The Importance of Faith, Purpose, and Preparedness: An Interview With Drummer TreWay Lambert
Updated: Feb 13
At 26, Bernard “TreWay” Lambert has already lived a life full of amazing experiences, whether it's been traveling the world on tour or winning Grammys while juggling high school homework. To some, his life may seem like a series of lucky events, but in talking with TreWay, I’ve learned his path had already been predetermined, even being shot in the back just after receiving news that would propel his career.
If you ask TreWay, the events leading him to his current successes have always been God’s plan. Banging on his first drumset at the age of three, there was no doubt in TreWay’s mind what he was meant to do, and it couldn’t have come together better. With faith, focus, and a prepared spirit he has played every late-night show from the legendary Saturday Night Live to the Late Show with Seth Meyers and completed numerous tours with Meek Mill, Future, Jasmine Sullivan, Marsha Ambrosius, Floetry, Bebe Rexha. TreWay’s life has come full circle with still so far to go.
The North Philly native is using his talents to get others moving to the beat of his drum, motivate and educate the next generation with his brand Onda1 all while making sure he’s present every week for Sunday service at his home church. Continue reading to learn how TreWay became your favorite rapper’s favorite drummer.
I’m humble. Somebody my age not doing this. People [where I'm from] don’t make it to 25, I’m grateful.
[Lightly edited for brevity and clarity]
As a southern girl, I understand growing up in the church. After doing some digging, I found that you are what we would call a ‘preacher’s kid.’ What role did the church play in your upbringing and currently in your life?
TreWay: I was in church my entire life. My mom was in a gospel group in Philadelphia that traveled around and singing at different church concerts, and my dad was the director of a choir in VA, where I was born. Just being in church every day kept me grounded. Just that background and upbringing of knowing why I am playing drums, the significance, that all ties into my purpose today. Most people that grow up in church, their lifestyles are very structured. You have to get up at certain times for Sunday school and bible study. It helped me to understand what it is I really wanted to do in life.
I found my passion at church. Not feeling like I always had to be a star. Just knowing how to watch. My faith is so strong in God and everything I build; I keep God first. Every artist I play for knows I have to be home for church. If the gig is on Saturday, I’m flying [back] home for church on Sunday. I’m so blessed, not many get to say they are a 2-time Grammy award-winning artist.
You begin playing drums at the age of 3. Were you always musically inclined?
TreWay: My whole family is musically inclined. It was in my blood. My father was a singer and sung in the choir, my mom sang in the choir, my aunts, everyone except my grandfather. He read a lot of books. My mom tried to get me to play the piano, but that wasn’t my thing. I liked to bang on things.
Why did you choose the drums?
TreWay: My grandfather was a big thrifter; he would buy everything he saw, he didn’t care if it didn’t work. He bought me a drumset, and I couldn’t say off of it. When that happened, they set the drumset in front of my cousin’s drumset at the church and I did everything he did. From that, it elevated. At around 8 or 9, my mom had me at a place called The Five Spot in Philadelphia, and they had this event every week called "The Black Lily." That was where all the neo-soul artists who were coming up at the time performed -- Jill Scott, Floetry, Musiq Soulchild, Glenn Lewis, The Roots, and even Jazmine Sullivan. My mom had me in the mix of those individuals. She would give them her ID and credit card, and they would let me come into this club and sit for a few hours and play the drums. I was just absorbing all of the energy and talent, and at a young age, it was creating a monster. I’m so grateful for my mom having the mindset of not keeping me just in church, but letting me explore my roots and keeping me grounded so I wouldn’t get lost.
You were born in Virginia and raised in North Philly. We always hear stories of what life is like for a young Black child in the city, but we don’t hear about the positives. How did the culture in the city of ‘Brotherly Love’ influence you?
TreWay: At the time, I was super young, so I didn’t understand. I just saw [the] drums. My mom taking to these places and introducing me to different artists, I just wanted to play the drums, I didn’t really know these people at the time. At the moment it was like a dream because until this day there hasn’t been anything like that. Growing up in North Philly, I was around both sides; I’m around the church and around the streets. It was something that I was grateful I was around because it kept me smart in both areas. I wasn’t just a church boy. I’m in church on Sunday, bible study on Tuesday, but throughout the week, when I went to school and go home, I still had my cousins that were on the block. I still had those guys asking, ‘yo, what’s you good?’ or ‘I’m proud of you, keep doing what you doing,’ or ‘watch your back. Don’t be out here like us.’ You know, just keeping me up on game. That culture alone kept me grounded.
