Global Bass Online May 2000
Developing Your Career
This issue we take a look atBrent-Anthony Johnson. Brent’s a young bassist with a lot of experience under his belt as a sideman. Well on the way to establishing himself as a recording artist in his own right, he has managed to develop his career to the point where manufacturers are now taking a serious look at him with regards to endorsing their products. In a sense, you know you have somewhat 'arrived' when a luthier expresses a wish to work with you in promoting their respective products.
At this point, Brent has just recently signed an endorsement deal with STATUS GRAPHITE INSTRUMENTS out of the U.K for an S-2 Classic 6-string fretted bass, an S-2 Classic 6-string fretless and also a Stealth 5-string fretted. As well Brent happened across 2 X 10 bass enclosures manufactured by Wayne Jones Amplification, and though presently signed in to a year more with Eden, he is taking a serious look at the "Wayne Jones" as the next logical step in his search for that 'Perfect Sound'.
His current work as a sideman includes recording the second album for US pop group LYRIC as well as working with several artists from Inner Circle Productions out of Denver, Colorado, (where he presently lives). After this work is complete, he will then be heading back into the studio to record the second offering from Contemporary Christian recording artist BRUCE FLEET. Having heard some tracks from FLEET’s first album, they seem to be a very polished venture with some great pop songs. Brent's intelligent and careful combination of slap, tapping and straight forward melodic playing both compliments and elevates the music of Bruce Fleet. Fast when he needs to be, yet capable of recognizing the need to let the song breathe as well. Brent also finds a lot of enjoyment just working within the 'pocket' of a song.
Refusing to relegate himself merely to the bar scene and its whimsical ebb and flow, he instead concentrates his creative juices where he feels it will benefit him most...the studio. He says that "This is a very exciting time in my career indeed!" Well, ya know what they say, (whoever They are!), but it's true. 'Interesting things happen to interesting people."
Global Bass felt it might be interesting to give those readers that might be just starting out and really can't figure a way to get noticed, a chance to meet someone who has a Game Plan. Usually the first thing most bassists and musicians in general do, once they have mastered a bit of control over their instrument, is to join a band and start working the bars. Sometimes this becomes a trap you can never get free of. In Ontario, where our Canadian offices are, there is a band that recently celebrated its 25th Anniversary as a group. After two and a half decades of pounding out the same roads over and over again, playing the same Country dives over again and again and never making enough money to even get into the studio, they decided to celebrate this 'accomplishment'. Now to remain politically correct, one should say that staying together for 25 years as group deserves a pat on the back, but to me it just feels a lot like they played it safe, as if what they lacked was what Brent-Anthony Jackson has...a Game Plan.
All of the work he has been doing with many bands has all been leading up to one thing...his own recording. By making contacts, by being on everybody's album, you begin to network yourself into a career, something you will never find on the bar circuit. We spent some time recently talking to Brent discussing that game plan, covering a lot of subjects, but always returning to his higher aspiration of a solo recording.
So you live in Boulder, Colorado? A lot of Canadians have the impression that Boulder consists mainly of Ski Lifts, beautiful woman and old Mork and Mindy sets.
BAJ: (Laughs) I actually live in Boulder County, about 20 minutes from the center of Boulder. But you would be amazed at how close you actually are to reality. Boulder is a very laid back college town, one of those places where the people who live there believe themselves to be very forward thinking but are actually very conservative. Nice people, and probably some of the prettiest girls in the country, a fact also expressed by people like Robert Plant. (Of Led Zeppelin and solo fame).
Is there much of a music scene around Boulder?
BAJ: There's more to do in Denver, which is about half an hour south of Boulder. There's a two-hour (travelling time) north to south span running across what is called the Front Range of Colorado. I run up and down this Front Range all week long. I can have a session in Denver tomorrow for example, play a gig in Fort Collins on Tuesday, be back in Denver on Wednesday and playing Colorado Springs on Thursday.
You had sent us some recordings of bands you have worked with or are working with, including BRUCE FLEET. Tell us about that.
BAJ: Bruce is my main gig right now. I think that what really comes across in Bruce's music is that he is such a nice guy! He's really catching on, getting a lot of radio play on some of the AOR stations around here, because it actually is more Adult Contemporary stuff. The band really smokes. My current project is producing an artist by the name of Stacey Dee. Stacey, is incredible! Also, having hand-picked the musicians involved, I can say that these players are my favorites in this area. I'm focusing all my efforts on Stacey's project until Bruce returns to the studio in the Fall. After completing Bruce's next disc, I'm going to play in both group's. As both artists are planing to tour behind their projects, I should be kept relatively busy!
Well the bass player ain't too bad either!
BAJ: Well thank you. I wrote all my own lines for this stuff .
