Meet Jamie Wollam of Tears for Fears – The Man Can Play


This whole thing started in November, 2016.  I phoned a good friend who knows I am a huge Tears for Fears fan.  I convinced him to attend the Cleveland show where my all-time favorite band, Tears for Fears, would be performing live at the Rocksino in Cleveland.  Front row seats, a good steak, a couple of hours of degenerate gambling, and then the concert.  I had never seen Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith perform together in person, so this was a big thing for me.  Having a decent musical background, I enjoy these drummers I see live when they are good.  Tears for Fears has been zipping through the drummers since Manny Elias and Songs From The Big Chair.

Having seen a few recent performances on Spotify, I got a glimpse of Jamie Wollam playing the drums in the current lineup.  The thing I was most impressed by, was that he was solidly consistent, did his homework and played things the way they were written, but I had the feeling that this drummer had talent like no other to beat the skins in this group before.  I further surfed to see some other Jamie Wollam projects and live footage.  I learned that Wollam has toured with David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Tommy Shaw, and Tom Morello just to name a few.

After that concert, Wollam spotted me drumming on the stage during the Shout encore and hand-delivered me a stick.

Fast forward to June.  The same friend who attended that show with me happens to be a huge Hall & Oates fan.  I opened my morning e-mail at work to learn that Tears for Fears and Hall & Oates would be touring together.  My first call resulted in a hang-up, telling me that it would never happen because the styles are so different.  Two days later I received an apology call and we were on the “best ticket” hunt immediately.  We landed first row for the show at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.  This time about ten friends tagged along.  Tears for Fears absolutely kicked ass and somehow, Jamie Wollam again hand delivered a stick at the end of the set.

Too coincidental?  I sent a Facebook message and friend request two days later.  My message basically stated that I was the guy you gave a stick to at both shows, a drum aficionado, and a lifetime Tears for Fears fan.  Low and behold, He accepted my request and responded to the message.  Very humble, very down to Earth, and very in-tune with the fans.  It was at this point, I started nagging Jamie to do an interview.  He accepted and after a couple of weeks of near misses, my cousin Kim and I ventured to Pittsburgh to again see Tears for Fears at the Console Energy Center.  Not only did I get a stick, but Jamie was kind enough to come out before the Tears bus pulled out, to meet me in person.  It was not only a thrill to meet this guy, but one of the smoothest conversations I have ever had with a musician.  He wasn’t drugged up or drunk, he wasn’t an arrogant and conceited prick, he was my Facebook friend, Jamie.  Very normal.  A few hits and misses later, I finally got the chance to do the interview.  What follows is the result.

Paneech:  Having did a little homework, I learned you were influenced by Peter Criss of Kiss.  I found that sort of ironic because Kiss basically ripped Tears for Fears a new one on the Kiss My Ass Tribute disc for whatever reason (It’s in the liner notes),

Wollam:  It’s interesting you can have as much arrogance as Kiss has and still manage to get away with it.  I grew up listening to Kiss music, and they are respectable in other ways.  I’m sure you have heard musicians through the years say they wanted to get involved in music when The Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show.  For me, the first concert I ever went to was when I was 10 years old in 1980, after begging my mom endlessly, I landed at a Kiss show to see the Dynasty tour.  To see that production at ten years old was like a shark hook in a trout’s mouth.  That’s what I wanted to do, and I was mesmerized by Peter Criss.  As that journey progressed, I started paying more attention to technically harder things.  When I listen back though to my old Kiss records, I am taken back to a place that is very sentimental to me.  I will always say that Kiss is the reason that I am playing music today, and I’m proud of it.

Paneech:  You have toured with so many types of bands with many different styles, try to explain how hard it is to adapt between the various styles to fit into what you are performing.

Wollam:  I say this with all humility – there are always going to be players that are better than me.  But from the moment I got serious about playing the drums, around age 15, I began to latch on and study every interview, video, and attend clinics and gravitated to the drummers I respected the most for the direction on the different gigs.  Aside from guys like Peter Criss and John Bonham, I was heavily influenced by guys like Jeff Porcaro of Toto and Steve Gadd who played with Eric Clapton and Steely Dan, to diversify my style.  I was the chameleon of drumming and wanted to have all of those styles in my repertoire.  I really studied these guys and others to see how to charge up my own style.

Paneech:  With that being said, did you have to study the drumming styles of Manny Elias, Nick D’Virgilio, and Jimmy Copley before you landed the job as the current drummer for Tears?

