Layin It Down With Nathan East

Nathan East, one of the world's busiest bass players, talks with Chris Tarry about influences, attitude, touring, presidential inaugurations, and more!
Chris Tarry: Hi Nathan and thanks for spending some time here with us here at I have been a fan of your playing and career for many years! Tell us a little bit about how you started playing the bass.

Nathan East: Thanks Chris! My older brothers Raymond & David played guitar and sang in church (Folk Mass era) and while tagging along one day (age 14) I noticed a bass guitar on a stand at the alter. Not really knowing what I was doing, I picked it up and started to play along with the music and instantly fell in love with what I was feeling. That was it! I asked to owner of the bass if I could borrow it and he let hang on to it for a couple of weeks. Never looked back. My mother then bought me a bass at the music store for $49.00 and I was on my way.

CT: You have had a great career backing up some of the worlds biggest artists. From Eric Clapton to Phil Collins. What are some of the highlights for you? Can you also add to my short list the names of others you have had the opportunity to play with.

NE: I have had some invaluable musical experiences and worked with some wonderful people such as Quincy Jones, Babyface, David Foster, Fourplay, Sting, Stevie Wonder,... I'm still pinching myself to be honest. There have been numerous highlights including over 100 concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall with Eric (Clapton) as well as his Unplugged CD. The recent Fourplay European tour has been fantastic! I performed for President Clinton's Inauguration and several times for him during his term including the Millennium Celebration New Years Eve Gala on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC to bring in the Y2,000. I also played for Pope John Paul II at a youth rally in New Orleans Superdome, what an experience!

CT: What is it that these world famous performers are looking for in a bass player? At that level is it the same for all of us, good time, great attitude, and a nice sound?

NE: All of the above! Groove, feel, humor, attitude, you name it, they want it.

CT: Who are some of your favorite bass players out there and why?

NE: I love Pino Pallidino's very melodic approach to the fretless bass. He's one of my favorites and has such a creative and identifiable style. Steve Rodby with Pat Metheny is also one of my favorites....pure groove! Of course Marcus Miller is the man who needs no explanation, he's amazing!

CT: With a hectic touring schedule like yours, what kind of hobbies do you enjoy when you do get a little time off?

NE: I enjoy performing magic and joined the Magic Castle in Hollywood and the Magic Circle in England. It's good fun and most people love magic. I am also a private pilot and own a Lancair IV-P pressurized single engine four seat airplane. There aren't too many things more exciting than taking off, flying and landing an airplane! Best of all, I love spending time with my wife and new twin babies!

CT: Is there a Nathan East solo project around or one in the works?

NE: Yes, finally I have managed to find some time to start my own project which I hope to release in 2001.

CT: Your currently on the road with the jazz group Fourplay. How do you keep your jazz chops up during tours with non jazz artists?

NE: With a bit of hotel room practice, I try to keep my fingers in tune but it's difficult if you're not soloing every day to really keep those chops up.

CT: Are you doing any writing with Fourplay?

NE: Yes, I've written five songs for the new Fourplay "Yes, Please" CD.

CT: What kind of stuff are you practicing these days?

NE: In all honesty, I don't have much time to practice so I listen to as much music as possible in all genres.

CT: What do you consider to be your big break as far as being a busy side man goes?

NE: I've had many wonderful opportunities in my career and no one thing has been the Big Break however it hasn't hurt being a full time member of various bands including, Barry White's, Al Jarreau's, Kenny Loggins, Eric Clapton Band, Phil Collins, Fourplay, etc.

CT: What kind of things were you looking for in a bass when you developed the Yamaha Nathan East Signature model?

NE: I was looking for a one size fits all bass. A bass that records well and sounds good in a live setting. Sort of like the Fender Bass was in its day.

CT: How do you approach creating a memorable and functional bass line in the studio?

NE: I listen to what's going on in the song I'm recording and try to come up with something that compliments the melody and the groove. There are so many different options and it's all about finding the right one.

CT: Sounds like great advice! Nathan thanks for hangin out with us here at ActiveBass and best of luck in the future!