Morro Bay native Greg Garman has drumming in his blood.
His mother, a local drummer and dance instructor, played while she was pregnant. It wasn’t long before young Greg picked up the drumsticks, too—mastering the familiar beat to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” at age 4.
“I ran around the room tapping on things trying to throw him off,” recalled Karen Garman, director of Pacific Dance Center in Morro Bay. When she couldn’t stump him, she said, “I knew something was up.”
Her son has put his skills into practice as the drummer for Selena Gomez & The Scene, a pop-dance group fronted by the star of “Wizards of Waverly Place” and “Monte Carlo.” The band performs Monday at the Main Grandstand Arena at the California Mid-State Fair.
“That’s the biggest honor, to play the fair,” said Greg Garman, who saw his first concert there. “I’m more excited about playing the Mid-State Fair than playing the Staples Center.”
Growing up in Morro Bay, Greg Garman spent hours practicing the drums in his family’s garage.
“Several times, the police would knock on our door,” his mother recalled. “In the newspaper it’d say, ‘The little drummer kid is at it again.’ ”
Still, Garman stuck with it, sitting in with local bands and competing in the annual drum competition sponsored by San Luis Obispo’s Drum Circuit. He’d even step in whenever his mom double-booked a drumming gig.
After graduating from Morro Bay High School in 2005, Garman enrolled at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood.
“Finally, I was around people that wanted to do the same thing I do, that shared the same passions,” said Garman, now 24.
Garman went on several auditions during his time at the performing arts school, narrowly missing the chance to play with “Camp Rock” star Demi Lovato.
He was working as a teaching assistant at Musicians Institute when he decided to audition for a new band fronted by another Disney pop princess, Selena Gomez. Unfortunately, the final tryout coincided with his teaching gig.
“I’m thinking, ‘Oh man. What am I going to do?’ ” Garman recalled. “ ‘Worst case scenario, I don’t get the gig and I’m fired.’ ”
Luckily, Garman made the band along with bassist Joey Clement, keyboardist Dane Forrest and guitarist Ethan Roberts.
Selena Gomez & The Scene released its debut album, “Kiss & Tell,” in 2009. A second gold-selling album, “A Year Without Rain,” followed a year later.
The band’s third album, “When the Sun Goes Down,” hit store shelves in late June. Garman described it as an upbeat party album that’s “fun for the whole family.”
“It’s like a rave you can bring your kids to,” he said.
In just a few years, Selena Gomez & The Scene has gone from playing for about 300 people at the legendary Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles to entertaining 76,000 fans at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Garman’s travels with the band have taken him to Argentina, Japan, Germany, Hungary, Mexico and Puerto Rico, as well as countless cities across the United States. He’s visited London four times.
“My passport was blank before this gig and now I’m needing more pages,” he said with a laugh.
Garman said the band’s most passionate fans are in South America, where Gomez enjoys a strong following.
“We got to Chile and there were 300 fans outside the hotel room,” the drummer recalled. “They would stay there for three days straight, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. I would wake up to them chanting (Gomez’s) name.”
Life in the spotlight can be nerve-wracking, Garman said, but he and his band mates have their own methods of coping with stress. They huddle before each show for a brief inspirational speech or prayer.
“What we try to do as a band is keep it light and have fun and play the music,” he explained. “We just want to inspire people to feel better about themselves afterward.”
Thankfully, he shares a strong bond with his fellow musicians.
“We’ve become like brothers,” said the drummer, who shares a house with Clement in Los Angeles.
Garman also appreciates working with Gomez, who he described as “a star on the rise.”
“She’s always had a passion for music,” he said. “(Starting a band) was really exciting for her and kind of nerve-wrackingbecause she had already established herself (as an actress).”
Over the years, he added, Gomez has found fresh confidence as the band’s front woman.
“She’s grown so much,” he said, both as a vocalist and as a performer. “She has the best work ethic and she’s so driven and passionate about what she does. She has a really good head on her shoulders.”
Asked about his plans for the future, Garman said he hopes to keep inspiring people through his music.
“That’s something my parents taught me, to try to make your passion your work,” he said. “You have to work so hard at it, you might as well work at something you love.”