happens—nothing good. You have to weather those storms.”

But despite the up-and-down nature of the business, Jones has never lost sight of the love. “It’s almost like a drug or something,” she says with a laugh. “You become addicted to it—the creativity of it. Every time you sit down, you’re creating something out of nothing. Being creative, spiritually, is what I enjoy. That’s the aspect that I enjoy most of all.”

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