Tully Kennedy - Lesson Learned

It would be easy to focus solely on Tully Kennedy’s work with Country megastar Jason Aldean. In the course of the last decade, the group has scored numerous chart-topping singles, sold millions of albums and went from playing clubs to arenas and eventually, stadiums. Aldean’s latest album is Old Boots, New Dirt, another colossal hit which features plenty of Tully Kennedy’s unstoppable shuffles and melodic upper-register work.

But in the course of his career, Tully Kennedy has grown beyond a journeyman bassist and into a more complete musician. He immerses himself in a multitude of projects outside of the Aldean camp which call upon all of his skills as a songwriter, lyricist, producer and bassist.

We spoke to Tully recently in between legs of the band’s current tour and it was hardly surprising that he called as he was leaving the studio where he was finishing up one of the projects that he is involved in. So let’s check in with Tully Kennedy to find out how to keep busy in the increasingly crowded Nashville studio scene, his love for Aguilar gear and his current, more compact, touring rig.

 

We have had a few great conversations over the years – beginning when Jason Aldean was a brand-new artist! In that time, you have accomplished so much and yet you still keep busy with various projects; what do you think is one of the most important factors to keep busy in the Nashville studio scene?

Play for the song! That will keep you busy. If you play for the song the best you can, and serve the song instead of serving yourself, then you will always work. If you have good tone and come up with good parts then you could do as much work as you want.

When I moved here in ’96, I got some really great advice from a lot of established players that I really listened to and kind of learned from. Not everyone is that fortunate but I was lucky to meet some good people.

What lesson helped you grow the most as a musician?

The biggest thing that I’ve learned is to just do everything. I’m in the studio, I’m on the road, I produce and I write. Doing all of those makes me better all around. Writing songs makes me really listen to the lyric and play to the lyric. If you are just a player, it could be hard to really understand what playing for the song is. But if you are writing the song as well, it is one of those moments - “Ok, I see now”! Serving the song is what I’ve tried to do in all facets – you have to. I never wanted to be just a road player. I never wanted to be just a studio player. I wanted to do everything.

The songs on Old Boots, New Dirt are full of great bass lines; how do you develop your parts?

In Nashville, what happens in the studio is we get handed a chart which is an outline of the chords and I create my parts around that and try to support the tune melodically. On Tonight Looks Good on You – a possible single release – I really liked what I played on that, I didn’t think too much about it; it just kind of happened. I play what I play and if the producer doesn’t like something, he will tell me and I will change it around but I just try to support everything melodically, the best I can, in my playing.

You just wrapped the tour for the album correct?

Well we finished one leg of the tour last month and we’re doing some TV appearances now but we start up the tour again in February!

You regularly change up your stage rig; you are now using a much more compact setup than in the past.
[Editor’s note – Tully did previous tours with four DB 750 heads powering four DB 412/DB 115 stacks!]

Yeah. I’m still using the DB 750 but I went with two DB 112 cabinets! And I’ve been playing stadiums with those! We have in-ears of course but those 112 cabs are what I lean on. I’ve been playing those forever and I will still swear by those cabs. There is nothing I can’t get with those cabinets – they’re amazing!

You also have a few Aguilar effects pedals in your rig correct?

Yes – a lot! I have the Filter Twin, the Octamizer and the AGRO. The Octamizer is killer and Aguilar pedals in general are amazing. I use them in both my studio and live rigs. And I can’t wait to try out the Chorusaurus!

What upcoming projects would you like to tell us about?

I’m getting ready to start the new Parmalee record – they are a new act in country but they had a #1 single and have a top-ten single now and we start work their new record in December. Also, there is a guy named David Fanning who I recently worked with and I wrote half of his record and he’s on a radio tour now. His first single comes out in February and I’m very excited about that one because I wrote five songs on that record so far – and I’m also producing and playing on it, so I’m looking forward to that coming out!

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today Tully, best of luck with your new projects and we will see you on the road this coming February!

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