Interview with Jerry Mercer, musician and former drummer of April Wine

Jerry Mercer makes you proud to be Canadian. He is one of Canada’s legendary drummers best known for his work with Mashmakhan and April Wine from the 1970 – 1980’s with over 50 years in the music industry. He has also worked with Roy Buchanan, Offenbach and Ellen Mcllwaine to name a few. Jerry who is now 82, is still going strong and so is his love of music and how it makes people come together. Just between you and me, Jerry is not retiring any time soon as he is busy enjoying the rhythm of life without missing a beat.

What struck me the most when I first met Jerry is his openness and how easy it was to talk with him. He is very down to earth and humble in spite of being a musical giant with tremendous talent. His passion is contagious and he makes you feel like you can play music too. Just like his music, Jerry comes from his heart and is very generous with his time, his spirit and his love of storytelling. 

What does spirituality mean to you?

We all have the ability to create and tap into the universal power of spirit. It is not organized religion. It is about finding something meaningful in your life, something that touches your heart.

Our dominant thoughts become the steering mechanisms in our life. If we always focus on fears, that’s what we’ll end up attracting to ourselves. Think of “ANTS,”  Automatic Negative Thoughts. The solution to get rid of them is to recognize the negative thoughts when they occur, choose to refocus your mind and replace them with positive affirming thoughts. You can redirect your thoughts and remove those ANTS! 

How do we reconnect and remain connected to our true nature?

Recognize that we are responsible for the outcomes in our lives no matter what cards we‘ve been dealt. The attitude with which we approach life will determine how we play those cards.

Stay committed to yourself and walk your talk.

The word here would be “Congruent”. Living in alignment and harmony with your values, beliefs and purposeful goals. Pay close attention to what and whom you choose to allow to influence your mind and your direction.  Beware of the ANTS! 

Who do you admire? Who is your hero?

My Mother. She had her faith and lived her life by it. She had touched many people’s lives. When she passed away, the church was filled with so many people coming to pay their respects. She always was busy doing things for the church, preparing meals or helping anyone in need. 

I learned from her how to live my faith and how to stick to my principles. I also inherited my mother’s physical strength. She was always on the go and didn’t stress out. She let things go and never held a grudge. When you spend time and energy on feeling vengeful you go down blame street and end up drawing  those negatives things unto yourself, much like pouring oil on a fire. You do more harm to yourself this way. Get rids of those ANTS!

Some tips on how we can build a spiritual life/foundation?

My foundation came from upbringing and my parents. My mother was a leader and always kept the peace. My dad was a hard worker and solid as a rock. They made a great team. They never insulted each other and showed great respect for one another. 

We need to become aware of the choices we make based on the principles we live by.  Spiritual growth and healing starts by making changes with yourself first.

Reading the the Bible taught me a lot. First of all, God is within not outside.

Don’t be quick to judge lest you be judged. Instead, be kind to people.

I also learnt compassion from my mother. You never know people until you‘ve have walked a mile in their shoes. She respected everyone regardless of their opinions.

Be slow to anger and quick to forgive; not the other way around.

Live consciously and teach by setting examples. My parents lead through their actions, not by preaching.

What is also important is family life and support. I have fond memories of the great times we had growing up in Verdun, Montreal. I remember those special Christmas celebrations and how all the family members got along including everyone from both sides as well the extended family, something we don’t see much of today.

Most people are walking around in unconscious state. They need to wake up and stop looking for an instant fix. We need to become more mindful of how we want to live our life and the choices we make. Stay away from those ANTS!

How does music speak to you? How has music touched your soul?

One of my earliest childhood memories is listening to the radio and pretending to play on an imaginary piano. At seventeen years old when I discovered the drums I knew this was what was what I loved. I decided I was going to be a drummer. I never had a teacher. I just watched, listened and enjoyed learning everything I could. Once you make up your mind and stay true to your heart, you will find the way to make it happen. I remember carrying my drum set up flights of stairs for people to hear me.

Growing up with hands-on parents taught me that you need to get out there and just do it.