Percussion is the heartbeat of music. As a drummer, you’ve set the tone for some of today’s biggest names at their live shows. Have you always wanted to travel the world and play to thousands?
TreWay: I always wanted to travel the world. My grandma used to take me to these church conventions every year, and we would go to all these different cities; it was mind-blowing to see something outside of Philly. So, I knew I wanted to travel the world. It just so happened my gift made room for me to do that. It just so happened I was able to travel the world and do what I love. The last tour I finished -- The Jonas Brothers’ Happiness Begins Tour with Bebe Rexha -- waking up every day to a different arena, was so mind-blowing to me. Having basketball games in the same arena where we just played a sold-out show. The players are walking into these locker rooms I was just in, it’s a grateful feeling.
Fresh out of high school, you were playing drums for Tye Tribbett. How did the opportunity come about?
TreWay: It goes back to when my mother was singing in the choir. Tye Tribett and his group, Greater Anointing, would always be on the program for the concerts, so I was always connected with them; my older friends would sing with them. The band was by far the greatest band I’ve ever seen in my entire life, they’re all my brothers to this day. Later on in life when I got to high school, one of the members of the choir brother passed was a big drummer in Philadelphia, so I reconnected with them at the funeral. My big brother Amandle "Dole" Lassiter was doing the sound for Tye Tribett, and one day he randomly called me and said, “yo, come with me to Jersey,” I’m like, 'alright cool.' We go to Jersey, and maybe it’s my personality, but I was always taught it was okay to serve. The drummer needed help, and I just helped. From that point, they would say, 'we got a gig this weekend. You want to come?'
So for the next three years, I was traveling the world with them. They were dropping me off at school Monday morning and Friday I would get picked up. There were times I was doing my homework on the bus. Randomly, one day, we had a ski retreat, and while everyone was playing basketball, I was in the auditorium playing the drums. It just so happened I never fully played the drum while with Tye and group. I just played my position. In my mind, I was out of school, traveling the world with the greatest artist and groups of all time in Gospel; I was living, but at this moment, I got on the drums, and I played with Thaddius Tribett. Everybody ran in, and they heard me play for the first time.
At that moment, I was asked can I play the morning service. A few months later they asked can I come to rehearsal. I get to rehearsal and set up the drums like the other drummer, and Tye told me to get on and play. I played, and the rest was history. I did my first show in LA at Knoxbury Farms and went on to be the drummer for Tye Tribbett. I played on the Fresh album, which was number one on the Billboard charts for like 8 months, which was crazy. Then I did the Greater Than album, which would go on to win two Grammys, so I’m a Grammy-award winning drummer.
You finished up a North American tour before the new year. How is life on the road?
TreWay: Every day I’m in a new city, waking up on a tour bus. I have to eat breakfast, so I always make sure I had Eggo waffles and Apple Jacks. I either find a sneaker store or the nearest music school; I always try to find a music school and talk to the kids. Growing up, I didn’t have people coming to speak to me about touring or life, so I try to give back to the next generation. By then, I’m heading back to the venue, eating catered dinner. Catering on the Happiness Begins tour was by far the craziest. Then we do the show which is crazy because it’s sold out and you walk out to people screaming. After the show, I try to find a jam session and chill for the night. The next day, we’re on to the next city.
Everything today is computerized even when it comes to production, how important are live instrumentation and building musicianship skills?
TreWay: It’s very important, very important. I love computer stuff, but it takes away from the feeling of the music. It’s one thing to go to a show, and you hear the beat drop, and it sounds like the record, but it’s different when that beat drops, and it’s a live kick drum and a live bass. You can feel the passion behind the song; it’s like church. No MPC, no computer, nothing can replace that feeling. The greatest example is Jay-Z’s Unplugged. He had a whole Philly band behind him. When “Song Cry” dropped, you felt it.
It’s very important to know your craft. Growing up, I went to a music high school and was in the marching band, orchestra, jazz band, all that. When you want to play at the big events like a Clive Davis party, they are handing out sheet music because there may not be time to practice. That’s why I want to get back to reading music. I want to be able to play the big gigs like on Broadway, something of that caliber.
Your list of collaborations is already so amazing and diverse. Who would you like to work with in the future?
TreWay: Billie Eilish; I didn’t know who she was until this last tour, Bebe Rexha put me on to her, and I was just like, ‘wow, she’s amazing.’ She’s young, gifted, talented, swagged out, she’s her own person. That describes something I would love to be a part of.
Rihanna, I love Rihanna, I think she’s a dope artist. I need her to drop her album. Myself. I’m an artist, and I thank God for the things I’m about to share with the world. Most people feel like they can’t really connect to everybody, but I know coming from North Philly, getting shot in my own hood to come back and travel the world, it doesn’t get better than that.
