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: Harmoni Kelley
Bands & Artists: Kenny Chesney, Hank Williams Jr, James McMurty, Holly Williams
Home: Austin, Texas
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
Well, I was in Nashville when this whole thing got serious. I’m sure a lot of us were at the beginning or in the middle of a tour or rehearsal schedule. We were about to launch into five or six weeks of production rehearsals and that all went away. I ended up staying in Nashville for a few weeks before driving back to Austin this past week. I was finding that it was nice to have a change of scenery. Sometimes that can spark some new ideas and creativity. I had a bass and a small monitor, so I was still able to play and practice!
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’m trying to allow myself the freedom to do what feels right during this time and, honestly, that can sometimes mean not practicing at all. I think I have a tendency to say, “Okay, we’ve got all of this free time, we really need to be constantly doing and moving and creating!” But that can get a little overwhelming. That’s the type-A person in me! When I do sit down to play, I do just that: play. No scales, no drills, no pressure. Just feeling it out. Sometimes that’s putting my headphones in and deciding to learn the bass line to a song that I love, with no expectations for it to be perfect. And, sometimes that means just picking up the bass and playing with no music or metronome on. And, sometimes it means sitting behind my Gretsch Catalina kit and working on simple grooves. Sometimes it ain’t all about the bass in my house!
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
I’ve found that, for whatever reason, Me’Shell Ndegeocello is always someone I go to when I just want to not think and release the day, whether I’m cooking or lying on the couch. She’s perfect for that. I’ve also always been a fan of Beck, especially Sea Change and Morning Phase so both of those tend to come up. Lately, I’ve noticed that Emily King keeps getting replayed in my house. Her album, Scenery, from last year is just stunning. I’ve also been digging Madison Cunningham’s Who Are You Now, The War On Drugs’ Lost In the Dream, and Bon Iver’s 22, A Million.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
Maybe we all do this to some extent, but I’m always looking for ways to get the best possible sound that I can. And, that’s not to say that I’m not happy with my sound. I just think, especially when playing a 5-string, it becomes a goal to try to get a warm bass tone without the mud and without completely losing the low B. I’ve always been curious about Sadowsky preamps and I was curious to see what it would sound like with my 5-string Fender P-Bass. Roger Sadowsky ended up sending me the SBP-1 Bass Preamp/DI to check-out. Luckily, we were able to check that out before closing up shop, so I’ll be excited to add that into my rig when we do go back. Another piece of gear I picked up for this tour was the MXR M89 Bass Overdrive pedal. I’ve used a few different overdrive and fuzz pedals, but I was struggling to find one that retained a great bottom end. I watched a ton of videos and ultimately just decided to pull the trigger on the M89. There are a handful of tunes in the Chesney set that are just begging for a little overdrive action.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies or workout recommendations do you have?
I can absolutely say that exercising and staying active have saved me during this time! It’s such an important part of my routine anyway and I knew that I had to keep it going. There are many great workouts on YouTube that are free, even if you don’t happen to have a workout app. If I’m not feeling the pull to workout, I try to get out for a walk if I can. I’m loving my HBO, Netflix, and Hulu right now! There are lots of great shows out there and I’m trying to work my way through them. Of course, we all know what a hit Tiger King was. I blew through that one pretty fast. I’m in the middle of Handmaids Tale and Ozark, right now. I finished The Outsider a couple of weeks ago. Apparently, I’m into dark and morbid TV shows!
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Aside from hopefully resuming our tour with Chesney, I’ve really gotten excited about starting my YouTube channel during this time. I’ve always shied away from doing videos of myself for some reason, but after talking to a couple of friends who inspired me to just take the leap, I’m ready to get started. Now that I’ve been able to picture myself doing it, I’m finding that the ideas are starting to really flow out of me on a daily basis. So stay tuned for that!
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. For me, this is a big one and I have to have a reminder daily. Sometimes we all get caught up in what we “should” be doing, especially with all of this time we now have on our hands. I think it’s more than alright, if not imperative, that we just take the time to be still. Exercise and be in the sun as much as you can. That’s key for me.
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