Thursday, January 24, 2013

Getting To Second Bass

I'm on a writing binge today--I've got a pot of coffee in me and hours of free time.  It's just like the old days in Vegas, only without the heat and the screaming kids at the pool just outside my door!

Those of you who've been with me for the long haul (still trying to come up with other ways of saying 'longtime readers') know that I'm the worlds biggest wannabe musician.  I gave the guitar a shot for a long time, spending thousands of dollars in the process, and yet it never really clicked for me.  I learned to play everything by rote memorization, and trying to improvise was basically a display of musical ineptitude on the level of watching a baboon with an accordion.  Finances and reality caught up with me around 2002 or so and I spent most of the oughts never even picking up a guitar.

When I got back here to Nashville a couple of years ago, I realized that everyone is this town is a musician.  Or wants to be one.  It's good and bad, because the best way to get better at something is to hang out with people who are better than you at that particular activity, but on the bad side, you can't go to any social function around here without some asshat pulling out his guitar and insisting that you listen to his latest offering that is about to blow up, just as soon as he gets a record deal. Maybe not quite to that degree, but you get the idea...  There are a lot of asshats with guitars around here.

Now, even though I wish I had some musical talent, I've never wanted to be a rock star.  I'm perfectly content to play stuff that other people, who know what they're doing, have written.  Even back in the late 90's when I was putting together a real band, anyone who wanted to join who uttered any variation of 'my own stuff' was immediately dismissed.  A man's got to know his limitations, and I know mine.  If I'm gonna play music, it's gonna be cover tunes.

Anyhow, my brother-in-law, Scottie, is an extremely talented musician, and can play just about any song on any instrument.  Hanging out with him has not only broadened my musical horizons immensely, but it's motivated me to try again.  Now, the hardest thing to find when putting together a band was always a bass player.  Drummers are a dime a dozen, and if you can sift through the rabble, you're bound to find a good one eventually.  But that is too damn much work.  They say rock-n-roll is all about lugging your gear from one end of town to the other, and drummers have more gear than anybody.  Too much work to sit in the back, if you ask me.  Guitarists are everywhere, because, face it, chicks dig musicians in general and guitarists in particular.  If you're a type-A personality but can't sing, like myself, playing guitar is where it's at.  But bassists are a rare breed, and if you can play the bass, your services are always in demand, kind of like being a dice dealer in Las Vegas.

So hanging around with Scottie and his buddies, I noticed that they all played guitar but they always took turns playing bass.  Well, there was my 'in'.  Scottie suggested I learn how to play bass, so that's become another hobby of mine, which I'm finding more and more enjoyable all the time.  Not quite a year ago I took lessons, briefly, but my teacher was so in-demand that our schedules just wouldn't jive.  He was *always* getting called to sit in with a band down at one of the local venues, or be a session musician down on Music Row, or working the stage for some local artist on the cusp. With me back to working full-time and his phone going of like mine did back in the day when I was on call 24-7, we just couldn't make it work. 

But I got a good foundation to work with, and I started playing with Scottie on weekends.  I even picked up this here bass last winter, and while it may not have the cache of a wine-colored Les Paul with gold hardware, it's still pretty.  And it's fun to play, too.

Now that my musical horizons have been expanded, I'm working on my repertoire.  About once a month a group of people much more talented that I gather over at Amy & Scottie's place for a self-described Geek Jam.  Yeah, they're all programmers by day and musicians by night, and probably some the funnest people I know.  Of course, I don't bring much to the table, music-wise, but I'm more than happy to fumble my way through songs with them all night long.  Of course, I take a break every now and then and have somebody else play bass while I observe, and they just rock the house.  Still, I enjoy trying to learn while playing with a real band--it beats the hell out of sitting alone at home with my iPod playing through my amp and trying to keep up with my metronome.

Right now, I'm trying to learn a few new songs for next weekend's get together, including

  • I Don't Feel That Way Anymore by Charlie Robison
  • Son of a Preacher Man 
  • Rollin' in the Deep 
  • Home by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros (great song!)
  • Sleeping Monkey
  • She Left Me for Jesus 
There's a bunch more, because we'll play for hours, but these are the ones I'm concentrating on at the moment.  In the meantime, I couldn't let this post pass without adding this:



Vegas Linda Lou said...

Mikey, that is so cool! My son has been a singer-songwriter since he was in high school, but he also moonlights as a bass player for another band. Why? Because they couldn't find a bass player. I don't think casual listeners appreciate how essential a song's baseline is. How awesome that you've taken this up!

T-Rev said...

Nice! Been thinking it was time for me to pick up the guitar again too. Perhaps I should switch to the ol' BlackBird.


Detroiter said...

hey Mikey, nice to still be able to laugh out loud with you.....Detroiter