Memphis, TN/Los Angeles, CA – Anthony Crawford is a touring bass player and recording artist in his own rite. I got a chance to pick his brain on the life of touring and how he grew as a musician.
Who is Anthony Crawford?
I’m a musician, songwriter, producer, and composer. I try to expand my musical boundaries in a wide range of areas from pop to jazz to R&B and gospel. I’m trying to be a well rounded musician.
When/how did you pick up bass?
My father was James Brown’s drummer, so my upbringing and first instrument were the drums. I went from drums to the guitar, then piano and landed on the bass at the age of twelve. I started listening to Stanley Clark and Victor Wooten, then rock and jazz. Anything I can learn from. Bass is the last instrument and I stuck with it.
With you having experimented with other instruments before bass, does that effect the way you play your instrument and write music?
I would say playing other instruments gave me a head start on bass. Starting out on drums gave me a natural feel of time. With piano, I had a harmonic intuition on forming bass lines and melodic concepts that I transcribed on bass. Even when I play I think of piano, saxophone, or guitar; some melodic instrument. It helped my ideas, concepts, and imagination because I already had musical training with instruments before bass.
How do you juggle being a touring musician and an artist in your own rite?
As an artist, I take every musical opportunity as growth. When I tour as a musician, I always use that as a tool for me to get the word out about my artistry by networking and selling product. A lot of the fans that discover my music are fans with the musicians and artists I work with already.
A lot of artists come from other artists. In the jazz circle, a lot of musicians started their solo career from playing with Miles Davis. Every now and then some artist come out from their own, however, being affiliated with established musicians help you grow as an artist. Their fans are now becoming your fans.
I think it’s a blessing to be an artist at the same time as work with other artists.
Who are you on tour with right now?
I’m on tour with rock/fusion drummer Virgil Donati. We’re doing a small east coast tour. After that we’re going to Europe in October and then we’re doing a festival in Mexico with Chick Corea, Kenny Garrett and others. Virgil has been a huge push in my solo career.
What’s the biggest thing that you’ve learned from Virgil?
I learn stuff from him every night. I think the biggest thing is how hard he’s worked, his dedication and the sacrifices he’s made for musicianship. When you get to a certain level you have to sacrifice things like; “I have to put forth five hours of practice to make sure that I’m on point when I play in front of these people.” It’s not just drumming, it’s also how he takes care of his health. All of it comes together. He exercises everyday, and you can tell from his playing.
I know people that’s younger than Virgil, and they don’t have the stamina or grind that he has. Virgil’s a machine. He’s constantly growing and constantly moving forward. He taught me practice, preparation and persistence.
What’s your latest CD and what’s your favorite song from it?
My CD is called “Urban Jazz: My Story,” and it’s my concept of mixing hip hop, R&B and jazz while telling my story. I wanted to put a little insight of my life and what inspired me to play bass and help inspire others. Along with the music, I have snippets where I’m talking and giving stories that’s happened to me in real life; like meeting Stanley Clark and him telling me to get off my butt because I have real talent.
As far as my favorite song, I would say the ballad “Only You.” I love ballads man. I got Frank McComb doing vocals and it has an orchestra.
What has been your proudest moment as a solo artist?
My proudest moment is actually creating something of value and people buying it. To know that there’s a demand on it and people are happy about it. People are gravitating towards my vision of the bass, music, and concept of being an artist. It lets me know that I’m on the right track and that’s a proud moment.
What advice would you give to musicians you want to do what you’re doing?
To anybody that’s doing anything – DON’T WAIT ON ANYBODY. Nobody is going to see your vision and work hard for you like you will. I made the mistake of waiting on people and you can’t do that. When I made up my mind to get this done, that’s when I started seeing progress in my career. Whatever you’re trying to do, educate yourself. Know what you want to do and stick with it. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it or give you their two cents.
A lot of great bands of our generation and the generation before us were turned down, because the people they were going to didn’t see their vision. The Beatles were turned down by two labels before they were picked up. Madonna was turned down by a couple labels before she got picked up and she is a pop icon. The guy that created FedEx is from Memphis (my hometown). He had an assignment to do in college and he had the vision for FedEx, and he gave a paper where he was going to start a company that would deliver anything in the world to anyone over night – they never heard of that so his professor failed him. He still took the vision and ran with it. No one sees your vision like you see it. If you listen to them and you fail at what you’re doing, they’re not going to help you. If they don’t support you, you have to keep moving.