Thursday, September 28, 2017

GUITAR GODS: Meshell Ndegeocello

Its 1993, and my brother Joshua says "You gotta hear Meshell Ndegeocello." Who? "Just do it."

I buy her debut album, "Plantation Lullabies", and.....all bets are off. From "I'm Diggin' You (Like an Old Soul Record)" to "Dred Loc" to "Call Me" to "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)", I was hooked. Buttery smooth and funky with stellar delivery...I had to hear more.

And more came.

From more solo albums (12 in all, counting her soon-to-be-released album "Ventriloquism")to collaborations with everyone from John Mellencamp to Herbie Hancock, Madonna to Chaka Khan, Alanis Morissette to the Rolling Stones. And movie soundtracks like "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" and "Batman and Robin". And television and guest album appearances and world tours and various accolades (she has been credited with starting the neo soul movement, for example, and her albums ranking on many "best of..." lists) and music clinics and Grammy nominations and more still.

Bassist, songwriter, singer, rapper, and so much more...all at the highest levels. Artists like her just don't appear every day.

Visit Meshell at her website and catch her on tour.

I had a chance to chat with her recently - check it out!


1) What are your current projects?

I just finished an album of cover songs called "Ventriloquism". I've also been scoring the second season of the show Queen Sugar... and constantly trying to become a better human being.

2) How does this (do these) differ from your past work?

Scoring is much more about fulfilling the musical needs of others rather than being creative for yourself.

3) Do you have one project that you are most proud of as a bassist?

I really don't think like that. I'm not prideful about my playing, but I think more along the lines of "Was I effective and did I aid the music?" As I grow and change, I go back and listen and sometimes think about replaying my bass parts.

4) Can you give our readers a run-down of your basic gear (live and/or studio), and do you have a favorite piece of gear?

No, I am not a gear head. I am always open and adjust to venue's riders if needed be. I looove my Reverend; both the Fellowship and the Decision. I am first and foremost a songwriter and as I age the bass is more like a tool. I have become accustomed to both flat wound and round wound, and with scoring I am learning to be more open to all colors and styles.

5) Who would you cite as early influences, and who are you favorite new players?

Early: Prince was my first big influence. Sting. Cordell Mosson, Jaco, Paul Jackson... a lot of bass players. New: Chris Bruce is my favorite, Kaveh Rastegar, Kyle Miles, David Cutler, Alan Hampton, and Mark Kelley.

6) You are often credited as sparking the Neo-Soul movement, and yet hot on the heels of your debut album "Plantation Lullabies" you also sang & played bass with John Mellencamp, covering Van Morrison's "Wild Nights". In addition, you've appeared on recordings by Madonna, Blind Boys of Alabama, Scritti Politti, Indigo Girls, Alanis Morissette, and many others well outside what early critics would define as "your style". Can you speak a little to how you perform so authentically across such a vast array of stylistic lines?

I am just lucky. Period. Nothing new under the sun. David Gamson was a great influence, John Melloncamp taught me to love recording with a band, and I've been blessed to start with a good foundation of groove. Now, with Chris Bruce, Jebin Bruni, and Abraham Rounds, I'm learning to appreciate the beauty of different complimenting, and even sometimes conflicting, opinions and tastes to make music and fully interact with one another.

7) Going way back, can you tell us about the audition for Living Colour (you were all of 23 at the time, and had not yet signed with Madonna's label, Maverick Records) and what you learned from the experience?

I learned 3 songs and had met Vernon a few times at Black Rock Coalition events. I loved the music and felt prepared, but in hindsight I don't believe my tone or feel worked for them. Shortly afterwards, I got my own record deal so, cosmically, it was not the time. I still hope to play with them one day.

8) A dozen solo recordings, collaborations of all styles, top 10 hits, millions of records sold, 10 Grammy nominations, world tours, music clinics (Berklee, etc), TV theme music, political activism, respect of your peers, and so much more. What do you see as the Meshell Ndegeocello legacy?

These questions make me chuckle. I wasn't brought up to consider my legacy and I never thought I'd get to this age. I have no idea what will happen and the past is gone, never to return. Right now, I want to find something else to do in music. I want to adjust my mind for now, let go, and see what else my mind has in store for me.

9) What are your future plans?

Love my family and friends, play the bass, and become a better keyboardist, writer, and arranger.

10) Thanx for talking to us, Meshell!


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