Wollam:  A lot of the early recordings were drum machines.  Even though you see a video and you see a drummer playing on the video, the early Tears for Fears appearances on television were lip-sync productions.  As the band has progressed with eight records in 30 years, things have progressed.  Manny was the drummer for the first couple of records, but when Seeds of Love was being recorded, they used different drummers in the studio.  I learned that Phil Collins played the drums on Woman in Chains.  Chris Hughes, who was also a producer on that record, played the drums on Sowing The Seeds of Love.  You had Manu Katche playing drums and percussion on Badman’s Song.  So there was this lineup of heavy hitters.  From this album, the drumming was more organic, less programmed and it has been that way since.  Even Nick (D’Virgilio) who you mentioned, who is a great drummer that I have the utmost respect for, had a very different style.  The only record he was a part of the band for was Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, but the drummer who actually did the studio recording was a drummer named Fred Eltringham, who currently plays with Sheryl Crow.  Nick ended up the drummer touring for that record and had to step in and do what I am now doing – playing a lot of the older material and copying all of these drummers parts.  My template for learning was actually a live recording.  It was like a protools recording that had everything but the drum parts at half volume and the drum parts at full volume.  I could hear what Nick was playing and probably learned about 80% of it that way, and interestingly, the rest is what Nick had to copy off of the original recordings.  The drum parts for Tears for Fears music is very specific, there are only a couple of moments where the drum chair gets to go Avant Garde and improvise.  You have to play the middle fill of Head Over Heels the way it was recorded.  You have to play the fills for Everybody Wants to Rule The World like the recording because they are so classic and specific.  Those songs are as famous as they are as a combination of all of the parts.  I wouldn’t come in and change those drum parts because it wouldn’t give the due respect to the original parts that were created.  And frankly, Roland and Curt are very particular about keeping it the way it was recorded and keeping it authentic.  There is a Ringo Starr like feel to Seeds of Love, whereas you are mimicking a drum machine on Pale Shelter.  It’s like I have to stay as close as I can to the machine when we play a song like that.  Seeds of Love – you can loosen up the tie and get “slimy”.


Paneech:  When Curt and Roland split for a brief time after the Seeds of Love album, it was interesting to see that Curt’s project, Mayfield, has yielded most of the current lineup.

Wollam:  Until I joined Tears for Fears, I had never heard of Mayfield.  I didn’t know the backstory on the split.  When I joined, I knew I was joining Curt and Roland and the rest of the band.  Tears for Fears will always be, specifically, Curt and Roland.  I am a hired gun.  I know Roland was touring under the Tears for Fears name after Curt had left and was using fantastic musicians like Gail Ann Dorsey and Jeff Trott to tour.  I think they (Curt & Roland) both came to realize that the sum is greater than the parts in terms of Tears for Fears.  They are both incredibly talented songwriters, musicians, and performers and they realized at some point that the two of them together is what the fan base wanted.  It like Guns and Roses can be Axl Rose and a bunch of talented musicians, or it can be Izzy Stradlin and Slash and a singer – and either facet can sell out a show, but it just isn’t the same.  All of the chemistry is not represented.  Roland and Curt realized that, made their peace and Roland was introduced to Charlton (Pettus) and Doug (Petty) who had worked with Curt in Mayfield, and whats not to love about those guys as musicians, they are incredible.  They had to basically do what I did and go back to learn the older material as it was recorded.  Roland brought in Nick (D’Virgilio) and Curt wanted to keep working with Charlton and Doug.  So that became the lineup that I was later added to.

Paneech:  I saw the Spotify recordings and a couple of other clips where your whole kit is enclosed by plexiglass.  Can you explain the significance of that?

Wollam:  Very simply, the plexiglass was put around my kit when we did live recordings because all of the percussion sound that would normally bleed out.  It looked strange and I felt like I was in a dunk tank.  There are microphones everywhere from my snare to the cymbals and to control the sound from feeding back or bleeding the quality, the plexiglass is there to contain it and make a smoother finished product.

Paneech:  You put a post up the night before the Pittsburgh concert that you went to a Pirates game.  Are you a baseball, or sports fan, or was that just something to do to kill the time.

Wollam:  I grew up playing baseball.  I love that sport, but I also like hockey.  I was born in California, but have dual-citizenship in Canada, so I am a natural hockey fan and I root for the LA Kings, but baseball is my sport.  I played baseball into my high school years but I had to compromise my love of sports to concentrate on bettering myself as a musician.  There just wasn’t enough time to do both.  I am a longtime Los Angeles Dodgers fan and Steve Garvey was my favorite player growing up.  I also play as much golf as I can.  My clubs are with me on the tour and I try to go when the opportunity presents itself.

Paneech:  New Tears for Fears material is due out real soon.  I heard Roland refer to the new album as “The Tipping Point”.  What can you tell me, if anything, about the new record?

Wollam:  All I can tell you is that it is a great piece of work and we are all very excited about it.  I think Roland and Curt should and will detail things more as the time gets closer to release, but I would rather not say much other than it is quite a production!

Paneech:  What is your favorite TFF song that you guys are not currently playing live?

Wollam:  Mother’s Talk.  We have practiced it and I am really hoping they roll it out live – it is a great song and I think we will rock it when we can squeeze it into a set list.

Paneech:  OK, what is your favorite song that you are playing live right now?

Wollam:  It’s a tie.  Can I have a tie?  (Laughs). I really enjoy playing Sowing The Seeds of Love and Head Over Heels.  Again, those songs are so specific but fun to play.  They are both very melodic and the crowd really enjoys them both.

Paneech:  Who are your best friends in the music world that you communicate with?

Wollam:  That’s another tie (laughs).  I am very close with Todd Sucherman who has been with Styx for about 20 years.  I was admittedly kind of nervous because Todd came to our show in Texas recently and I wanted to play well as I knew a colleague with technical expertise was going to be there watching.  I’m also very close with Steve Ferrone who plays with Tom Petty.  Both great guys, both very talented drummers.


One Word Answers with Jamie Wollam

Favorite Meal:  Lunch

Biggest Phobia:  Flying

Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream:  Strawberry

Biggest Influence:  John Bonham

Favorite Cartoon Character:  Snoopy

Favorite TV Show:  Friends

I would be _______ if I weren’t a drummer:  Homeless (Laughs), Just Kidding  – A baseball player !

In closing, I would like to thank Jamie Wollam for enhancing my appreciation of Tears for Fears.  Dude is a class act and can play!

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