Pudge Tribbett on what Gospel music taught him and the power of performance

Leonard “Pudge” Tribbett is a drummer, arranger, and producer with a level of musicianship and wide breadth of experiences that few others share.

Known for his tight, pocket-style playing and explosive chops, Tribbett has shared the stage with legends including the likes of Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and Lana Del Rey.

Tribbett is also a member of the Sound Doctrine team, a sample label that specializes in capturing the spirit and emotion of Gospel music. In celebration of the label’s launch, we recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tribbett to discuss his drumming, the impact Gospel music has had on his journey, and more – read on for highlights.

Some people don’t have a single musical person in their family, but as we understand it, you come from a very musical family. Can you tell us what it was like growing up around so much music, and how that played a role in the early stages of your drumming?

Well, music was a way of life in our family; it was interwoven in everything we did. From weddings to birthdays and anything in between, if the Tribbetts were involved, music was too! As far as the drums, it was always a race to grab the sticks first, since they were pretty much everyone’s first instrument! [laughs]

Being excellent at something almost always requires overcoming some obstacles. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced musically?

One of my struggles early on as a musician was finding my musical identity and developing my own sound. However, I found that the lows in my journey are equally as important for appreciating the highs in my career. When you value something, you have to know that it will cost you something along the way.

Are there any people who helped you navigate this challenge? What advice did they give you?

Without a doubt, it was my mom and dad. My parents both being musicians themselves helped me navigate some of the challenges I faced. At an early age they instilled in me a trust in God’s plan for my life, and taught me to believe in myself.

In an interview with Fader, Frank Ocean said, “I remember being kind of intimidated by the idea of [performing at church], actually… All the coldest musicians came out of there.” From your perspective, what makes playing Gospel music in the specific context of the local Black church such a different experience from playing in other environments?

Anyone who had their start in church knows that it’s literally one of the greatest training grounds for musicianship! The services, rehearsals, and productions made for countless opportunities to hone in on my craft. The spontaneity of playing in church prepared you for anything, which is much different from performing with a setlist.

There are countless examples of Gospel music being used in commercial works, especially through sampling in hip hop — Kanye’s “Jesus Walks,” Jay-Z’s “Family Feud” — but as someone with a deeper understanding of the genre, do you feel Gospel music’s influence on popular music goes beyond sampling?

Gospel music is a culture that many continue to benefit from. In addition to sampling, it inspires production, arrangements, and overall musicianship. Gospel music is more than just the songs. It’s the message of hope, and everything that derives from it creates something beautiful!

As someone who has performed on some of the world’s biggest stages, what does the power of performance mean to you?

Three words – nothing like it! When the fans and artists’ worlds collide, there’s a synergy like no other. To be seen and to be heard are two totally different things. Some artist thrive from being heard, while other artist excel when seen. While touring with Tye and G. A., we released the Life album in 2004, which did really well. Now, when the Victory Live album was released in 2006, it came with a DVD that captured the live performance. From that moment on, our lives changed forever; live performances are just unmatched!

Incorporate the sound, spirit, and emotions of Gospel music into your own productions:

February 2, 2021