I can’t tell you how wonderful it’s been getting to know our featured artist, drummer Eliza Hill. She’s young and vibrant and positive, and simply a joy in conversation. Just as compelling is to watch her in action on stage! For the past few years, she’s been pouring every ounce of her kinetic drumming energy into the Andrew Scotchie & The River Rats band and they’ve been taking the area, and beyond, by storm!Though Andrew started out on the streets, busking with a harmonica player in a duo configuration, it wasn’t until Hill approached him at a show and proclaimed that she needed to be the drummer in his newly forming electric band, that the project really started to grow legs and a fan base. She brought her brother, Asher Hill, along to play bass and the power trio began to orchestrate a robust gigging schedule.
It’s astounding to realize that she moved to the area around the same time that I moved here. I was 45 and she was eight years old back in 2002! “Asheville was a good place to grow up because it fostered my imagination for playing music that wasn’t as much, back then, a normal kid-thing to do.” She told me the story of how she first became interested in playing drums. She was hanging out with one of her little eight-year-old girlfriends at home. Out of the blue, one suggested they start a band.
“Well, I want to be the drummer,” Eliza exclaimed and commenced to setting up a series of plastic containers and flowerpots on the dining room table, grabbed a pair of drumsticks and started going for it. “I realized just how fun it was to set a beat, keep a beat, and so I set up this make-shift rig, every chance I got!” She got so good on the flowerpots and pans that for her 10th birthday, her parents agreed to gift her a kit.
Eliza and her friend actually put a band together called Onyx Eyes and they played one show at the Jewish Community Center, where they performed two songs: a cover tune and an original!
Soon after, she asked her dad to “make a whole playlist of everything you like that you think I’d like and need to learn.” That playlist was essential in developing the incredible fundamental sound she hones, expounds on, and delivers to this day. “He uploaded songs from bands like Zeplin and Jimi Hendrix onto my iPod and for years I listened to that playlist, and music from other icons of the 60s to the 8os, Blues and Rock. Listening to the subtleties of what the drummers were playing and how the beat shaped everything they were doing made an impact on her. “I listened to music the way other kids would watch TV.”
In eighth grade she joined a youth organization at the Asheville Arts Center called Rock U. “Being part of Rock U was the foundation for the musical family my life consists of even through today. And it has less to do with the actual kids I was playing with at the time than it does with the people I met through being part of the program. I met musicians like Andrew and Jerome Widenhouse, which spider webbed into this whole musical community that I’m part of now. It planted the seed and gave me an outlet and allowed me to network with people and play with kids who were good and had like-minded, higher goals. I credit Rock U for everything that’s going on with me musically right now.”
When I ask her what kind of music she likes listening to and what bands she goes to see in concert, her answer is all over the map, which is testimony to how her openness translates through her prowess as a drummer, and as an exemplary young woman. The sister trio from LA called Haim is one of her go-to jams. “I like anything that has good roots and integrity.” No specific genre for this passionate power beater.
Everything she listens to keeps her on top of her game as far as technique, style, and phrasing goes. “Listening is the most important component, keeping honest and available to experiment. You can practice and practice which is very important, but if you’re not listening and studying new material and new ideas, then nothing new is going to come out.” The people she’s constantly surrounded by are a huge influence in her life and they feed her passion for playing. Her touring life gives her the unique opportunity to hear and play with other drummers, enabling her to change and grow.
“I play what I feel is appropriate and distinct and I do my utmost to bring the flare and pizazz without over playing. Percussion is responsible for making things different and people don’t even realize how influential the drums are in this way.” Her style is rooted in Blues, Rock, and Soul, allowing her sensibilities to raise the bar.
Eliza’s main focus right now is playing for Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats. However, and because she’s been playing in the band since she was 17, she needs and wants to start her own project so she can articulate her own concepts and ideas. Prospecting situations through jamming collaborations will help shape and design what that new project will sound and look like. She doesn’t think in terms of limitations in the least. “It’s about time for me to expound with my own project while still growing in what I’ve got going on now. I can do both.”
Eliza Hill symbolizes the musical youth movement as it fiercely, vigorously, spills into the streets and clubs, festivals and concert halls of our community and beyond. What doesn’t escape this hard working, skilled, and beautiful, fiery red-headed ingénue is that the laws of attraction are keenly at work, allowing and aligning her, heart-first, toward everything she’s been putting into her vortex of desires.