Barry Stephenson - Love Riots

There are plenty of proven stage tactics that musicians can use to engage and entertain a live audience – the entire band leaving the venue is usually not one of them. For John Batiste and Stay Human, leaving the stage has become an extension of the show. For these off-stage excursions, dubbed “Love Riots”, Baptiste leads his band – and many times – the audience themselves, in a New Orleans-style parade out of the venues and through the streets.

Did we mention that the band also grabs acoustic instruments as they leave the stage so that they can continue playing outdoors?

Bassist Barry Stephenson is the musical glue which holds this swampy, ‘New ‘Awlins’ outfit together. Known for his ability to switch between electric and upright basses, Stephenson came to the attention of Baptiste over a year ago after playing a late-night session at Club Dizzy’s at Lincoln Center in New York. After a three-week tour of Europe, Stephenson’s role in the group was cemented in place and they have yet to look back.

Getting ready to record a new album with Stay Human, Stephenson came by the Aguilar Artist loft this summer to give us the details on what is next – including upcoming solo releases, the joy of playing festivals and having dinner with Earth Wind & Fire’s Verdine White!


So… you’ve been pretty busy!

We’ve been on the road non-stop since October! We were on this huge tour of the US that was spread out over different legs and then the festivals kicked in. We recently played Bonnaroo and the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl – that was kind of surreal! And we just came from Beirut, Lebanon where we played part of this festival at a private gallery that was associated with the event. And tomorrow we go to Turkey for the European leg!

The tour is a real mix of headlining shows and festival dates – how do you like the festival circuit?

I love playing the festivals because you get to hang with all of these great players! I got a chance to hang out with Derrick Hodge one day - he’s one of my favorite bass players out there right now. Then I got to meet Verdine White (Earth, Wind & Fire) and he was super cool – he invited me to his house in LA for dinner! Stuff like that just reaffirms why you play music! It’s a privilege to get in front of an audience and play music that lifts people’s spirits and can get them through hard times. But on top of that, to meet your idols? Wow!

What Aguilar gear are you using on tour?

Normally I use the DB 751 and DB 410 but for the big shows I’ll get the DB 810! The other night at Central Park, I used the Tone Hammer 500 with the DB 410 and it was awesome!

Once I started using Aguilar, I was like, “what are they doing to get the bass to sound like that! Because that is the sound I was looking for!” Lately, I’ve been on this thing where I keep the amp flat. Maybe I’ll hit the ‘deep’ switch or ‘deep’ and ‘bright’ at the same time and then keep the rest flat and try to get what I want with just my fingers. And being able to use your touch and where you play in different areas of the bass to get different sounds. And I can do that with this rig!

What is next for you?

We are about to record the new record which is supposed to be out in spring of 2015, so everything we do from here on out will be like a week or two at a time instead of two months straight.

I’m also preparing some stuff for my band in New Orleans, Barry’s Pocket, which I guess is a funk-rock vibe and we’re releasing an EP this summer. Then I have this jazz record that I recorded about three summers ago so I have to release that – it’s been too long! But you know, when you’re a sideman, you are doing everyone else’s stuff, and your stuff gets pushed to the backburner inadvertently. But I can’t complain – I love what I do!

Thanks for chatting with us today Barry, we look forward to hearing your future projects!

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