Who is The Now Generation?
TreWay: It started with a group of my close friends wanting to play music, our own music. It started in church. I had a birthday party, and I wanted to perform. I wrote a song called “Don’t Call,” which went viral, and we started to perform across the city. We started traveling, and different artists and musicians started to recognize us to the point we had to create our own music. We had to sing our own songs, we couldn’t do covers anymore. We just blew up. Just my dogs, my friends, playing good music, spreading good vibes and positivity. Doing what we love. A big part of our band is we love to make people dance. If you have somebody dancing to your music, it’s over. The Now Generation is a collective of musicians that are now. People talk about the past and the future, but they don’t talk about the people now who have a big impact, and that’s the generation that needs to be heard.
You experienced a life-changing event when you were almost taken away 3 years ago. How has that traumatic experience changed the way you live your life?
TreWay: That day by far was the scariest day of my life, no lie. I woke up on January 28, 2017, and I thought that I was dying. My first question was, 'can I play the drums?' It was such a traumatic experience that I found my purpose. I woke up asking God, 'what is it you are trying to show me?' Really, I just got too comfortable. I feel like people get to a point where they are really, really, comfortable, and they feel untouchable and that they can do whatever they want. That’s where I was at. I was going places by myself, and around people, I shouldn’t have been connected to because I felt like, 'I’m cool.' God has a way of humbling you and showing you, you are gifted and anointed. You have a purpose in life, so you can’t be amongst the regular people because you are not regular. You have a gift and talent that the world needs. If I can’t play drums, what am I going to do? I don’t know anything else.
Waking up to that, I found my purpose, not to say that I didn’t know already, but that put a stamp on it. This is it. I’m a light. I have to show people the goodness of God; it’s okay to serve first. God sat me down. The day I got shot, that morning, I got the call to play the drums at Coachella with Future. That was the only thing on my mind when I woke up. I had signed a deal with Regal Tips a week before that. I taught at a school that morning. Everything was going good. Luckily I was only there for a week. God has a way of working things out because it could have gone left. A month after that, I played on the Ellen show with Future. I played at Coachella, I dropped my signature drumsticks with Regal Tips, I played on tour with Bebe Rehxa, I got so many endorsements. Every day since that Friday has been lit. Blessings on top of blessings.
What was the inspiration behind Onda1?
Tre: I started my brand because I was going to a music conference, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and talking to these companies introducing myself. 'Hello, my name is Tre Lambert, and I play with this artist.' They would say, 'who is that?' I'm like, 'huh' because these are the biggest gospel groups, but that didn't matter to them. So I told myself the next time I went, the people at NAMM were going to know me, not the people I play for. So I started a brand called Onda1, which a music term to stay on beat, but I made the 1 [represent] your goals and your dreams. Just stay focused 'Onda1' and attack that.
The next year I went back I had a videographer, t-shirts, stickers, socks, hats, hoodies, pens; I took a whole squad with me, I took my mom and my family with me. I'm a walking billboard at this point. So I have my videographer basically vlogging my everyday life, and this is back in 2012 ain't really no Instagram, and I'm getting 1,000 views in a day which back then, is a lot, so I'm up. Later on, I did a radio interview, and after being on the radio, the person who owned the station said it was the most listeners they ever had for a show and asked did I want my own radio show. So, I started a radio show called I'm with the Drummer which I would have different musicians, musical director, and artists call in and have a one on one. Listeners had a chance to call in and ask questions. Then I started a television network, which I'm relaunching this year, which is based around musicians. You get an inside scoop on the tours, live shows, and what it takes.
What is its purpose or mission?
Tre: Musicians didn't really understand branding at the time. They didn't understand being themselves; it's bigger than being behind the artists. I wanted to be known outside of being the drummer for xyz. Ten years later, I'm just grateful. We up. It's a great feeling knowing people are still buying the brand, we Onda1.
What do you hope to teach future musicians?
Tre: Know your worth, and know your purpose. A lot of musicians get discouraged because they get lost in scrolling on Instagram and other people's lives, thinking they can't be that. Social media is smoke and mirrors. I teach purpose, integrity, having your own brand. Just know your purpose and knowing yourself; be okay with being yourself. You can get lost in trying to mimic and be something that you're not, then you won't have your purpose, and you're stuck in being a copycat. Having different oceans of income. Showing the next man that what I have is possible. I'm not where I want to be, but I'm closer.
We always Onda1!
You can keep up with TreWay Lambert on his Instagram @its_treway for his latest shows and more.