A Slow Build: Nick Buda ’96
You’ve probably heard Nick Buda ’96, even if you haven’t heard of him. One of Nashville’s most sought-after drummers, his time-keeping talents can be heard on huge records by Lionel Richie, Jewel, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, and others. He’s played venues ranging from the Grand Ole Opry to the David Letterman show. As mainstream as his career has become, his journey has been anything but typical.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, during the height of apartheid, Buda and his family were surrounded by unrest and turmoil. When he was 12, his family moved to Nashville, TN. His aunt was a successful pop singer in South Africa, and the family hoped a move to Music City might help advance her career and also offer Nick opportunities.
But life in Nashville was no fairy-tale escape. For months, the family of four slept on air mattresses in an unfurnished one-bedroom apartment. Having arrived without work visas, they scraped by initially.
When Nick was a child in South Africa, his mom enrolled him in piano lessons, but he was immediately drawn to the drum set stashed in the corner of his piano teacher’s room. The otherwise uncoordinated child surprised his mother by showing an aptitude for percussion. By the time he got to Nashville, he was drumming on pillows in the living room before scoring a set of rubber practice pads. Instead of reading or counting sheep, he fell asleep to cassette tapes blaring in his oversized earphones as he tried to learn the rhythmic patterns of his favorite songs.