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: Graham Maby
Bands & Artists: Joe Jackson, Marshall Crenshaw, Freedy Johnston, They Might Be Giants, Natalie Merchant, Regina Spektor, Joan Baez
Home: New York City
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
Like many people, I can be a bit of a hoarder. This has been an opportunity to go through “stuff,” purge and organize. It’s been very satisfying…but there’s still more to do! The other activity that’s been taking up most of my time since this all began, and even before, is finishing my memoir. (Did I hear someone groan?) I began writing about my life experiences after my mum died in 2002, but I’ve really gotten into it in recent years, with the encouragement of my wife, my daughter, and a few others. With all due humility, I think I’ve come a long way as a storyteller—and believe me there are a lot of stories and maybe a few surprises. At first I had no agenda other than to write for my own pleasure, but as I approach the final chapters I feel confident there’s an audience for it.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
Guilty confession: I am the anti-role model for any budding bass player. I love to play bass, of course, but not as a solitary pursuit. At the best of times I practice when I have reason to, like for a project, session, or gigs. For the last couple of months, I have barely touched a bass. However, pretty much every day I pick up my acoustic guitar or my Fender ukulele and noodle my ass off! You know how you can have a song stuck in your head for hours? Now I go right to the guitar or uke and figure it out, except if it’s something I truly detest. The other day I was playing “As Time Goes By,” before that “Pennies From Heaven,” and before that “All In Love Is Fair” by Stevie Wonder (great song). I still learn a lot from this activity. Playing a song in different keys, playing chords in different positions on the neck so you can pick out the melody and the bassline, that’s what got me started in the first place. I’m certainly not a great guitar player, but this is excellent ear training, not to mention fun. I consider myself a musician first and a bass player second. I gave my wife a little concert on her birthday, that was pretty special. I think she even shed a tear.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
Funny thing, I’ve been listening to Sheryl Crow and Tom Petty this last week. Great singers both, great bands, incredible songs, simple but memorable and melodic. Restores my faith in the validity of rock music to listen to people like them. Add to that list Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello’s Brutal Youth (underrated, one of my favorites), Little Feat, Beck, and the Shins.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
Not a damn thing, sorry.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
Cooking (after all these years I’m getting more confident in the kitchen!), gardening, exercising (dance exercise videos and Yoga with Adrienne), walking, riding my bike. Binge-watching our favorite shows: Better Call Saul, Killing Eve, Babylon Berlin, My Brilliant Friend. Fortunately, there’s a lot of top-notch stuff out there!
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
We shall see…
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
My fellow bassists are my fellow human beings, struggling to look beyond this difficult and unusual circumstance. I’m one of those fortunate (or annoying) people who always has a reservoir of hope. My mum would always say, “Someday we’ll probably have a good laugh about this,” invariably referring to some tragedy or catastrophe. I keep that in mind. Sure enough, I am hearing stories from friends and in the news about “silver linings” and unexpected or surprising ripple effects of this crisis. My friend Gary in L.A. has joint custody of his pre-teen daughter, but now he gets to have her five days a week instead of two. He’s ecstatic! Carbon emissions are down to pre-World War II lows. I’ve lost weight and am fitter than I’ve been in god knows how long. So, focus on the positive, as banal as that may sound. As far as music goes, we musicians need it like food or oxygen. Keep listening and playing, being creative in whatever ways you can. It feels so good to be creative. Write a song, keep a journal, reach out to family and friends. Sorry for the clichés, but a cliché is a cliché because it’s true, right? Hang in there everyone. All Things Must Pass.
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D’Auria & Chris Jisi