Interview with Esteemed Session Drummer Johnny Salerno

Johnny Salerno is one of Australia's most in-demand session musicians. He has worked with Vanessa Amorosi, Belinda Carlisle, and rock n roll legend Suzi Quatro. Johnny was also the drummer for the hit tv show 'Dancing with the Stars'.

By Magesh Contributing Author

Article photo - Interview with Esteemed Session Drummer Johnny Salerno

Magesh, Musicngear: You played with Rock n Roll legend Suzi Quatro, can you talk about this experience?

Playing with Suzi Q has been an amazing experience. Not only is Suzi the singer in the band but she’s also the bass player. This means I pay even closer attention to the feels and tempos during the set, making sure she feels comfortable.

We’ve done some big tours here in Aus plus Canada and Japan as well. It’s a pleasure to lay down those grooves with the Queen Of Rock.

As a session drummer, you must have to play with a click track in the studio all the time. What can drummers do to improve their time?

Pretty much all of modern music is recorded to a click track these days. Even in a live touring situation, you’re sometimes required to play to click depending on the style of music.

I think the best thing a drummer can do is to practice to a click every day. Whether you’re practicing hand technique or grooves, make sure you always have the click going. Build your internal clock so playing to a click becomes second nature.

Don’t just listen, but study, dissect, and practice different grooves/ feels as much as you can.

What equipment are you currently endorsing?

I play DW drums, Meinl Cymbals, Pro Mark drumsticks, and Evans heads.

I was always impressed with your ability to play multiple styles of music well. From funk to rock to jazz. How can musicians learn to authentically play different genres?

I think listening to lots of different styles of music is important. As a drummer, it’s really important to study the different grooves and feels within each genre.

Don’t just listen, but study, dissect, and practice different grooves/ feels as much as you can.

Immerse yourself in your craft to the point where you have the fundamentals down and feel comfortable in your ability

How do you prepare mentally when playing in a high-pressure situation like live tv?

My last live tv experience was performing in the house band for Dancing With The Stars. We would play anything from pop, rock, big Band, R&b, or Latin every week. The best way to feel comfortable and confident was to do as much prep at home before the rehearsal on Friday.

The charts and mp3s would start coming in from Monday to midweek. I’d study the arrangements and practice the feels that I found difficult over and over. By the time rehearsal was done, I’d be feeling good about the show.

Live tv can be nerve-racking and intense; however, preparation is the key, then, I guess the more you do it the more accustomed you become.

Do you have any advice for young musicians who want to play music for a living?

Immerse yourself in your craft to the point where you have the fundamentals down and feel comfortable in your ability.

I came up at a different time which was pre-social media, we used to get out to as many live gigs as possible; go and see the guys who inspire us, and play and jam with as many different musicians as we can.

This is probably more of an old-school approach, lol.

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About Magesh

Magesh is a musician and producer who has worked with Rihanna, Lionel Richie, Ricky Martin, Chris Brown, The Pussy Cat Dolls, Nelly Furtado, and Vernon Reid of Living Colour. He released an instructional drumming dvd called "Unique Beats" where he mixed the drum kit with electronics and Indian hand percussion. He recently moved from Australia to the UK to explore new musical opportunities.

Contact Magesh at

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