It’s about the song, not you

If someone asks or hires you to record bass on their song, remember, it’s not about you, it’s about their song. Check to see if they have any preconceived ideas about what they are looking for. They may have a particular song’s bass line that they would like emulated. They may trust your instincts and let you roll with it. Whatever happens, remember, when they ask you to change something you played, it’s not about you, it’s about their song.

The Connecticut one off

Sunday afternoon, June 24th, I get a text from my friend, guitarist Bobby Thompson. Singer-songwriter Justin Jones has lost his bass player due to an injury and he needed a sub for a gig in Ridgefield, CT opening for Gary Clark Jr, on Monday, June 25th, the very next night! On top of that, I had to teach at Jammin Java Tuesday at 530pm. 8 songs I’ve never heard before, 8 available hours to learn basslines and backup vocals? I couldn’t say no, Mike Smirnoff on drums, Bobby Thompson on guitar, it’s a no brainer, I’m in.
The tunes start hitting my dropbox around 3pm. I chart out 2 in an hour, then I’m off to have dinner with my 4yr old goddaughter Melody. 10pm I’m home and back at the tunes. At 430am, I finish the last tune and pass out. 6am, somehow, I’m up, packing an overnight bag, getting stage wear together and loading the bass rig in my car. The plan is, meet Bobby T in Arlington VA, transfer gear to his car, ride to Waldorf MD to link up with the Justin Jones van, transfer gear again, hit the road to CT by 9am. Now, I am not a morning person. Especially after only 90mins of sleep in 18hrs. Normally I would climb in the van and take a 6hr drool nap, but I had too much work to do, so I had to stay awake. I spent the next 4 1/2 hrs fixing up my charts and going over lyrics to sing background vocals. Then it was sleepytime. Got a 2hr nap in, loaded the gear into Ridgefield Playhouse, watched Gary Clark Jr’s band soundcheck (killer group), found a quiet spot, pulled out the bass and got a couple more passes through the JJ songs.
Our soundcheck comes up around 7pm. My ’73 Ampeg SVT is boomin on this stage! I’m starting to get a second wind, but then POP! The fuse in the SVT burns out! No fuse, no bass boom. Do I have a backup fuse? Nope, that’s way to organized and forward thinking, but I do have a backup bass head in the van. Gary’s bass player Johnny Bradley walked on stage during the initial fuse popping commotion. He offered to pull the fuse out of his backup SVT to replace mine and even told me to just play his rig if I wanted. I had my backup SVT so I was covered for the show, but how cool of Johnny to be concerned and offer his rig up. He’s a class act and a killer on bass.
So here we are, creeping up on showtime. Justin and I had been swapping brief moments of small talk trying to vibe each other out. I was about to play his songs with him in front of about 500 people without any rehearsal, we had to get to know each other a little bit a least. He’s a strong songwriter and a great vocalist. It’s much easier to lock in tunes when they’re well crafted.
The show goes great, Mike is laying it down, Bobby rips an amazing solo and gets the crowd cheering, I’m dropping Hammers and Justin is winning the crowd over in record time. After watching GCJr and company blow the place up, we hit the hotel. I catch some badly needed Z’s and then 8am sneaks up ninja style on my butt. I’m behind the wheel by 9am and we are on the road cause I need to teach at 530pm back in VA. Traffic (CT especially) was not kind. The van hits home in MD close to 4pm. Transfer the rig and Bobby and I are on the way to Arlington. 4:47pm we get to my car, transfer the rig and I’m out. I pulled into Jammin Java at 5:27pm, just enough time to put on a clean shirt and try not to look like I just got done driving almost 8hrs straight. The clean shirt was a success, the not looking beat up part, not so much.
Mike Smirnoff and Bobby Thompson got me on that gig. They put their trust in me knowing I would come through in a pinch. It is the greatest compliment when my musician friends recommend me for a gig.