Bass Magazine Lockdown Check-In With Eric Fortaleza - Bass Magazine - The Future of Bass

As the world continues to recover from the Coronavirus, we're all finding ourselves in unfamiliar territory given the subsequent lockdown that is keeping us off of stages and confined to our homes. Luckily, there's comfort in the fact that we're all in this together, and that there are still many outlets for us musicians to keep us active and sane throughout this quarantine. We're checking in with bass players from all over the world to see what they're doing to stay entertained, healthy, productive, and safe during this trying time.

Bass Player: Eric Fortaleza

Bands & Artists: Lindsay Ell, Jude Smith

Home: Nashville, Tennessee

How have you been passing time during the lockdown?

This has been a very interesting time for me. I moved to Nashville from Sydney, Australia in July 2019. Since then I’ve been working non-stop for the hardest working person I know, my boss, Lindsay Ell. In a span of just over six months, I was touring the U.S. and the world because of her. I moved my entire life taking that risk and it expanded my world. I left everything for that opportunity. Now it’s been four months of the pandemic, stuck at home in Nashville, and I’ve been evaluating and reflecting on my life. In less than a year, I’m currently going through two mindsets. Leave your entire life in Sydney. Risk it all for an opportunity that has no guarantee. So you moved your entire life, left all your family and friends… to sit and wait? Since July 2019 up until now, it’s been a soul search of finding meaning in my life. Did I make the right decision? Was it worth it? Are your old relationships going to dwindle? Are these new relationships fruitful? Is this the right path for me? Having nothing going on has been a great tool to reflect and use the time to microscopically tackle every single demon in my life. It’s easy to be happy with yourself when you are busy and doing what you love. But the real challenge is to be happy with yourself when your whole world stops. I can answer this question very easily and say, I’ve been jogging, getting to know my neighbors, reading a lot, attending philosophical discussion groups, and playing video games. But more intrinsically, I’ve been focusing on the Japanese philosophy of “Shoshin,” which translates to having a “Beginner’s Mind.” I want to approach everything in life with an attitude of openness, much like studying bass for the first time, your mind is empty and open. The mindset is trying to tackle a paradox: The more you know about something, the more likely you are to close your mind to further learning.

What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?

To be honest, this has been the least amount of time I have practiced. I do play bass nearly every day, but when it comes to a practice routine, I’ve been inconsistent. I may get inspired one week and start transcribing Miles Davis’ trumpet lines yet another week I realized I just noodled the whole time. The pandemic is funny because in the beginning, there were two different expectations floating around social media: Musicians and artists better have amazing songs after the quarantine. No one can tell you how to process around this time, work on your mental health.So to tie it back to what I was talking about earlier. For me, It’s nice to go back to fundamentals. More recently I started getting back into Janek Gwizdala’s book, Jazz Vocabulary for Electric Bass: ii-V-I. If you guys haven’t checked it out, it’s a great practice tool. I also created a Spotify playlist for it, based on Janek’s listening list from the book. Check it out: HERE

What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?

If I can focus on the “source of comfort” part of this question, I want to highlight one artist in particular who has been giving me that: Theo Katzman. Theo released his latest record this year, Modern Johnny Sings: Songs In The Age Of Vibe, featuring Joe Dart on bass. Theo’s writing is super inspiring. Melodically, lyrically, and the thematic subject matter resonates with me so much. It’s giving me the same feelings exactly like the first time I listened to John Mayer. I got to watch Theo’s Concert here in Nashville before the pandemic and it blew my mind! I have a “Top 3 Concerts Seen” list: Paul McCartney in Melbourne, 2017; Bruce Springsteen in Sydney, 2014; and Stevie Wonder in Los Angeles, 2017. After watching Theo Katzman, he went straight to Number 1. I’m a sucker of happy/sad melancholic songs. There’s an art to be able to convey that kind of story. He has this song called “100 Years From Now” and it’s currently my life theme song. It’s a great song for anyone going through existentialism like myself.

What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?

Pre-pandemic I was in the chat with Mason Marangella from Vertex Effects. He’s the Pedal Doctor on YouTube, he built boards for Cory Wong, Isiah Sharkey, Theo Katzman and many more amazing musicians. I was going back and forth with him building a new board and getting ready for Lindsay’s new album and tour this year, but then the pandemic hit. The goal was to create a consistent signal chain that focuses more on tone than effects. Which is more my world anyway. I’ve been trying out different, subtle preamps, and most recently Aguilar’s DB 925. I try to be very minimalist and do a more meat and potatoes kind of thing. The DB 925 is very subtle with its shaping, so it’s perfect for me.

What non-music activities books, shows, movies or workout recommendations do you have?

If you want to have a little dystopian entertainment, I highly advise reading George Orwell’s 1984. It’s getting a little too close to home especially with what’s happening with the world right now. I also highly advise a book that changed my life. It helped me sort out nearly everything in my life to get to tour the world doing what I love: 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos, by Jordan Peterson. I’ve let so many people borrow it and I just buy a new one so I always have it. And if you don’t want to read, Middleditch and Schwartz on Netflix is hilarious!

What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?

I’m very excited that the artist I play for, Lindsay Ell, is going to be releasing a new album. It’s coming out very soon and “new album” time is always a fun and crazy schedule for anyone! So hopefully the world opens up quickly because as Lindsay’s musical director, I can’t wait for everyone to see what this album is going to sound like live! Because it already slaps on the record! Can’t wait!

What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?

I have always tried to approach my life in this certain way and I never really articulated it until I read “12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos”. One of the rules in there that felt really close to home (literally) is ‘Set Your House In Perfect Order Before You Criticize The World’. Or sometimes it’s referred to as ‘Clean Your Room Before You Fix The World’. This has been a mantra that I have been working on most of my life. I always try to approach life’s challenges in hurdles with this mindset. If you reflect on every hardship in your career, your practice routine, your music, your mental health, your physical health, your relationships, your family, your friends, and all the times a challenge has faced you. When has blaming someone, or something else (continuously in every crossroad) been a healthy or a positive approach? Eventually, you have to break the shackles of blame and work from within. This takes a lot of courage and self-reflection. It’s very easy for me to point the finger, but when that finger points at yourself, it’s WAY HARDER to work on your own demons. But trust me, it’s worth it.

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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi