Drummer and bandleader Drew Schultz would be the first to tell you how important it is to continue telling the stories behind the legendary artists of soul, funk, and especially Motown. For him, it was the story featured in the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, featuring The Funk Brothers, that proved to be inspirational for the drummer.
“…(The Funk Brothers) were the musicians who played the instruments on almost every hit song from Motown’s golden era in Detroit,” Schultz says. “I was already a Motown fan, but (the film) lifted the curtain on the process for me, and showed me how important teamwork was in creating music!”
You can sense that teamwork when you see Schultz’s band, The Broken Habits, perform live. This ensemble, featuring Trish Shandor on lead vocals, Carlton Washington on guitar, Mike Harrison on keys, and Matt Ryan on bass, play a combination of Schultz’s original songs, along with hits by artists he has worked with over the last decade, including the Four Tops, Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Maurice White (Earth Wind & Fire) and more. Their teamwork and chemistry, carefully honed over years of practice and performance, is palpable when you see this group live. Fittingly, their new album is just that: LIVE. Check out a track off of their upcoming Live at 20 Front Street:
Schultz met Uriel Jones (drummer from the Funk Brothers) when he was still in high school. “He took me under his wing and was a wonderful mentor. While at college in New York, I continued to dive deeper into the history and recordings of Motown artists, especially The Four Tops. I loved the playing of their drummer (Benjamin ‘Butch’ Corbett).” Schultz reached out to trumpet player Mart Avant, a frequent auxiliary performer for the Tops, who connected him to Corbett. “Butch invited me to their sound check when they came through town; he’d let me sit behind the kit and show me grooves and fills that he was working on, and give me playing advice.”
While still enrolled at NYU, Schultz started sitting in with the Tops whenever they came through New York (adding hand percussion). Schultz said he was terrified to ask to come on board as a sideman for the Tops, but when they said yes, he was able to begin his professional career, playing some of his favorite songs with one of his favorite bands, and even getting to do a show in Detroit with Tops singer Levi Stubbs in attendance.
Schultz took on the drums for a few years with the Tops after Corbett stopped touring. “I was honored to be carrying on the legacy of so many of my heroes.” Schultz said that embracing a fortune-favors-the-bold mentality helped bolster his collaboration with those heroes. “…if you’re too tentative to take a swing when opportunities present themselves, you certainly won’t be hitting anything out of the park,” Schultz said, recalling his dad’s favorite piece of baseball wisdom about Babe Ruth’s corollary homerun records and sizable strikeouts.
In 2012, Schultz released Back To Class, which featured his original songs tailored to the styles and voices of more of his heroes. “I wanted them to sound fresh and new, but musically reminiscent of the timeless soul music I love. I just wanted to create songs that I, myself, would want to listen to if I stumbled across them on the radio.”
As Schultz moves forward from Back to Class, he says he’s set on always learning more, studying more, and finding more, particularly when it comes to voice & style. “I’m still consistently trying to find my own voice; I think an artist’s voice changes over the course of their career, and sometimes from one day to the next.”
Schultz wears lots of hats: songwriter, producer, bandleader, writer/journalist, and teacher (he’s a music instructor at the Detroit Institute of Music Education). When you see a Broken Habits set, you’ll hear a bit of educational narration from Schultz, often illuminating the history behind the genres of music they’re performing.
If there’s any secret to the magic you see (and hear) at their live shows, Schultz says its flexibility and versatility. “Trish Shandor, our vocalist, is formally trained and sings Opera, Jazz, Rock, and everything in between. Carlton Washington is a Berklee grad who is a top-tier blues musician in Detroit, currently touring with Thornetta Davis. Mike Harrison is a jazz educated piano player who also kills it on guitar and bass. Matt Ryan teaches marching band drumline and comes from an amazingly diverse musical background that he brings to his bass playing. I think that versatility comes out in the band because I’m not forcing anyone to stay inside a box. I encourage those different influences to shine within the performances and I love when we get to stretch out, solo, jam, and really improvise on a song together!”
If he had to narrow it down, he considers the Broken Habits to be “like a jazz combo, or a jam band, playing Motown and Soul music…”
When it comes to the new album, recorded in one evening at 20 Front Street in Lake Orion, Schultz has enough fond memories from that lively night to fill a classic LP-sized booklet of liner notes. Crowd sing-alongs to “Baby I Need Your Loving,” the solos traded off between each band member in “Told You So,” Shandor’s improv scatting in “What’s Going On,” adding in lessons about the drum fills and puzzle piece layering of the Funk Brothers’ playing style, and even one song where he slid from the kit to the keyboards to do his own electric piano solo before barreling back into a drum solo on “Crying in a Whisper.”
“Too many moments! It was a blast…!”