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.
Bassist: Norm Stockton
Bands & Artists: Bobby Kimball, Lincoln Brewster, Bill Champlin, Rob Mullins, Solo Artist
Home: Mission Viejo, California
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
I came down with shingles within the first week, so that occupied me for the early part! Regardless, I’ve been able spend precious time with my family. The lockdown is more challenging for those of us who are extroverts—but as an introvert, it’s candidly been a very productive seven weeks! I’ve made tons of progress on an upcoming migration and update of my instructional site [www.artofgroove.com]. I’ve been doing all of my teaching—both privately & for Biola University—remotely. I’ve done remote sessions and a bunch of editing for upcoming videos. And I’ve been playing for a church’s streaming services.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I had some inflamed tendons in my hands, so I took some time to rest and heal. Lately I’ve been feeling better and getting back into the usual stuff: harmony, groove, and technique. As always, formalizing and cleaning up material for my instructional curriculum has been illuminating and educational for me!
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 been enjoying the Dunlop Sessions on YouTube. The Marcus Miller and Snarky Puppy episodes were very inspiring. Dominique Di Piazza’s Facebook Live streams are amazing. Michael Manring’s new album sounds fabulous. I like broad range of misc: Coldplay, The Flecktones, Nickel Creek, Miles Davis, Radiohead, Etienne Mbappe, Imogen Heap, Oz Noy, Sting, Jonatha Brooke, to name a few. Great music is one of the coolest blessings in this life. I usually gravitate toward music that moves my heart versus impressing me on a virtuosic level. It’s interesting, though, that you can often discern underlying virtuosity in the former.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
MTDs remain my primary basses—particularly my signature 5-string. I’ve been playing a lot on a hand-built MTD passive P-bass I got last year, and it’s awesome. Kala’s U-Basses are so beautiful and musically evocative. I have a standard mahogany and a new striped ebony, both with the LR Baggs upgrade. I’ve recently transitioned away from paper charts to using an iPad Pro. I just got a PageFlip Firefly pedal for page turns, which is next-level convenient.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
Having been into sailing since I was a kid, I’ve watched a lot of related material on YouTube, such as The Ocean Race, The World Sailing Show, John John Florence’s Vela, and some of his “Twelve”series. I’m a longtime addict of all things Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. I’m happy to have resumed my modest workout routine—push-ups, pull-ups, and some dumbbell work. Otherwise, my faith has always been foundational—even more so with what’s going on in the world today.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Grooves & Sushi [http://groovesandsushi.com], my web series and upcoming album as an artist. I’ve done three shoots to date and I’ve released nine episodes on my YouTube channel [www.youtube.com/user/normstockton]. I’m hoping to do my fourth shoot—tentatively with guitarist Lincoln Brewster and drummer Chris Coleman—in the summer for a late 2020 release. I’ve also been giving much thought to launching a podcast. Stay tuned!
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
My big takeaways are that the world can change in an instant and control is largely an illusion. But the one thing we do have control over is our response. Many close friends and loved ones are having an excruciating time, and I’m definitely in the trenches with them. On a career level alone, it’s been a tough year for musicians—particularly in California, between the pandemic lockdown and AB5 before it [edit. note: a controverisal bill that extends employee classification to gig workers]. The lockdown can be viewed as a hopeless time to watch one’s livelihood crash and burn, or the perspective can be that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take on something that you’ve always wanted to, but didn’t have the time. That could mean writing for your first solo project, working on your sightreading, studying Bach, or starting a podcast—note to self! My encouragement is to dive into it with abandon. Write songs and play grooves that move your heart and bless others. Reach out to loved ones and let them know they’re loved. Brighter days are coming.
Follow Norm: Here
All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi