The Brazilian low-ender fills us in on her dream gig, the best bass advice she’s been given, her most embarrassing stage moment, and more
Born and raised in Brazil, Julia Lage followed her musical calling and picked up the bass at age 13. By 17, she was a full-time member of the Latin Grammy-nominated band Barra Da Saia, who toured arenas of the world for well over a decade. With her talent and playing flourishing, she moved to Los Angeles, where she went on to perform and record with artists such as Pat Travers, Elliot Easton (the Cars), Adam Lambert (Queen), and Alejandra Gusmán, as well as performing alongside Janelle Monáe on American Idol. As a songwriter, she began getting her songs placed in movies and television shows, adding to her already in-demand schedule.
Nowadays, she’s a member of the platinum-selling rock band Vixen, and her own band Sister Knot, in addition to holding down the bottom in Smith/Kotzen, a rock–blues band formed by Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden) and Julia’s husband, Richie Kotzen of the Winery Dogs. Currently, she’s putting the final touches on her debut solo album, which she’s recording as a singer and multi-instrumentalist. Always globe-trotting and jet-setting to her next concert location, Julia is growing busier by the day, but we were fortunate to catch up with her to ask her our 10 Questions.
1. What’s something readers would be surprised that you listen to?
Even though I play rock and I love it, I am Brazilian, and I love listening to bossa nova or even songs from our countryside. They use this beautiful acoustic instrument that we call viola caipira. It’s a ten-paired-string instrument — basically five open notes — turned in different ways, but usually an open chord like E major or G major. It’s very traditional, and I love to listen to it. Renato Teixeira and Almir Sater are some of my favorites. I also listen to classical music. I grew up on it; I used to play the flute and sing in choirs. I like instrumental French music. And when I want to get pumped up, I listen to Halestorm, Slipknot, Megadeth, and even some Mars Volta!
2. What’s one element of your playing that you most want to improve, and what have you been practicing lately?
Probably slapping or soloing. Soloing is not something I get the chance to do often, but I definitely appreciate it. Also being able to play and sing simultaneously is a skill I’m always working on. Lately I’ve been focusing on finishing my solo album, so I’m working on creating some interesting bass lines that I can be proud of.
3. What was the first concert you ever attended?
The first concert I recall was the Rolling Stones. Epic. I was blown away. I was a teenager, and watching them in Brazil with everyone singing their songs in unison was surreal.
4. What’s the best concert you’ve ever attended?
I’ve got to say the Rush concert in São Paulo was one of the best ones I’ve seen in my life. The way those three musicians were able to sound so big and tight was amazing. Plus, I love watching Alex Lifeson go from his solos to the rhythm guitar in a way you could swear that there are two players there. And of course, I won’t even start on Geddy Lee! He was and is a huge influence for me. Also, I saw Aerosmith recently in Vegas, and it was an incredible experience to watch Steven Tyler up close doing his thing.
5. If you could have lunch with any bass player today, alive or dead, who would it be?
That’s a tough one, but chatting with Paul McCartney would be a trip. That guy saw it all! He has experienced being in probably the biggest band ever, which created a worldwide buzz and changed the course of music forever. He performed back in an era when they could barely hear themselves. Imagine how confident you have to be. He writes the most beautiful bass lines, and when you analyze any of them you see that they also change the entire song. And he remains incredibly relevant and brings new generations to his concerts. What a journey!
6. If you could sub as the bass player in any band, what would it be?
I’ve always thought Jamiroquai would be a fun band to be the bassist for.
7. What was your first bass?
A Washburn. I don’t know what year it was, but it was very basic. My mom was still seeing if I really wanted to play bass. Classic! [Laughs.]
8. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about playing bass?
I think one the best ones was to go out and play with better musicians than you. You have to put yourself into the fire to be able to evolve sometimes. There is only so much you can learn in the comfort of your own room.
9. What the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you during a performance?
Oh, that’s a bad one [laughs]. I was playing a show in Brazil with two big screens on each side of the stage. We used to have some doubtful outfits back then, and I was wearing a very open-V-neck kind of suit. After the show, my road manager told me she could see on the big screen a bit more than what I was willing to show, if you know what I mean [laughs]. I was flashing everyone!
10. What are four items that you absolutely need to have on the road with you?
I’m pretty chill. I’d say, my noise-canceling earphones. In Vixen we have stuffed animals, so I cannot forget my buddy the stuffed giraffe, Pudim. I carry a blanket with me on planes because I get weird when I’m cold. And on the glam side of things, I cannot forget my makeup and my curling iron, for showtime magic. Add my conditioner in there, too, because after all the headbanging I absolutely need it! –BM
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