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: Oteil Burbridge
Bands & Artists: Col. Bruce Hampton & the Aquarium Rescue Unit, the Allman Brothers, the Peacemakers, Frogwings, Vida Blue, Herbie Hancock, BK3, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Zac Brown Band, Herbie Hancock, Oteil & Friends, Dead & Company
Home: South Florida
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
I have a two-year-old and five-year-old. I think you can imagine how non-stop it is when there’s no school, no summer camp, no parks, no indoor play places, no friends allowed to come over. We’ve had our hands full! I did finally hook up my tiny recording set up to get some video and audio made for a site called Live From Out There, which streams music and donates the money to musicians and crew who are out of work indefinitely. Doing that has helped me to start to learn the piano better. I didn’t want to sing an accompany myself on bass so I’ve been playing more piano, to do a solo set that way. But my time is mostly spent trying to entertain the kids.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
Fortunately, I’ve been able to take a couple of FaceTime lessons with jazz guitarist Tom Guarna [Lenny White]. He’s given me some new harmonic material to work on when I’m up late at night. That’s been fun. Learning chord melody never gets old.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
I listened to Lyle Mays yesterday. I put on Weather Report’s Black Market the other day, for old times sake. The kids were dancing around the kitchen to “Elegant People.” I don’t listen to that much music at home, believe it or not. It’s starting to change a little because I want to turn my kids on to the stuff that I grew up with, but it’s hit or miss if they like it. Nigel loves Earth, Wind & Fire, so that’s awesome. He also loves Howlin’ Wolf.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I had one of my Foderas converted into a bass synth by this company called FretTrax, but I haven’t had much time to mess with it. And I still play my old, green Modulus 6-string, that I got in 1991, just about all the time.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies or workout recommendations do you have?
I try to bike 16 miles first thing every morning, with my buddy Arthur. If I do my yoga and 100 push ups—5 sets of 20, I’m no stud—then I feel really good. I’m a long-form podcast guy. Lots of politics, MMA, real conspiracy, spirituality, ancient Egypt, and other miscellaneous topics. For inspiration, I still turn to the ancient spiritual texts. The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu is my current favorite, though I live on them all: Torah, New Testament, Tao, Bhagavad Gita, Ancient Egyptian Mysteries, and so on.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Who knows, by then?! I hope that Dead & Company will be able to play, but when do you think they’re gonna let 40,000 people get together again? That’s probably gonna be a while. I guess my solo band and other side projects will have to be my mainstays.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Follow your joy. I am savoring time with my kids, not counting when I want to throw them out the window! Ha! Keep your pendulum swings close together. If things get too far out of balance that pendulum can whack you over the head when it comes back. Now is a great time to consider everything that you were scared to try, face, or change. Keep balance. Feed and train your mind, body, and Spirit. They’re the only ones you have—in this dimension anyway. As Earth, Wind & Fire said, “Keep your head to the sky.” Who knows, you might finally see a UFO as clear as the skies are these days!
All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi