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Q&A With Jason Duggins

Jason-DugginsWhere did you grow up and was your family musical?

I was born in Greensboro, NC. My first musical influence was my Grandmother. She could play anything she put her hands on. I was always mesmerized by that when I was a kid.

 Tell us about your childhood and how you came to pursue music or bass in particular.

I had a very good childhood. I am blessed to have such great parents. They drove me all around the state to countless gigs,and hardly ever missed one. When I was a child I was always drawn to music. Believe it or not,I was on my way to becoming a very good drummer. It always came very natural to me. I began playing drums when I was 6,and bass when I was about 12 or 13. I was a guitar player as well. Eventually the drums,and guitar fell to the wayside,and the bass sickness took over. There is nothing like driving the low end on good song. It’s infectious. Guess that’s why we all still do it. Rhythm and pocket always grabbed me. It was never about playing a lot of notes for me.

 

How did you become the singer you are? In no way does this question discount your incredible bass abilities but GREAT singing bass players are not a plenty and you are most certainly a GREAT one.

Thanks, Dave. It means a lot for you to say that. That’s a tough one. I learned a lot listening to my Mom. She use to sing along with the radio,but it was always harmony. I always thought that was cool,and wondered how she heard those parts. Then one day it just clicked. I started hearing them. Ever since then it’s been part of my contributions to musical projects. I got up the courage to sing in front of people when I was 14 or 15. I was always kinda shy. I finally had to ask myself one day,”How are you gonna know if your’e any good if you dont do it in front of people?” As for getting good at it,I’m still working on it! Lol.

I really started growing much stronger as a singer after I moved to Nashville. I landed a horrible paying gig,playing bass,and singing high harmonies behind a strong tenor singer, 200 plus dates, so I got a lot of practice. Thousands of cover,and some artist gigs later,here I still am. In recent years,I’ve been doing my own Solo stuff. Playing in and fronting my own band in Nashville. When I’m not backing someone else up ,you can find me in Nashville playing acoustic,or with my band doing several gigs a week.

Tell us about your career and shed some light on The Broadway scene in Nashville. What’s it like, the hours, the reality of that scene is what we are after?

Like most musicians, and aspiring artists, I’ve had to pay a ton of dues. I’ve been up in the clouds, and down in the mud, but Im glad I stuck it out. I’ve been lucky enough to land some artist gigs, do some recording,travel everywhere, play some big venues, and make some people I love,proud. I have also been fortunate enough to write and record my own music.

As for the Broadway scene, it can be extremely fun, and rewarding, or extremely painful, The hours are extremely long,the clientele isn’t always pleasant, and the talent level stretches from mind blowing,to ultimate mediocrity. Sometimes you don’t know who you are gigging with till you get there. I’ve never thought I was above playing Broadway. People have their opinions about it,buts it’s certainly treated me well in the past years. Even on the darkest days there,you’re still getting payed to play for a living. That can’t be all bad. I think that’s what we all of us have always been after. It doesn’t matter if you are playing Broadway, The Opry, or cutting tracks in a fancy studio, or in someone’s living room.

How did the Montgomery Gentry gig come about?

In Nashville we always run into each other. Whether it be on broadway,on the road,or in the studio. I had crossed paths with those guys a lot in the past years,but didn’t know them very well. I was on a gig- in Mexico at a beach resort for the The TJ Martel foundation. We were all there for a few days. I got a chance to know their band leader Eddie Kilgallon,who was himself a country music influence of mine when I was coming up. Great singer,songwriter,musician. After that we would kinda stay in touch for the next 3-4 years. We got together for a writing session a while back. I’ve been playing around town for sometime now. He texted one day and asked me where I was playing. He came out to one of my gigs,and right after asked me what I was doing after the new year.

What advice would you give a young bassist moving to Nashville?

Be absolutely sure that’s what you wanna do. Be ready to put in some work. Do something to separate yourself from the pack. I’ve always found that good musicians find each other. If you have something, you won’t go undiscovered long. Networking is also important. Be the best player you can ,but also be the kind of person people can stand to be around.

Tell us about your gear.

I play predominately 5 strings these days. I’m a huge fan of Low End Basses. Those are my go to nowadays. I’m also huge fan of Alien Audio, and Sandberg. My tour rig at the moment is a Fender Pro 800 ran with a Db 4-10 Aguilar Cabinet. I’m not really a huge gear head. I’ve always believed tone comes mostly from your touch on the instrument. Gimme a good bass, and a good amp, and I’m happy.

What are the issues that work against young musicians out there today as in I feel it’s much harder to bang out a living playing music than ever before? Tell us your thoughts and viewpoints on this and what steps would a young musician take to pursue music as a living.

I would have to say getting your calendar up, and keeping it up is the hardest issue to face. The anxiety that that next call might not come in. Gigs come and go. New opportunities present themselves, but always eventually go away. That’s the main issue in my mind. It’s hard to stay on everybody’s call list. Especially with the rate that guys are moving to town.

It’s hard even for the high level guys sometimes. Young and old. Being a sideman in general is tough because you’re never promised a gig tomorrow. The more you can do, the busier you are going to be. It helps if you’re a singer as well. Dabble in everything, watch your drinking, and attitude. Play everywhere,and with everyone you can. Studio, Broadway, Road. Get yourself on everybody’s radar. If you write songs, connect with songwriters. That will lead to Artist, and studio work. A gig is a gig. Try not to pass any good ones up. You also have to be ok with not knowing what’s next sometimes. You just have to drive yourself, and trust in your talents. If you do that you will always have a new door to open.

Who are your top 4 influences on bass?

Wow! There are way too many to mention. I’ve always dug guys that really know how to drive, and build a bass track. Guys like Jamerson. My favorite Nashville guy is Kevin Swine Grantt. I was instantly drawn to his style first time I heard him. He’s definitely a big influence. Other than that, Rocco Prestia has been an all time favorite of mine. Last but not least,I would have to say Nathan East, and David Hungate. That’s 5 haha sorry!

What do you draw inspiration from musically speaking? 

I draw my inspiration from playing with great musicians. Nothing inspires me like that. I love playing with musicians that challenge me. You always wanna reach back for that something extra when your on stage with serious players.

In closing what’s on the Horizon for Jason Duggins? 

I’m hoping each and every step gets bigger. One thing about music. You can never stop growing or getting better. That’s what I’m hoping for. I’m totally happy with what I have achieved thus far, but I’m never satisfied. I’d love to achieve success in all categories. The way I look at is, I get to payed to play music for a living. Even though the business has its ups and down, when u let that statement sink in, it’s more powerful than people realize.

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