Immerse yourself in it if you want to learn something.

Playing the drums requires a lot of stamina but now I’m learning how to do it with the bass. I’m applying my musical gift of being able to hear harmony to learning how to do it with all the cords. It’s a new way of looking at the whole song not just from a drummer’s perspective. As a drummer, I had more freedom to improvise and didn’t have to worry about the other cords. Music keeps me challenged. What I enjoy most is the process. It’s all about the journey and not  the destination. I’d rather wear out than rust out.

The power of music is the most healing and natural thing for me.

It’s an art form that touches everything we do. It touches all the other art forms as well. Can you imagine dancing without music? A movie without soundtrack? Music is like the background of our lives most memorable moments. Music sets the mood and relaxes you.

Music is everything. Mind you, I’d much rather be playing an instrument than just listening to it.

How do you deal with challenging times?

In a moment of crisis, I heard my inner voice speak loud and clear to me. The power of listening and inner knowing steered me in the right direction. I realized it was the truth that I had to accept. This was a pivoting time in my life. 

Also when I finally decided to let go of my 30 year secret of being sexually abused as a child, it lifted such a big weight off of me. I finally realized that it wasn’t my fault. Hiding it had a more damaging effect on me. I needed courage to stand up and speak my truth. That is what worked for me.

Intentions are also really important. We need to take aim and cultivate it positively otherwise you end up going down the rabbit hole with negative attitudes. Chase away those ANTS!

What are you most grateful for?

I’m most grateful for my great upbringing. I was raised with a good set of values and learned to incorporate them into my life. My family helped spark the gift in me by making me aware of the conscious force that allowed me to become a conduit for music.

I realized it takes a lifetime to become yourself. And along the way, the best medicine is to learn how to laugh. 

My parents grew up in Newfoundland. They didn’t have much but they worked hard and had a simple philosophy in life. They grew up sharing and caring. Whenever I visit Newfoundland, it always feels good, like going back home. I will always be thankful for it. There’s something special about the people there. I remember the story of 9-11 when thirty seven planes had to be grounded. Over three thousand people were left stranded in the small town of Gander. The whole island sprung into action to help. The people of Newfoundland welcomed these strangers into their homes, offering them food and shelter. Everyone joined forces.

This is about the core of spirituality, helping others. Doesn’t matter who they are, the important thing is that you help them. Remember karma, what goes around comes back at you.

What is creativity and how do we tap into the flow of creativity?

We are all born with creativity. Not everyone ends up using it. Like singing, some need to learn it. With patience, practice and work, you can develop your skills. Challenging yourself to learn new things.

Keep applying yourself. Now that I’m learning the bass I want to learn things for the sheer joy of it. Do what you love.

I am blessed to have music running on both sides of my family. My sister grew up playing the piano so I listened to classical music. My early childhood memory was being able to see the keys of the piano at eye level. I didn’t know how to play but I knew what the notes sounded like and would be able to point out the right key.

I always had the ear for music and the timing for the drums for me was like a dance. Didn’t realize the extend of my gift until I stepped into it. 

When I discovered the drums I knew that’s what I wanted to do. However it took me longer to find the courage to jump in and pursue my dream. Take a risk and don’t forget to stomps out those ANTS!

What valuable lessons you have learnt in life?

Always tell the truth, that way you don’t have to remember what you said. You’ll always have the same answer if you tell the truth.

My favourite quote from Joyce Meyer is “Do it afraid.”

It’s ok to be afraid but do it anyway. If you give into your fears, you wouldn’t do anything in life. Don’t freeze your feet to the ground with fears. Get the courage and just do it. Act in spite of your fears. You can learn a lot from making mistakes.

 Before my fifties, I used to hear these words and never really understood or believed them. Today,I appreciate them and incorporate them into my life. It’s one thing to know about these things but it’s another to apply it. 

Change your mind, change your self, change your life. Take responsibility and stay on track.

It’s important to share and to connect with people. It’s all about helping others feel good about themselves.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts. And don’t forget eliminate those ANTS!

Antoinette Giacobbe