The Chair of Berklee’s Bass Department, Rich Appleman, introduces Victor Bailey to an inquisitive crowd at the Bass Lines program. Bailey comes on stage and jokes, “These cats are so young, they probably have no idea who I am, Rich.” Bailey introduces himself, “I have done pretty much everything you can imagine; from playing clubs, stadiums, I played in front of 100,000 people with Madonna, I have recorded artists like LL Cool J or Mary J. Blige, written music for movies, and T.V. shows, I played bass as a studio musician on over 1,000 records.”
On Coming to Berklee: “I don’t think there was any greater period of growth then when I was here.”
Victor Bailey: “Basically I’m just one of you guys, but the old version. About a year after I left here, I got the gig with Weather Report. [At Berklee,] that was the one time in my life I didn’t have to think about anything but music; practicing, studying, learning, sharing things with other people. Once you get out of school, you gotta pay the bills. Whatever time you spend here, even this weekend, you can do nothing but music 24/7. You have the great benefit of meeting people from different cultures and different places.”
“I was always into every kind of music. If there were a guy from Brazil I would get him to show me a Brazilian thing, [or I’d learn from] a metal guitar player, a jazz piano player. I was all over the place. I had musical attention deficit disorder. I was M-A-D-D.” he jokes.
How did you get your start?
VB: “In New York [after Berklee], the first gig was a gig where I played everything. I was known and working amongst everybody in town. My father [Morris Bailey Jr.] wrote a bunch of hits, for artists like Nina Simone and Patti LaBelle. I grew up around the business and watching my dad hustle every day. If I wasn’t gigging, I was out on the town. I was very assertive. I could play any kind of music, and I could read music. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t do, I could handle any situation. So I came to New York and I was prepared. It was a lot of work.”
Is reading music important?
VB: “The one thing I always say about reading is that in your quest to being a musician, you want to have as many tools available to you as possible. There is work out there sometimes where reading is a prerequisite. You don’t want to lose a gig if you can’t read. I had my father to drill my head ‘know your stuff, know what you’re doing’”.
How do you practice?
VB: “You have to manage your time. First thing is to find the time to practice, and be organized about it. I make sure I do a little bit of something everyday. I do a little bit of reading, grooves, solos, some tapping, thumb stuff, an hour before I go to bed, I play some songs [for a gig the next day]. Everyday, I try to cover a little bit of ground of everything I do.”
“A lot of people who are really technical, you wouldn’t see them on a gig. It’s very very important, to know that people are going to call you because you make their music sound and feel good to them. Keep that in mind. I love guys who can solo, but you need to hold down the vibe and anchor the band.”
For more on Victor Bailey, visit his website: http://victorbailey.com
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