“I’m more of an independent musician,” said Sullivan, who is referred to professionally as J-Rod. “Aside from just playing the drums, I also produce music as well, like tracks for different artists. Most of the time, I usually make it on my own. I don’t bring anybody in often because I’m capable of producing the music myself because I also play bass guitar and I also play piano and keyboard. ... As a kid, I was a football player and I wanted to be in the NFL. That was my dream. I guess, my dad kind of pushed me to the music side because he saw that I had something in me that was different than a lot of people.
“He saw passion behind the music. So I kind of shifted my way toward music more, put more of my time into it and worked hard at it. I’m thankful to be where I’m at now and I’m going to keep pushing forward, pursuing this. [In the future] I just want to tour the world,” he said, adding artists he would enjoy performing with include Erykah Badu and Justin Bieber. “And I produce also, so whenever I’m not on the road touring I could be in the studio or producing for an artist also. So that’s two of my goals that I want to be able to do for a living.”
A 2011 graduate of Cartersville High School, Sullivan graduated from Atlanta Institute of Music Sept. 23 with a degree in music performance.
Along with being a musician at Grace Community Christian Church in Kennesaw, Sullivan has participated in several studio sessions as well as performed with artists around Atlanta during the past year. Along with smaller venues, some of his past concerts at the Atlanta Jazz Festival and Centennial Park have featured larger audiences. In late September, Sullivan also attended a gospel recording project in Denver, where he was able to meet artists, such as Joshua Rogers and DeWayne Woods, and be featured in a taped performance for a program — in honor of the Aurora, Colo., community — on The Word Network.
“I’ve known him for about three or four years,” said metro-Atlanta musician Chazz Reese. “He’s a phenomenal musician. He’s a very responsible person. He’s currently my MD. I’m an artist and he’s currently my music director for my band. He’s done a production with me at The Fox Theatre just recently. He’s been on Praise 102.5, which is the No. 1 gospel station in Atlanta. We did a live concert with that.
“And he’s a producer, and he’s very good at his craft and a good person. [He also is] very detail-oriented. If it’s something he has to learn, he’ll get it down ... It’s borderline genius — his skill set. He’s a very talented musician.”
Referring to himself as a down-to-earth, humble person, Sullivan is a member of St. Luke A.M.E. Church in Cartersville, with his favorite quote being “Walk by Faith, Not by Sight.” Along with providing spiritual nourishment, Sullivan said attending church also introduced him to his favorite instrument.
“The thing that drew me to the drums was when I was growing up in church I used to watch the drummer at the church play and I just fell in love with them that way. When I was little also, I used to get pots and pans and stuff out of my mom’s cabinet and start beating on them with spoons,” said Sullivan, the son of Joe and Alfreda Sullivan and the grandson of Norman and Beverly Johnson. “My grandma, I think, she noticed something through that also, and she bought a toy drum set with paper heads on it. I messed that up and then started progressing my way toward a bigger set.
“I [feel that I] can express myself through the drums a lot,” he said, adding through the years he has become versatile in a wide range of music genres, including gospel, R&B, jazz, pop, rock and fusion. “It’s just like a whole ’nother world when I’m playing. It’s so emotional. I can just let out my emotions through music, not only just drums.”