Drummer, producer, and music industry veteran Tammy Hurt spoke with 360°Sound about her new electro-rock project Sonic Rebel. Hurt describes Sonic Rebel as “Rage Against the Machine, the Chemical Brothers, and Outkast combined with a lifetime of live music experiences.” Hurt has been playing drums professionally since she was 14 and has recorded with numerous artists, including the Indigo Girls and producer Brendan O’Brien.
A longtime Atlanta resident, Hurt co-founded the nonprofit Georgia Music Partners, whose mission is to grow Georgia’s music industry and promote job growth and culture. She also co-founded Placement Music, a firm specializing in scoring and licensing. Hurt currently serves as chair of the Recording Academy
Hurt has released three Sonic Rebel singles, “Reign,” “Run,” and “This Vibe,” which will all appear on the debut EP, We Made This With Our Hands (out June 17). She will perform a live in-person EP release show on June 24 at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta.
360°: What can we expect from the debut Sonic Rebel EP and your live performances?
Tammy Hurt: The EP will have five tracks. I have in the pipeline a remix of one of those songs. I’m looking forward to getting out and playing, utilizing these tracks that I’ve created as music beds to do similar to what Girl Talk does where you mashup songs for live musical performances. In my vision for the project, it was always about being very dynamic and vibrant and blending genres of music together that you may not think go together. Music is sort of the common thread that ties us together. My hope is that when we go out and perform that this is appealing to different genres and different sectors of people to bring people together.
What inspired the name Sonic Rebel?
Initially, this project was going to be called Tammy Hurt On the Drums [laughs]. I thought better of it. In thinking of what this is, it is a little rebellious to take a hip-hop song and combine it with something that’s maybe completely the opposite. Or take an electronic track and super-rock it out. The modular synth that we used was really about being rebellious and making various things come together that maybe wouldn’t have come to together in the first place.
You worked with members of the popular indie band Grouplove. How did you link up with them and what did they bring to the project?
Through my buddy TJ Elias, who is an excellent music person in his own right. He’s a terrific engineer, but he also has mad skills musically. At one point he was doing some programming for Thievery Corporation.
TJ had sent me some original music that he had written a few years back. I always thought the music he created would sound better with live drums. We started talking about that. TJ opened a super-cool studio in Little Five Points in Atlanta called Big Trouble. He said, ‘Let’s go record together.’ He had partnered with [bassist] Daniel Gleason and [drummer] Ben Homola from Grouplove. TJ said, ‘Let’s get you in the studio with Dan and Ben,’ and then the project became something even better.
I was able to determine what styles of music I wanted to create and the beats per minute and the vibe of the songs. We went in the studio for two days and recorded two tracks. It went so well that we went in and recorded three more songs, and the rest, as they say, is history.
While the music could be classified as electronic, it’s all done with live drums instead of drum machines. Why did you take that approach?
I really do believe most music sounds better with live drums. This popular music that I was listening to, I always wanted it to have a little more grit, a little more punch. We had completed all the tracks and I asked the guys, ‘Do you think this is rock-leaning electronic or electronic-leaning rock?’ They said electronic-leaning rock. That was a moment in time that made me really proud because we had done what we set out to do.
You’ve been in the music industry a long time and seen a lot of changes. What’s your take on the overall state of the industry? What do you think needs to happen for the industry to be sustainable and musicians to make a living?
It really has been insightful to be an independent artist self-releasing music in the 21st century. It’s an eye-opening experience. ‘Music creators first’ is what I say. You gotta take care of the songwriters, the musicians, the producers and engineers and identify revenue streams so those folks can sustain their careers.
With regard to the overall industry, we are experiencing a seismic shift. We’re watching a lot of these catalogs be sold because it’s not sustainable to make a living only on the streaming of music. But I am encouraged by the innovation and new technology and the opportunity to do things very differently. This project actually debuted during a Fortnite tournament on Twitch. It was a different way to reach people and reach a new audience.
Looking at NFTs [non-fungible tokens] and innovative ways to sell merchandise. To be able to expand your brand and reach new audiences is critical. I think it requires a new way of thinking. I think there are lots of different opportunities for sustaining artists, but I do believe we need to cultivate and help develop and educate the next generation of artists coming up.
Click here to purchase tickets to the Sonic Rebel EP release show.