Making Better Art – Timothy Drury Combines His Love of Music and Visual Art
When art and music cross paths ...
Interview by Russ Loeffler
Timothy Drury was born and raised in Los Angeles. Timothy has been adding to his resume since his first big break with Don Henley in 1989. He played keyboards on Henley’s “End of the Innocence” tour and went on to play on the Eagles “Hell Freezes Over” tour from 1994 to 2000. He has also played on tours with Joe Walsh, Whitesnake, and Don Felder. Timothy has several co-writes with Don Felder, former guitarist from the Eagles, on his recently released CD. He co-wrote Henley’s, “Everything is Different Now” and the song “That Made Me Stronger” with Stevie Nicks.
Why and when did you become interested in music?
When I was very young, maybe three years old or so, I was visiting my grandmother, Father’s mother, in Oregon and she had a big player piano in her living room. Apparently, I was fascinated by the sound of this piano and was very delicate when I first touched the keys and heard the sound that my fingers were making. Most young kids usually bash away wildly at an instrument when they first encounter it, so my grandmother thought maybe I had a special connection to this instrument. My other grandmother, Mom’s mother, was there as well and a few years later, it was she who bought the spinet piano that I first started playing on when I was five years old. The piano arrived at the house one day, and a week later, my teacher showed up for my first lesson. All of this was a big surprise to me, but I gladly dove in to the experience. So, I never stopped playing the thing for the last 50 years!
Which instruments do you play?
This is sort of a trick question these days since plug-ins allow all of us to play virtually every instrument, to a certain degree. That said, I play the piano, guitar, dulcimer, bass, percussion, and I’m a singer as well.
How did songwriting become a major component of your musical interest and career?
I started writing my first songs and melodies when I was about 11 or so, and then I was completely hooked. The fact that I could express my thoughts and feelings through the instrument was like having a special super power. That’s when it became more than just a great skill, but more of an emotional tool. As years went on and I continued to hone my skills as a writer, I was lucky enough to land a position as a staff writer at Warner Chappell, still one of the biggest publishers in the world. I was touring with Don Henley as well during that period, so I was writing and performing at a very high level, which all combined to make me a better artist and creator. In 2000, I wrote a song with Don Henley, “Everything Is Different Now” which wound up as a single, and was later included on one of his greatest hits records, “The Very Best of Don Henley.” I also wrote a song with Stevie Nicks that same year that was on her “Trouble in Shangri-La” album. That track was produced by Sheryl Crow, who I’d spent years touring with in Henley’s band. Most recently I co-wrote almost an entire album, nine songs, with Don Felder for his “Road To Forever” CD. I’ve written music for television and short films, music libraries, ad agencies, and continue to write specifically for my own multimedia performances as well.
Why and when did you become interested in visual art?
I’ve always been fascinated by paintings, photographs, and in particular, cinema, from a very early age. My mother turned me on to so many great classic films, which taught me how important the musical score in a film is to telling a story and having an emotional impact on the viewer. As far as my own journey as a photographer, it started when I was on the road with Henley in the late 80s early 90s. I was looking for a productive way to pass the time on the days off as I traveled around the world, so I bought a camera and started shooting, and I mean a LOT of shooting, on film of course. I shot literally thousands of rolls of black and white film over a period of years, and a style of my own started to emerge. I began doing photography shows around LA, where I was living at the time. People started noticing and collecting my work. I was commissioned to do portraits, album covers and advertising layouts. It became as important to me as playing and writing music. In much the same way that writing hooked me into music, shooting film and then learning how to process and print my own images in the darkroom hooked me into photography.
How have you integrated your musical and visual arts during your career?
Because of my love for cinema, I’ve always been intrigued by the combination of images and music. Once I started creating my own imagery, I thought it would be interesting to find a way to combine the two parts of my creative world. It was an abstract idea for many years, but one that wouldn’t go away. A few years ago I was preparing for a one-man photography show at a well-known gallery in Carmel, and decided that I wanted to perform music at the opening, while projecting some of my imagery, and also showing framed pieces on the walls. It was an ambitious undertaking, but it all came together wonderfully.
Tell us about your new project, the Performance Cube.
Since that gallery show in Carmel, I’ve been focusing on this idea of projecting my imagery while I perform and that has led to the creation of the Performance Cube. At that performance, I projected onto sheer fabric, so the images would appear on the fabric, and also on the wall behind the fabric, creating the illusion of three dimensionality. Through experimentation in my studio, I happened upon this idea of a cube-shaped, sheer screen, large enough for me to be able to perform inside. When I rear project images onto the back of this four-sided cube, the entire cube fills up with the imagery, while I’m in silhouette, playing the keyboard inside the cube. I thought it was stunning and unusual, and through continued tweaks along the way, I’ve really found out what works and what doesn’t. I’ve done several performances now with the Performance Cube here in the States and abroad, primarily at corporate events and tech-centric conferences.
What are the sources for your music and the visual art?
I use all of my own images, stills and videos, as a resource for the films that I edit together and project onto the Cube. The music is also all my own instrumental compositions, some of which were included on my CD “The Crossing.” and some that have been composed since then. Sometimes I have a backing track of stripped-down versions of my songs playing within the films, and I play along with that, live. I usually use a piano sound, or guitar-type sounds which I’ve been experimenting with quite a bit lately.
How does everything come together?
I edit all the imagery together in Final Cut Pro X and I play the plug-ins I use through Logic Pro X. At a performance, I usually run two MacBook Pro laptops, one to run the imagery to the projector, and one to play the plug-ins through. For piano sounds, I use Ivory from Synthogy. It’s an incredible collection of pianos that sound and play so realistically. I also use Omnisphere from Spectrasonics, which has an endless supply of inspiring sounds to choose from. Logic Pro X also has a ton of cool sounds.
Where do you want to take your music and art in the future?
A great question, but kind of hard to answer! It will be interesting to see where I go as an artist in the next five years, ten years…who knows? I’m always learning and evolving and exploring new ideas and sounds. I keep shooting images and videos and experimenting with time-lapse, slow-motion video, filters, and just using all of the tools available to me in order to try and express myself. I hope to be able to reach more and more viewers with the Performance Cube and as time goes by, look forward to increasing opportunities to share my vision of the world with audiences.
Performance Cube Gear List:
(2)Mac Book Pro
Final Cut Pro X
Logic Pro X
Resident Audio Thunderbolt audio interface
Korg Triton Extreme
Panasonic PT AX200U HD projector
8’x8’x8’ snap lock aluminum frame, covered in sheer fabric
Vienna String Library
Russ Loeffler is a contributing editor to Harmony Central who covers trade shows and live events when he is not fine-tuning his guitar chops. He is also a gear head with a passion for good music, great tones, and music that is much easier to listen to than it is to play.