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June 2012: Matt O’Donnell

The last few times that I’ve written in this space for Bass Frontiers, I’ve harped pretty hard on the idea of being prepared for your gigs. I’ll reiterate that it’s a very important concept, and that I try and stress its importance so that other people may not blow gigs like I have a time or two from not knowing the material cold (it’s embarrassing). However, this time I want to talk about the complete opposite side of the spectrum of musicianship in the form of belief. I’m going to approach it from a sort of roundabout starting point, but I think you’ll see what I mean when I tie it all together.

About 5-6 months ago, I was in the grocery store stocking up on all my random essentials for my man cave (I have since moved out of that man cave into a house with another incredible bass player….someone we’ve featured here on Bass Frontiers and has become a favorite interview among readers) and I was thinking about where I was and where I wanted to be. I was on the back half of the age of 25 and thinking about the gigs I’d been doing and where they were in comparison to the gigs that I would really enjoy spending my time doing. Along the way through that grocery trip, I ascertained that I would really like to have notoriety as a bass player here in Nashville established by time I was midway through 28. That’s a generous amount of time to give myself, I think, and it seems like a highly attainable goal. Setting goals for yourself as a musician are incredibly important in continuing to develop. That’s what I’m shooting for.

Somewhere in the space since then, we’ve lost a number of our musical icons in the world. I think that maybe the number of legendary artists to die this year (Whitney, Don Cornelius, Levon, Duck Dunn, MCA, Etta, Earl Scruggs, Donna Summer, Davy Jones, Doc Watson, Dick Clark, and Bob Babbitt has been very, very sick), not to mention those who passed in the last 3-4, is the way of the cosmic balance shifting the weight and responsibility of creating music to the younger generation.

Look at how many of these people were GAME CHANGERS. They didn’t even carry torches….most of them LIT the torches. I think maybe it’s like the entire musical spirit is saying to many of us, “we’ve shown you what to do and lived long enough to hold your hand through some of it. Now it’s truly your turn.”

What I’m just trying to say is that whether we like it or not, pillars and beacons of music that created American popular music as we know it today are leaving us. While they’ve been around, there hasn’t been an onus on people to maintain integrity of our art form, because they’re still manning the fort. Now that they’re gone/going, young/developing musicians have to take the responsibility of pushing this thing up the hill.

I want to do my part to push and be one of those people. Plain and simple.

Jim Stinnett often used to ask me in my bass lessons what bass players I was listening to. When I would respond, and usually not with “bass players’ bass players” (I would often say Pino, Nathan East, David LaBruyere, Lee Sklar…), he would ask me if I thought I could manage to play that well and be that successful. I would often respond along the lines of “Ugh, I don’t know…” This was not a sufficient answer for Jim, and he’d remind me that no goal that I set to try and be successful was going to even get off the ground unless I believed that I could see it through in the first place.

Very soon here on Bass Frontiers, you’ll get to read an interview that I did with Joseph Abrams. Joe is out on the road with fast rising artist, Mayer Hawthorne. When I get to interview players for the site, I always like to ask what advice they’d give to young or developing players. (I ask this not only because I want you to have the information, but I want it just as much!) Joe responded by saying that what you LOVE the most, you should do with your life. All through his high school years, Joe would go to bed, put on a concert in his headphones and imagine he was there, that he was the bass player. He focused hard enough on it that he could see through to the end.

If we want to be the cream that rises to the top, we have to know that it can happen before we even get down to serious business. I’ve had many of the same doubts that most of you have had, and the players whose playing I live and die for have had them at some point to. Read about how many of your favorite artists came to prominence. SO many of our favorite artists have been the least likely to be where they are today.

So just go ahead and believe. Let’s do our heroes proud.

Matt O’Donnell
Managing Editor

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