You have had a unique musical relationship with H.E.R.. How did it start and what brought you both together?
It was a studio session that brought H.E.R and I together. Back in 2010/2011 I got an invite from my bro Swagg to come down to Jungle City Studios in NY, and Swagg was working with H.E.R on some music. H.E.R, myself and my ace Carrington were the youngest in the room at the time. I was 20 and she was about 14. Being the younger creatives in the room, we automatically hit it off and made a connection.
As a bassist having already worked with a wide range of artists, what made her music unique for you?
The main thing that makes working with H.E.R. unique is that she speaks “the language” of music. Often times i’ve worked with artists that describe what they want done musically, with colors, shapes, emotion and everyone interprets those things differently. But in working with H.E.R she knows exactly what she wants to hear and communicates it clearly. In rehearsals she may sing a melodic line that she thinks would be dope for everyone to play in the moment and it just always comes out fire! She grew up listening to a wide range of music and is a sponge, so her ear is crazy. Having worked with her for so long, always texting each other about different underground, up and coming music that’s different and inspiring, helps me understand where she’s coming from musically.
Aside from being on stage, you have had the opportunity to compose a lot of music with H.E.R., Teyana Taylor, and Wyclef Jean among others. What is your approach to composing and are there any songs in particular that you’ve composed with H.E.R that stand out and why?
My approach to composing music is to simply create from a genuine place. I feel that when you create out of love and sincerity it will always live and develop into what it’s destined to be. When you chase a sound or mimic a particular song, that’s where you fail. Which brings me to your next question, a particular song that stands out to me would be “Good To Me”. I love that song for so many reasons. We made that song in the comfort of her own home, very organically. Being that we are both huge D’Angelo fans (especially the Voodoo album) — my approach on bass was influenced by Pino Palladino, who I am the biggest fan of. It doesn’t have a lot of instrumentation, just organ, guitar, drums & bass. But it’s such a patient and sincere song that puts you in a cozy feeling -- a vibe.
Who are some of your main influences and are there any in particular that have influenced how you compose?
Well, one of my big bro’s/mentors, Derrick Hodge who actually introduced me to the Aguilar family, is one of my top influences. He showed me and unpacked how vital bass is to a piece of music. When I truly understood that, I went to the moon and I’m still traveling haven’t made it to the moon yet!
How has composing influenced how you play on your bass?
Composing music has made me more aware of the various musical elements around me. I’m very calculated on what I play and what I add to the composition. Whether it’s bass, drum programming, lyrics, melodies, etc. Composing effects all areas of a musician if you remain humble enough to let it change you.
What are some areas that players need to be aware of when collaborating with singers and songwriters?
The first thing I always say is “just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to”. All the fast licks and all that stuff is cool, but what’s going to make the artist feel like they’re experiencing their song? Playing the record, give that space, and hold down the sonics of where your instrument is suppose to live in a bandstand. In my situation as a bass player, we have 2 guitar players including H.E.R, two BGVs, a keyboard player & drummer. So that’s a reminder to really hold down the low-end because all the sonics up top are accounted for. I also believe that the ego should be left at the door. So many times players want to shine when the music is suppose to be the one and only thing shining. I was watching a recent Quincy Jones documentary and he said, “When you start to think about money and everything other than the music, God leaves the room.” I believe that’s because the music is what’s healing the audience, not your fast licks and sticking out like a sore thumb. You can shine and be a rockstar on YouTube and Instagram posts from your bedroom. If you’re supporting an artist, working with a songwriter and leave room!
In light of the current climate of music due to COVID, how have you had to adapt? How can players make the most of this time and how should players be thinking professionaly?
I’ve honestly been loving the time home with the family. I haven’t been home longer than a month in about 4 years. I was able to put more time than ever into my own music production. Now I don’t get overwhelmed when my manager Cristina is hitting me up for music for all types of artists. I think COVID created time for a lot of artists and songwriters to get into the studio to write which created more opportunities for producers like myself. With touring being stripped from us, I feel that a lot of players, techs, engineers should be looking at life differently, which is good. I think it definitely forces you to think outside the box about creating different streams of revenue outside of music whether it’s from things like stocks, real estate investments, etc. Think about it -- we make a lot of money on the road and the amount of time spent on the road is insane. So with that money, while you’re away from home, save a portion and invest it somewhere new, where it can be making you money while you’re doing what you love.
What things outside of music inspire you and what are other ways musicians can engage creatively during this time?
The main thing that inspires me outside of music is my wife and two kids. Seeing them happy assures me that i’m doing the right thing and that I’m working hard. All the hours spent on the road and in the studio are worth it because they are happy and never having to want for a thing. I think musicians should first and foremost focus on your health before you get overwhelmed with the creative side of things. You are no good to your music if what’s inside isn’t healthy. I promise you, once your body and mind are healthy, you will have the bandwidth to be creative.
What are some of your favorite pieces of Aguilar gear and why?
If you know me, you know that I swear by Aguilar. My favorite piece of gear is a tie between the Tone Hammer Preamp DI pedal and the Octamizer pedal. When I was on the first Chris Brown “One Helluva Night” tour working with Teyana Taylor, we were the openers. So that means our setups had to be able to break down in under 10-min for quick change. So what did I do in an arena tour? I did the whole tour with just those two pedals, no bass rig and my JH in-ears. My monitor engineer Chainey Harpe loved me for that! All I wanted was a clean signal and a fat tone, and that’s what I got from those two pedals.
- Aguilar DB 751
- Aguilar Tone Hammer 500
- Aguilar DB412
- Aguilar Tone Hammer Preamp DI
- Aguilar Octamizer Pedal
- 99’ Fender Jazz V Deluxe
- 20’ Fender Jazz V Ultra