nandi bushell
[Photo by: John Bushell]

Nandi Bushell may be emanating the kind of energy and enthusiasm only a kid is capable of when she joins our Zoom call on a Sunday afternoon while she’s not in school, but she’s also a kid who could kick half of the alternative music community’s asses in a drum battle—including, but not limited to, Dave Grohl.

At just 11 years old, Bushell can only appropriately be deemed a music prodigy. While she still enjoys spending time with her family, including her younger brother and blossoming musician Thomas Bushell, going to school and hanging with friends, she also injects an intense amount of energy and practice into her musical skills. Having gotten her start at the age of 5, her father, John Bushell, first introduced her to alternative music and began teaching her how to play drums before she exceeded his skill level.

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It’s hard to deny that there are individuals three times Bushell’s age who haven’t accomplished as much as she has, even in the past year. Throughout the lockdown-filled year, Bushell has gone from being an absolute beast behind the kit to becoming a viral sensation with her drum covers of anthems such as Foo Fighters’ “Everlong,” Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” and, most recently, Slipknot’s “Duality.” 

Beyond her tactful drum covers, Bushell has also thrust her talent into playing guitar and learning how to play saxophone. Additionally, she’s created several of her own original songs and has been dubbed the very first Cartoon Network resident musician. While Bushell’s been virtually rubbing elbows with the alternative world’s most elite musicians and her long resume of accomplishments offers a lifetime of wisdom and skill, need we remind you, she’s only 11 years old.

The first thing I wanted to talk to you about is that you have become such a massive icon on social media. Who do you consider to be your biggest musical influences?

My biggest influences are, of course, Dave Grohl [and] Jay Weinberg, who is the drummer of Slipknot and the best metal drummer in the world. Tom Morello, Travis Barker. Brad Wilk, the drummer from Rage Against The Machine. Willow Smith. Nate Smith, [who’s] a really, really good jazz drummer. Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’s amazing. Taylor Hawkins, the drummer from Foo Fighters. Jimi Hendrix and Lenny Kravitz

So obviously, your fans know that you’re very young, despite being so incredibly talented. I know that you posted recently that you just turned 11. When did you first discover your interest in alternative music?  

My dad was in a band, so he knows all about music, and he also listens to different types of music and shows me the music to see if I like them or not because he’s been exposed to a lot of good music. That’s where I get all of my music from because my dad knows a lot about it. 

You’ve also had the opportunity to work with a lot of iconic rock musicians, including Tom Morello. You had that back and forth with Dave Grohl, which was so fun to watch unfold. And you were in a blink-182 music video last year. Who are you hoping to collaborate with in the future? 

Billie Eilish. I really like her music, and she has a really good voice. Slipknot, Lenny Kravitz, although I have jammed with him, so it would be nice to write a song with him. twenty one pilots, I like a lot of their songs, and Arctic Monkeys.

You also recently teamed up with Cartoon Network, which is really cool for you because it combines your love for music as well as your love for cartoons. What can we expect from that team? 

You can expect me and [my brother] Thomas to be in Teen Titans. Teen Titans is my favorite cartoon. I really like how funny it is and all the hilarious jokes in it. And I’m going to be writing songs for Cartoon Network. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I also like DC a lot, like Wonder Woman and Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

nandi bushell
[Photo by: John Bushell]
If you were one of the Teen Titans, who do you think you would be? 

Raven is my favorite character. I really like her powers, and she’s quite cool. I’d probably be her. I like Starfire as well, but she says “the” in front of every single world. Like, “I am so the happy.” And my brother would probably be Beast Boy. He’s really cool, and Thomas is also a beast as well. The attitude of Beast Boy is really funny.

Is it going to just be for Teen Titans, or are you going to do it for multiple cartoons? 

Lots of cartoons. [Laughs.]

I’ve heard a rumor that you’ve written a song called “The Children Will Rise Up” with Tom Morello and his son Roman that’s set for release pretty soon. How did that all happen? 

I just asked him to write a song about climate change because climate change is probably going to wipe out the world if we don’t do something about it. So if we raise awareness, people can do the right thing to stop climate change. So he sent us some guitar riffs, and he said, “Do your magic on drums and some singing. Do your magic on it.” So we did our magic on it. And then it sounded pretty awesome. They made a few adjustments, and then we had it. So my dad is working on the music video for it, and it’s got Jack Black and Roman Morello in it. So it’s me, Tom Morello, Roman Morello and Jack Black, who is quite funny.

That’s awesome. Sounds like a very big supergroup happening. 

Yeah, this is pretty funny and cool. 

Is Jack Black just in the video, or is he involved in the song as well? 

He’s not involved with the song, but he’s involved with the music video. He’s like, “Your training is complete. Now go and rock the world!” 

What do your fans have to look forward to next from you? 

Well, the Cartoon Network [collab], the Tom Morello [song]—that’s going to be pretty epic, and also, I’m going to be on the front cover of Modern Drummer magazine.

That’s awesome. I bet you’re probably going to be the youngest person who’s ever been on the cover.

I got crowned the youngest person to be on the front cover of Modern Drummer magazine. 

How do you feel about that? 

It’s quite an achievement. It’s quite cool.

I think that’s awesome, especially because you are a young woman, and you’re making rock music, and I think that’s such an amazing thing. It’s something that other young women really need to see. Is there anything else that you want to add on or discuss for your fans?

Probably in the future, in a few years, I’m going to be touring the world. Fans can look forward to my platinum album. [It’s] probably going to be triple [or] quadruple platinum, and [I’ll be] touring around the world. [Laughs.] I’m going to be playing festivals and stadiums and lots of other big [venues].

You can read the whole interview with Nandi Bushell in issue 395 featuring cover star WILLOW