What a year! How I Became Nicest Bassist Part 1.
Here we are at the end of 2010. This really was one of my best years in this short musical life I restarted in 2004. If you had told me back in 2004 that I would find myself playing bass for one of Canada’s most prolific songwriters I’d have looked at you with more than a little skepticism. But in the end that’s what happened.
Sadly it was the earthquake in Haiti where the journey begins. The Aoelian Hall, one of my favourite places to play in London, held a benefit to raise money. I played bass for Jennifer Thorpe that night as well as Light of East Ensemble. One of the first performers to play was a very pregnant Emm Gryner. I knew the name of course as well as a few tunes but had no idea that there were 10 plus albums and counting and several Juno nominations. I don’t remember what tunes she played that night but I was struck by how good she was. We chatted about our Volkswagens back stage and then she was off. Possibly to give birth.
One of the things I have learned while running my day job business for close to 20 years is that there is no harm in asking anyone anything. The worst that can happen is someone would say no. So my modus operandi when I meet another musician that I have either played with or they have heard me is to send a message to follow up about how nice it was to meet whoever that was. So I did that with Ms Gryner. “Hi, nice to meet you. Perhaps I can play bass for you some day.” And low and behold Emm replied and said she might take me up on that someday. Sounds good to me!
That was in January. Fast forward to sometime in April and I popped into the London Music Club to make some loud low frequency noises at the Thursday night blues jam. There was a poster for an Emm Gryner show in May at the London Music Club. So what do I do? Yes, I send a message to Emm asking if she would be interested in having me play bass for some tunes on her London show. And amazingly she said yes. She sent me mp3 of Get Brave, Troublesome, Stray Bullet and
Up to this point my gigs usually involve reading lead sheets or a chart. Sometimes I’ll have listened to the tunes for a show and made notes about how many verses there are in a tune or where the bridge goes. I usually have a music stand on a gig. Call it a security blanket I suppose. I thought that for a show with Emm I’d have to work without out a net. Who wants to watch a show with a star like Emm while the bassist has his nose buried in a music stand? I remember asking Leland Sklar how he prepared for a show and his answer was to play the tunes over and over so that’s what I did.
Come show time in May I was more excited and nervous than I’ve been. When I started playing again in 2004 I got quite wound up before shows but that wore off when local singer Paul Langille told me once, “It’s just music, nobody dies.” That throwaway line really changed my thinking on a show and I was able to relax. Until Emm’s gig.