Ethan Farmer by Andreas Farmakalidis – Bass Musician Magazine February 2012 Issue… Andreas Farmakalidis is Having, Wine and Strings, with Ethan Farmer aka ebassman…
The idea of an instrumental album from one of LA’s A-list session musicians that is chock full of ‘lead’ bass and ‘backing’ bass might, at first, sound a bit daunting to some listeners. On the contrary, considering that said bassist is Ethan Farmer – who has played with everyone from Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Patti Labelle and many, many more – that solo album is starting to sound a bit more tuneful. When people just let it happen and do what’s natural, and do what they are used to doing onstage, the writing process would be so much easier! Ethan Farmer is currently planning live dates for 2012 including a Wine & Strings solo tour and further roadwork with New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys.
As with all good stories, its best to start from the beginning, when and what first drew you to music as well as the bass guitar?
My Family had a gospel Quartet group, and I had to play bass with them when I was about 6yrs old, once my father – who was then the bass player, left the group. I did not start liking music until I was half way thru high school and started understanding that girls liked it and I could make money.
Chicago has a very reputable live scene. How did the Illinois music scene in general – usually known for its unique musical culture – influence your music and your career?
It made me who I am as a musician, learning all styles from jazz to blues to gospel and rock! You can listen and see bands play all these styles in clubs, and once I loved music I wanted to play it all with every band and every musician, so I had to learn it all!
Tell me about your latest recording project “Wine and Strings”. How did this project come about?
It’s a number of things. First, with Marcus, Stanley, and Victor making great bass records and being in control of their own careers, I admired that and thought it would be great for me to take control of my own. Second, a lot of people would see me play with a jazz artist and ask me, “Do you have an album out… and if not, you should do one.” Third, It was just time for me; I played on a lot of albums and toured with a lot of people, now it was time for me to do my own record and do my own tour!
All compositions were written by you and Dammo Farmer. Knowing that the compositional process is different from artist to artist, what has worked for you?
Eddie Brown also wrote on the record. It came pretty easy for us, Dammo is my cousin and he came up under me learning and playing bass, so he knows me really well when it comes to bass. I guess it is in our blood, we can follow each other, know each others moves and musical ear. So either he or I would start with an idea, and then join in and piece everything out really fast. It’s God!
You’ve been involved with a lot of, shall I say, cross-genre projects over the years. What keeps you on this, I’d like to say, musically progressive path?
Having the love for all kinds of music and music in general. Wanting to feel the crowd’s energy, making good money, and getting different experiences from different artists is something I look forward to.
What does the practice schedule of one so well versed in multiple genres look like these days, and out of pure curiosity, how do you go about prioritizing what to work on?
It’s really terrible, I am almost embarrassed to say that I really do not get a chance 2 practice these days, I have family, businesses, and just a lot of responsibilities, therefore my practice mainly come from playing on stage, from sound check, to the show, for me it all counts!
Any advice to other musicians/bass players?
Nowadays with how the music industry has changed, just do not play bass, be an entrepreneur. That is the only way to be financially secure, have a house, take care of your family and live comfortably.
What do you feel are the elements that keep your playing at such a musically high level?
I’m determined to be good, and I play from my heart. I am an emotional player, so what I play connects to people because it is sincere. Do not try to impress and just play what you feel. I think that takes everyone to another level!
Do you play any other instruments?
I play drums, guitar, and enough keyboards 2 produce.
What can we look forward to in 2012 that you’re involved in? Any tours?
Well of coarse my own tour! In addition, touring with New Kids on the Block and Backstreet boys, and anyone that calls and I feel like it would b a great challenge or their music is so great that I want to be a part of.
What do you see not happening in 21st Century music that you’d like to see a lot more off?
More REAL music with BANDS, like the old days!
With the music business being (obviously in my humble opinion) not at its best, what might you suggest to an enthusiastic young player looking to make his art, his career?
The industry surely changed from when I First got in it! Do what you feel and not what other people want. That is the only way you will be happy with yourself regardless of the results! In addition, if you do what you feel, it will not be like others, and that way you keep the game interesting!
How do you achieve your heavy Fat funky tone?
It’s all in your hands mainly… everything else is the icing on the cake! You feel me!
How does it feel to be touring with some of the most famous artists?
I am definitely blessed! A lot of today’s musicians do not have the same experiences as I had because of how drastic the industry has changed. Industry should put Bands back together and making music that everyone feels, not what the record labels say is great.
What are some cool trends you see coming up in the bass world, and some you might want to see less of?
I love the light gear, amp heads and cabinets! I’m very lazy thus it makes it easier for me to play around town since I do not have to carry heavy stuff (LOL).
What is the key to stay working and getting gigs consistently in music?
Doing it because you love it, staying on top of your business, your game and having INTEGRITY, having a good personality, having a great sound, and really kicking ass on the gig!!
I heard some rumors about an extended version of the Album.
Yeah! It is true! An extended version of the album is coming out this Month (February)!
For more information on Ethan or to purchase Wine & Strings, visit: www.ethan-farmer.com
Photos by Patrick Stern