Burleigh Drummond of Ambrosia8 Questions with Burleigh Drummond of Ambrosia
By Naughty Mickie

Ambrosia originally formed in Los Angeles in 1970 and is best known for its Top 40 hit singles, such as ďHow Much I Feel,Ē ďBiggest Part of MeĒ and ďYouíre the Only Woman (You and I).Ē They started out with a progressive pop sound and later moved on to jazz/pop still focused on their multi-layered harmony vocals. Despite their more than four-decade career they only released five studio albums and one live album.

Ambrosia's current lineup consists of original members vocalist and bassist Joe Puerta, vocalist and keyboardist Christopher North and drummer Burleigh Drummond, plus vocalist, keyboardist and percussionist Ken Stacey, guitarist Doug Jackson and vocalist and keyboardist Mary Harris.

As Ambrosia began its tour in Southern California we had an opportunity to chat with Drummond and posed him the following eight questions.

DB: What is the secret to Ambrosia's longevity?

BD: I think itís just a matter of unfinished business. We still feel like these songs are evolving and weíre still in the process of mastering, if thatís possible, finding a different level of performance and expression in a song. Itís funny because some of the songs that weíre going to be playing are 40-plus years old and they still have a new life to them in our minds, itís like we wrote it yesterday. You canít phone Ambrosiaís music in, you have to prepare for it, you have to be there to the full extent and give your best performance or youíve cheated the music.

As weíre a little older now too, what passed for exhilaration possibly in the past it gets replaced with a little more style or grace. Some different elements come into other than the sheer young physicalness that you had when you first performed it. Iím not saying that we donít try for that, we definitely donít feel like weíre one foot in the grave. Weíre happy we can still perform and perform at this level. We take it pretty seriously.

DB: How has the internet helped you-- or has it?

BD: Itís made everything accessible, good and bad, thereís a glut of music now that you have to sort through to find something thatís really good. I canít say that there isnít great music happening today, I think there is, but I think you just have to look for it. Thereís less of a filtering system because labels donít really go out and pick the prime thing any more, itís like anybody can put something up, you just have to do a lot more to find what moves you.

DB: Ambrosia is considered one of the top bands in the yacht rock movement, what do you think about this new genre?

BD: Itís given us a whole new audience. Itís amazing to me this whole millennial generation that show up with sailor caps on, theyíre usually inebriated, but thatís OK, they know every lyric. Itís flattering and exciting at the same time that a whole generation or a large part of it would embrace this music as meaningful to them. I give credit to the songwriting, the melody and the craftsmanship of the writing during that era was really at a high level.

DB: Ambrosia tours a lot. What is it like being on the road so much?

BD: On a 3-5 day run that last plane ride home is usually from the East Coast and itís a 5-hour flight and by about the fourth hour Iím ready to leave my body or something. Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones said I love the two hours on stage, itís the other 22 that give me a problem.

DB: What can Ambrosia fans expect at your current run of concerts?

BD: We like to vary it for our own sake because just having a few different songs per night can really affect the whole set and the whole presentation. We like to interchange things and push ourselves to have an edge. Weíll definitely play one brand new song that hasnít made it to the public yet and thatís great for us to do that because that confirms whether weíre on the right track or not with the production of that song.

DB: Tell me about your upcoming album.

BD: It will be probably at the end of the year at the earliest that the album will be available, but I think weíre really a culmination now of everything weíve done, especially the prog and the pop coming together, not that we systematically sit down and try to incorporate all these things, they just naturally show up now. Back in the day when we had more of our prog side it was always melodic prog, it was never a lot of notes for notesí sake, see how fast I can play. We did have some daring instrumental moments, but always within the context of a good song. I think weíre incorporating everything that weíve embraced all these years, like a good pop song with great arranging and a great statement, everything has to mean something, nothing thrown away.

DB: I know that not all of your band members have side projects, but they all have outside interests.You and your wife Mary Harris have put your project, Tin Drum, on hold for a while, but itís coming back.

BD: Ambrosiaís been consuming to get it to the point where it is now because itís definitely had an explosion in the last 10 years to where it has been pretty consuming, but now we want to fit Tin Drum back into the mix. As good as Ambrosia is, and itís great, it doesnít fulfill all the expressions needs one has.

DB: You shared that Ambrosia will be featured in an upcoming ďEthan Bortnick: Generations of MusicĒ  special on PBS and told me about your regular Ambrosia and Friends concerts with fellow musicians, like Bill Champlin from Chicago, Peter Beckett from Player, Al Stewart and Stephen Bishop, who you back on stage for a selection of songs. What else would you like DaBelly readers to know?

BD: We do a lot of different presentations. We love doing Ambrosia where we get into the deep cuts and the hits. Itís funny, you meet a fan who comes to hear the most obscure Ambrosia tune and thatís all he wants to hear so youíve got to cater to that and then thereís people who just want to come for an evening of hits and thatís on the lighter side, but thatís totally valid too.

If you want to see Ambrosia in Southern California, the band will be at the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival May 26, www.simicajun.org

and Concerts on the Green at the Lou Bredlow Pavilion in Woodland Hills June 9, www.valleycultural.org. 

For additional tour dates and more information, go to www.ambrosialive.net

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