Profile on Prince’s Drummer Hannah Ford.
Driven by her lifelong passion for rock and extensive studies in jazz, Hannah “Ford” Welton brings a dynamic, multi-faceted history as a world class drummer to her role as the rhythmic backbone of PRINCE’s 3RDEYEGIRL, the legendary artist’s explosive four-piece rock band that features Hannah, Canadian guitarist Donna Grantis and Danish bassist Ida Nielsen.
Formerly the drummer and vocalist of the Chicago based rock trio The Hannah Ford Band, the Milwaukee based crossover Christian band, Bellevue Suite, and her one woman inspirational Peace Love & Drums multi-media show, Welton’s versatile performance history covers all styles of music, from pop and rock to jazz. Launching her professional career at age twelve by joining a blues band with her trumpet playing father in the Windy City, she is the only female to win the Louis Bellson Heritage Days Drum Competition (2006).
Welton’s other regional accolades include being voted “Outstanding Jazz Musician” at Chicago’s New Trier Jazz Festival (2007) and “Outstanding Musician” at Chicago’s Jazz in the Meadows Festival (2007). Ford was named “Best Drummer/Musician” in Suburban Nightlife Magazine’s “Best of the Burbs” readers’ poll in 2007 and 2008. She was also cast as “L.A. Coulter,” the onstage drummer in the 2011 Chicago Royal George Theatre run of the Whoopi Goldberg produced musical “White Noise.”
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, where she lived until she moved with her father and brother to Chicago at age 12, Welton was immersed in the performing arts from a young age, dancing from the time she was three and gravitating toward the drums by age seven. She received practical playing experience and ear training as part of her school ensemble, The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists. Her evolution continued through study with some of the world’s greatest drummers and teachers, including Diane Downs, Louie Bellson, Ruben Alvarez, Jerry Steinholtz and Ndugu Chancler. After moving to Chicago, she studied and performed with legends and mentors such as Peter Erskine, Stanton Moore, Danny Seraphine, Johnny Rabb, and multiple Grammy award winner Paul Wertico.
After a childhood focused on Classic Rock influenced by the powerful sound of John Bonham and Led Zeppelin, Welton expanded her scope considerably through scholarship study at the Chicago College of Performing Arts. While continuing her studies with Paul Wertico, she played in the school’s Latin Ensemble, Big Band Orchestra, and studied in the Vocal Jazz Department. She also had the opportunity to play with top touring musicians, including Wynton Marsalis, Butch Miles and Jeff Berlin.
Welton was on a Guitar Center clinic tour conducting master classes when she heard from PRINCE’s representatives that he had discovered her via videos on YouTube and wanted her to come to Paisley Park Studios to jam. Joining PRINCE’s New Power Generation band in the summer of 2012, Welton made her national television debut with the ensemble on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in October, performing “Rock N’ Roll Love Affair”.
In November of 2012, after receiving direction from PRINCE, Hannah and her husband Joshua set out to find the best female guitarist in the world. Shortly thereafter, they discovered Donna Grantis and invited her to jam. The musical camaraderie between PRINCE, Welton, Nielsen and Grantis was undeniable, which led to the birth of 3RDEYEGIRL.
Welton performed in their critically acclaimed tour in the Spring of 2013 and is currently working with the band on their upcoming debut album tentatively titled Plectrum Electrum. 3RDYEGIRL appeared earlier in 2013 on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” performing the new song “Screwdriver” and the classic early Prince song “Bambi.”
“We are a band of bandleaders, and the experience of working with PRINCE, Donna and Ida is not only exciting and magical, it is also taking my career and my artistry as a drummer to a whole new level,” says Welton. “We all share a powerful work ethic and a desire to create great music. With every rehearsal and performance we are literally pulling the best out of each other in a crazy and beautiful way.”