“Her name is Rhonda and she is funky.” Prince was a man of few words, but everything that came out of his mouth had a deep gravity and intention behind it, which is why that statement is just about the perfect intro you could deliver for the great Rhonda Smith. Upon meeting Prince in 1995, she instantly gained his respect and admiration and went on to hold down the low end for him for over a decade. After that, she began working with guitar legend Jeff Beck, with whom she has been touring and collaborating for years. On top of that, her infectiously funky playing, deep grooves, nasty slap attack, and tastefulness as a writer have led to her playing with other music icons throughout her career: Chaka Khan, Beyoncé, Little Richard, Larry Graham, Patti Labelle, George Clinton, and many others.
Most recently, Rhonda has released her single “Won’t Come Back,” a soulful hit that puts a serious spotlight both on her thunderous fretless playing and her remarkable talent as a solo artist. Channeling her emotional side through her bass and vocals, the single took the music and bass worlds by storm and has her many fans all over the globe hoping for more. With possible solo work on the horizon and the demand for her playing always high, Rhonda is extremely excited about the future, but we got her to take a minute to reflect on her past and present by answering our 10 Questions.
1. What music have you been listening to lately?
Lately I’ve been listening to a whole lot of classical music, all the time.
2. What’s something readers would be surprised that you listen to?
I’d have to say hip-hop, but that might not be too surprising if you’re familiar with my work.
3. What’s one element of your playing that you most want to improve?
Speed! I’ve been working on getting my fingers moving even faster than ever.
4. What was the first concert you ever attended?
My first big show was a Rush concert in Canada. I was blown away.
5. What’s the best concert you’ve ever attended?
That would have to be Prince — as an audience member at the time.
6. If you could have lunch with any bass player today, alive or dead, who would it be?
Definitely Jaco Pastorius.
7. If you could sub for a bass player in any band, who would it be?
The great Leland Sklar.
8. What was your first bass?
It was a Sears bass that I bought from my older brother, who was a bassist. He’s the reason why I play bass — but man, I definitely overpaid!
9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about playing bass?
Respect the music! Always.
10. What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you during a performance?
I was playing a concert and my signal dropped and my amp stopped working right in the middle of a song. That’s a hard thing to recover from in the moment!
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