Jim was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and from an early age, showed real interest in music. He began his formal studies of percussion at age 12, the same year he began singing with the Youth Pro Musica choir. In High school, Jim began his studies with Boston Symphony percussionist, Arthur Press. In addition to Participating in the Natick High band program, Jim was also performing with the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble. He was also elected to ‘All State’ his final three years in school.
Upon graduation, he attended the University of North Texas, where the studied drums with Ed Soph and Timpani with The Dallas Symphony’s Kal Cherry. During his Tenure at NT, Jim was heavily involved with their nationally acclaimed Jazz program, as well as being a member of the top orchestra, wind ensemble, and percussion ensemble at the university. In the area of marching percussion, Jim performed with the NT drumline, where they won five national championships. He also played in the Drum Corps International Finals as a member of the Velvet Knights Drum and Bugle Corps.
After receiving his degree in Music Education, Jim accepted a position as the Head of Percussion Studies for the Coppell Independent School District in Coppell, TX. In 1995, Jim moved to Kansas City in pursuit of his dreams to be a professional musician. While recording with local guitarist Jeff Scheetz, he took a job with Kansas City Drumworks building and selling custom drums. It was at this time that Jim began his long relationship with The VPR Creative Group as a writer and performer with the Sticks of Thunder percussion ensemble.
In 1997, Jim made the move to Nashville looking to further his career as a performer. Less than a year later, he was playing with Country artist Mark Chesnutt and outlaw rocker Hank Williams III. The real turning point in Jim’s career came in 2000, when he took the job as drummer and band leader for Rascal Flatts. Jim is currently on Rascal Flatts’ ‘Me and My Gang’ tour, which is expected to play to well over a million people. Rascal Flatts has sold over 10 million records and is the most successful country group of the new millennium. In addition to his work with Rascal Flatts, Jim keeps busy playing sessions in Nashville, where he and his wife, Jaime, reside.
Jim Riley on his live miking set-up:
"My choice of microphones is something that is very important to me. Choosing the right microphones will help you translate to an audience what you are trying to convey on stage. With Rascal Flatts, I am playing a large drum set, so as you can imagine, we are using a wide array of microphones to capture my performance on stage.
I worked Closely with Jon Garber our FOH engineer and Stewart Delk our monitor engineer to pick the right microphone for each unique application. We use two mics on the bass drum: Beta 52 and a Beta 91. They are both great mics individually, but used in tandem, the 91 picks up the snap and the 52 (placed just inside the hole in the resonant head) brings the big low end. On the snare we are also using two mics: the SM7 on top and SM57 on the bottom. We decided to go with the SM7 because of it's exceptional ability to capture both low and high end frequencies with great clarity. The 57 on the bottom is perfect to pick up some additional "crack." We also use the 57 on our auxiliary snare and it sounds great.
On the higher toms we went with the Beta 98s. What can I say, except they are the absolute standard in live drum microphones.They work great in the studio as well. On our floor toms we wanted to match the thunderous sound of our kick, so my initial thought was to go with Beta 52s. Since we were using the 98s which are condensers on the high toms, Ryan Smith at Shure suggested the KSM27. That was a great call!!
I swear, not a night goes by that I do not get comments about the sound (and impact) of my floor toms. On the hi-hat and ride cymbal, we are using the KSM109s. The 109 is great a delivering the complex tones of my hi-hat and ride with stunning clarity. I love that mic. We use another KSM27 to mic the gong and we top off the whole drum mix with a VP88 stereo microphone placed overhead, directly above the snare in the middle of the kit. This mic not only does a great job of picking up the cymbals, it also gives us a fantastic stereo sound of the entire drum set.
I use two other microphones: the Beta 56 and the SM58. We use the 56 as my vocal mic because of it's great ability to reject unwanted noise, which in our case, would be the drums! The 58 is used as my talk back mic that can only be heard by the band, sound crew and video director.
As bandleader it is critical for me to be able to communicate with the band and crew in case any problems arise or quick changes need to be made to the set. It's not a glamorous job for an SM58, but necessary nonetheless. The final and most crucial component to my Shure setup is my in-ear personal monitors. They are the thing for me that puts it all together. For me, the SCL5s are by far my favorite. They deliver my mix with exceptional clarity while being able to withstand life on the road.
Overall, Shure are the best microphones on the planet for one reason.....they sound like you. "