Living the Dream with My Morning Jacket
Written by Michaela Stock. Photo: My Morning Jacket.

To Patrick Hallahan, drummer of My Morning Jacket, his instrument is more than his career; it’s his calling.

“It’s not like I just decided one day I wanted to be a drummer,” Hallahan said. “It’s been something that’s spoken to me for as long as I can remember.”

Hallahan’s interest in music became tangible during his childhood while he’d watch his grandparents play music for their lounge act in their family basement.

“I would go and watch them rehearse, walk around, and listen to each instrument on its own. I remember kind of feeling the vibrations on guitar amps and stepping on pedals to change sounds, but I always gravitated towards the drums,” Hallahan said. “It was just always something that lured me in. It was beyond me.”

As a part of My Morning Jacket, Hallahan is now a three-time GRAMMY-nominated artist. He has also headlined beloved music festivals, sharing bills with the likes of Green Day, Jack White, and Sting. Because of this, Hallahan has also toured the world multiple times, which is a dream he’d intertwined with his love of drums early on.

Even after experiencing the harsh realities of living on the road–like missing numerous birthdays, graduations, and even funerals–Hallahan still wouldn’t choose any other lifestyle.

“The music’s the tip of the iceberg, obviously. The travel, and the companionship, and just the overall adventure of it all is more than I could have ever imagined. I really wish I could go back and talk to that third and fourth grade kid starting to think about this stuff and just be like, ‘Hey, stay the course, do what you’re doing. This is really special and you’re gonna enjoy the living daylights out of it.’”

But Hallahan’s path to being a full-time, touring drummer wasn’t a straight arrow. Despite having a musical family, Hallahan’s parents warned him about how difficult it is to make a living as an artist. In fact, when Hallahan’s friends began to pursue music professionally, he split off to get an education.

“I had a double major in photography and psychology. I was somehow taking all that and was on track to law school, believe it or not,” Hallahan said. “That was following what I thought my family wanted of me, and not what I really wanted to do.”

Luckily, Hallahan decided to study recording and engineering, instead of law, at Middle Tennessee State University. This brought him to a town just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where he reconnected with his friends who were musicians, such as Jim James, the lead singer of My Morning Jacket.

Around the time Hallahan moved to Tennessee, James asked him to join the band. Hallahan knew he had to drop out of school to say yes.

“I feel like everybody has a calling. Some people listen to it and some people don’t. And from a very early age, I knew I wanted to play and listen to music every day all the time for the rest of my life. I was just like, ‘You know what, I just have to like follow my gut on this.’”

It helped that Hallahan’s relationship with James dated back to the seventh grade, when they’d play music together after school as a way to escape the social pressures of growing up.

“Normal society, especially for grade school, high school, middle school, it’s all based around athleticism,” Hallahan said. “So we started our first bands in like, sixth and seventh grade. We would do the athletic stuff as well, but it was always like the music was kind of our escape, our place to go to where we all made sense.”

Now sharing in the success of My Morning Jacket, Hallahan is grateful to have taken the risk on this journey with James.

“This is my 23rd year with the band. Wow. In some ways, I feel like everything from here on out is surplus, that I got further than I ever thought,” Hallahan said.

“To be in a band with someone that I shared that with from a very early age is also just a tremendous honor.”

With a legacy like My Morning Jacket, it can be difficult to imagine what’s left to achieve. But for Hallahan, this success has been anything but limiting.

“We’re having more fun playing than we’ve ever had in our career. There’s a fearlessness now, like all the rules are out the window, and the trust is immense.”

Currently, My Morning Jacket is on a headline tour that includes a stop in Grand Rapids at Frederik Meijer Gardens on July 1. Hallahan is especially excited to share some of these shows with artist Karina Rykman, a genre-bending musician who specializes in playing bass.

“Karina Rykman is a friend of mine, and it was really fun to get her on these shows. She’s just this beam of light that descends upon a stage and takes the whole place over, and it’ll be a definite challenge to follow her afterwards.”

The best part? Hallahan’s story is far from finished.

“We’re just really looking forward to taking on the next quest and just super fortunate to continue carrying forward, because you never know when it’s all over, whether it be the music industry, or life in general,” Hallahan said.

“We’ve achieved so much that I am so grateful for all of it. And, honestly, the other part of it is that I feel like we’re just beginning again.”

My Morning Jacket
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
1000 E. Beltline Ave., Grand Rapids
July 1, 6:15 p.m.