Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Down-Low, with Sean O'Bryan Smith

Hello all- the following post was written by a close friend of mine, Sean O'Bryan Smith. Sean is a smoking bass player who is a regular on the Nashville Session scene. Sean does quite a bit of writing for various publications and is great. He and our friends at Eden Electronics were kind enough to let us re-publish his music business survival column that was originally posted on Eden's website. You can check out Sean's great brand of modern Jazz by clicking on his name in our "Links" section. So, without further delay, I give you- "The Down-Low" with Sean O'Bryan Smith:

Hey Gang,

Sean here. So for my first article I pondered multiple subjects that could relate to the world of us low-enders and even though it is not a new concept, I wanted to remark on my experiences of the value of playing simple. Before moving to Nashville in 1999, I had spent a six year stint performing throughout the Southeast with my own fusion band. Needless to say, I had about ten times the notes I needed for the gigs that were available in Nashville. Naturally, I would go on the gig and try to astound folks with my technical prowess but, reality set in when I wasn’t getting called back for some of the gigs. This went on for sometime before I realized that the problem was not these poor saps who couldn’t appreciate the new spark of groove they were experiencing. Nay, it was yours truly shooting himself in the foot and not following the “when in Rome” philosophy of adapting to my new surroundings. So after a short period of swallowing my pride and generally sitting in the corner pouting, I embraced the fact that I was going to have to adjust to this whole simplistic thing. Little did I know at the time, that this was going to be one of the greatest musical Renaissance moments in my career.

One of the necessities of Nashville is to perform artist showcases. While logistically, this can be a royal pain in ye olde back side, these were great opportunities to hone my new approach on bass. Keep in mind that these are typically singer/songwriter gigs and can be grueling but, also a source for some really cool and diverse material. With that, I soon realized that there was a true art form to playing simply and it could even be………… wait for it………extremely hip. The joy of hearing stripped down music in its purist form got to be extremely intoxicating to me. I even got to the point of when I had the opportunity to “overplay” I opted to lay back even more. Especially, if there was a large band and definitely on artist dates. Trust me, a tour bus is crowded enough and it makes for a LONG ride home if you stepped all over the guitar player’s “big moment” on some tune. Anyhoo, the real Renaissance moment came from this when I truly discovered the tunes I was playing. I actually grasped the concept for the first time in over two decades of playing “for the song”. This believe it or not, was even though I thought I already had it figured out. By the way, make a mental note that we NEVER have it all figured out in this obsession of ours called music.

All in all, everything I have mentioned changed my opinion of different playing styles and opened me up to a host of wonderful players. Until then it was all Marcus Miller, Mark King, and Jaco Pastorius for me. Now, the new masters to me are Hutch Hutchison, David Hungate, and Chris Campbell ( ala Silver Bullet Band ). More than any, I really dug in to the work and approach of Tony Levin ( insert bald comparison here ). He has the profound ability to marry amazing technique in to the right situation and still keep it fresh even if it is a simple part. Whether doing big old football style whole notes or playing the bass with drum sticks ( check out Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” baby !! ), I realized that the same cat can do it all and it can all be hip.
Now for the best part my fellow pounders of the “one”. Once the concept that it is OK and even cool to just lay back and groove the REAL fun begins. Nothing is hipper than just laying back and knocking a groove in to the ground. Especially, when the whole band is “pigeon necking” and giving you the affirming grins we all desire. Then the moment you have been waiting on all these years comes.The time to step up and unleash those mind numbing licks for YOUR moment. You can finally rub your groove stank on them and you think “What Should I DO ?!” Let them fly like there is no tomorrow my babies. All that restraint you have been practicing will allow you to actually make a statement instead of being that guy or gal who wanked all over the tunes all night. Then, you are “the Man”( or Wo-Man ) and you are turning down the work instead of wondering “Why won’t they call me ?”. Then you can truly enjoy the music and have a good time which is why we all ultimately got into this in the first place.

Seriously though folks, all of my musical awakenings have kept me extremely busy over the years in the industry and have led me from master sessions and the clubs to the theaters and stadiums. It has been and will continue to be a great ride. I hope that with a little bit of shared knowledge the same holds true for you. Until next time my fellow low-enders. Keep groovin’.



About the Author:

Sean O’Bryan Smith is a professional bassist, producer, and freelance writer. As an author, Sean has been published in Bass Player magazine, Vintage Guitar magazine, and Premier Guitar magazine as well as writing his monthly column on Music Business Survival for www.eden-electronics.com .

Sean is recognized internationally as a solo jazz artist and professional bassist. He has recorded or performed with such artists as Billy Ray Cyrus, Sara Evans, Rebecca St. James, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Anna Wilson, and Rodney Atkins. Sean is currently promoting his solo CD on Groove Therapy Records entitled “Tapestry”. Bass Player magazine calls the Cd “....soulful, melodic, and unpretentious….” Sean is currently booking shows for upcoming radio appearances, clinics, and concerts. “Tapestry” can be purchased at CDbaby ( http://cdbaby.com/cd/seanobryansmith ), iTunes, MyMusicStream, and other fine retailers.

For more information on Sean’s music and writing check him out at .



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