Looking at your list of work, at your past accomplishments, would it be fair to say this is all being steered towards your Game Plan. Instead of just being the bass player in some bar band going no where fast, you seem to be heading somewhere.
BAJ: Being a sideman and being a session musician is really an interesting place to be. It must have been about `92 or `93 that I really realized and began to feel that I was walking through a big 'Musician Mall'. I was meeting all these great players, setting up a rapport with them. Especially drummers, other percussionists, guitarists, keyboardists, even horn players. As we are setting up the sessions I like to find out what they are doing. I have made up some tapes of some of the stuff I am doing, recording in my own studio, and I hand them out to these people. Then later they will often end up calling me and saying "Yeah, I'd like to play this solo on so and so song on that tape you made me. Would that be all right?".
It's wonderful, because then I often get to play on their albums too. It's funny, most sessions players are also aspiring solo artists. They all have a statement. When I first started putting this all together, it was around `96 or so and I guess I was afraid that I didn’t have a statement to make. I’ve grown, however, and I’ve matured, ( and have had children!), I think that I have some things I need to say and have to say. As I play these songs for my friends they are saying, “You know, this stuff isn’t out there”. Yet I think just like anyone that I can get caught up in the self-doubt or vacuum of myself. Like, ‘hey everybody can do what I do.’
It’s not just the player though, it’s also the strength of the song itself. Sometimes it’s not being a Stanley Clarke, a Mark King, sometimes it is all about the tune.
BAJ: Exactly, and that chops heavy sound is the thing I am trying to avoid. I hear so many Bass albums and it’s just a bunch of chops! It’s great, but you end up playing that CD once every six months, if that! When I started studying upright, the teacher I had at the time said to me, “Did you know that Charlie Mingus has the same birthday as you?” Well that was enough to start this young kid into a huge study of Charlie Mingus. The thing I really ‘dug’ about Mingus was that he was a composer as well as a bass player. He could actually write a tune! That’s what I really liked about him. So I have been really striving towards that.
Speaking of Mark King, he was a major influence on my thumb style, my parents turned me onto LEVEL 42 in 1979. I wanted to avoid putting out a ‘Bass Album’ that a whole bunch of bass players would buy and no one else. Now I find I am writing more tunes on keyboards. I also have been doing some arranging for other peoples albums, like string parts or horn charts. What I am finding out about myself as I work on my solo album, is it is not so much that I have to even really make a statement, it’s not so much even the ‘chops thing’, I am just finding out now at 35 years of age that when I write a melody or something of this nature, I am actually touching, actually affecting some of my friends. They are saying, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve heard from you!” That’s really more the kind of statement I am getting to now, “Do I touch someone with my music?’
It can be a higher form of art to actually trigger something in people, an empathy, a sympathy to what you are trying to say, than just trying to blow people away with chops. Having killer chops is admirable, but when you can actually communicate something subtle to your listeners, then you’ve really connected, really said something.
BAJ: I agree with that wholeheartedly. I decided that that is the very only reason I practice chops, just so that I am able to completely articulate any ideas I have. Now I don’t mind sitting in an orchestra pit playing whole notes at all, sometimes resting for up to 64 bars, but when I finally come in with that low C, I want it to really connect, really hit the people in the pit of their stomachs!
To some degree it is a measure of musical maturity, to be able to derive satisfaction from playing just the right part, the part that is necessary, and nothing more.
BAJ: I don’t know if ‘age’ can truly be counted in years, so much as time spent upon the planet. One of the disciplines I have tried to develop this last while is to pay attention to what’s going on around you. I think that the fruit that one can glean from that paying attention is a level of creativity, tuning into ideas you know you have never heard anywhere else before.
Also you can place a piece of music, even just 8 bars of a written thing in front of 8 different bass players who can read and though we are all reading from the same page, we’re all gonna play it slightly differently. That is another of the realizations that I have been coming too. It may not be so much what I say, but more how I say it.
This is all part of the developing sense that you have a ‘statement’ to make?
BAJ: I don’t really have a disposition that really makes me want to get in front of people and say “Hey, here I am!”. But I think there is something developing in me that will allow me at one point in my life to look back at a body of work.
Endorsements can often be an important part of developing your career. What can you tell us about your endorsements?
Any final comments regarding endorsements?
I'm often asked how one should approach
manufacturers for endorsement solicitation. I believe that PRODUCT is what
companies want to see. No one cares how often a potential endorsee plays in some
dive bar. Get on as many discs as you can. That's absolutely 'key'!
We will keep you posted on Brent’s career and when he gets his ‘statement’ down on a CD we’ll place it on the Global Bass Station, so you can see what it was he had to say.
Contact Brent-Anthony Johnson: tabaj3 AT juno DOT com
Eden Amplification can be found at
Status Graphite Basses at
Wayne Jones Enclosures at
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