Earl Talbot—Someone You Should Know

April 2016 View more

NMAG0416_SYSK_nm Earl Talbot 1_800pxEarl Talbot has traveled the world studying and performing music. Prior to living in Naperville, Talbot recorded and toured as the drummer for Poi Dog Pondering, attained multi-platinum status as a member of the Nomads, composed music for Harpo Productions, and won a international drum competition in France. Now he shares his passion for music with Naperville-area students.

Growing up in Chicago, how did you achieve an international music career?

I began playing piano when I was four. When I was 10 years old, I switched to the drums and knew I would forever be on a rhythmic journey. In high school, I was involved in the band program and also performed in clubs with my friend and mentor Charlie Caston. Charlie was older than me and had connections in the music industry. By the time I graduated I had a contract with Polygram. While that gave me great experience creating music and performing, I really wanted to focus on learning and understanding more complex movements. I stopped touring and enrolled in Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music. Ultimately, that changed the course of my career because it led me to France where I met Christian Bourdon, an unbelievable drummer from Cameroon. I traveled to Cameroon and studied with him for months. After that, I became a member of the Nomads and toured all over Europe. Then I returned to the U.S. and toured as drummer for Poi Dog.

Aside from improving your skills, how did studying rhythm in Cameroon change your career?

It was a pivotal time in my life that forever changed me as a producer, teacher, and performer. Rhythms originating in Central and West Africa are the basis for jazz and afro-cuban rhythms. The techniques I learned from Christian gave me a greater understanding of rhythm and an edge in the industry. Because Cameroon is an African melting pot, I also developed a deeper appreciation for other cultures. I’ve made it my mission to teach others these rhythms and to promote a message of inclusiveness.

You have lived all over the world, why did you move to Naperville?

I remember headlining with Poi Dog at Ribfest back in 2004 and looking out at the crowd. I loved the energy of the community. My family and I stayed in Naperville for the weekend. At the time, we had just returned from living in a small town in France and were in Chicago. I love the city but I was ready for a calmer environment. My wife and I instantly knew this is where we wanted to raise our son. We loved the community and great school system. It was a no-brainer coming here. By the way, I should also mention that my great, great, great grandfather was A.A. Smith, the first president of North Central College. My parents kept in close contact with the college and I remember visiting Naperville as a child.

What are some of your current projects?

I run The Drum School in Naperville and offer private lessons in students’ homes and at Ellman’s Music Center. I also lead group classes at the Alive Center and direct the jazz band at Naperville Central. I am currently working on a short film about the rhythms of Cameroon. I’m also hoping to put together a nationwide tour with Christian Bourdon and offer master classes around the country.

With all your success in the music industry, what drew you to teaching?

I always felt uncomfortable with stardom. I’ll never stop songwriting and producing, but I really enjoy teaching. My greatest reward is enjoying the success of my students—seeing them break through a plateau or have an epiphany. I’ve been on TV and on stage. I’ve lived that side of the dream. Now I want to help make that happen for my students.

Photo by Robyn Sheldon