Asheville, NC – Cody Wright is the bass player for ROPEADOPE’s quartet turned trio Jonathan Scales & The Fourchestra. He shares with me about his transition to guitar and bass, his unique style, and his upcoming release A BASS ONLY A MOTHER COULD LOVE.
Tell me about your musical origins and how that affects your bass playing.
I remember my dad playing blues records around the house. Guys like Buddy Guy and BB King; I even remember when Stevie Ray (Vaughan) died. I was only four years old. I remember the intensity of that moment and how much this blues musician meant to them. When I decided to play guitar, I remembered the spiritual impact he had on them. I decided subconsciously that if I were to do this, I would want the same impact.
I went on to play rock, metal, and jazz in my teen years. I started playing jazz in college on acoustic guitar. I was actually playing demos for an acoustic guitar album with singing until I got a call from Jonathan (Scales), and from then the gears changed and shifted a bit.
Tell me specifically going from guitar to bass. How weird was that transition and how long did it take for you to get comfortable on a new instrument?
Harmonically and melodically the transition from guitar to bass was seamless. However, I was not used to the roll that the bass plays in music as I was with a lead guitar. When I first played in Fourchestra, everything lead to the bass solo and all of my focus went to that. I had a lot to learn about rhythmic feel and how to play with a metronome and be laid back in it.
The transition was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Not only was I switching instruments, I was learning how to play really complicated music. Not only that, I had to play with an ensemble that really listened to each other. When I played in jazz band in college, a lot of people played as their pass time. It was a big challenge. However, it was a lot of fun to know that I was having fun and knowing I was developing a unique sound from how I played guitar. That’s what kept me going.
It was frustrating to know that I was playing too loud or doing the same stuff over and over again. I think it took me nine months to get more comfortable in it. I’d practice for eight hours and study my favorite players and learn grooves. And then by a year and a half I started feeling different. Around that time we played a festival in Wilkesboro, NC and Victor Wooten sat in with us.
It’s all about what your approach was like on your other instrument. I liked solos on my guitar, constructing phrases, the blues and making emotions speak. Those things translated to bass. I had to find stuff that I liked to make me feel special when I heard it. That translated.
Tell me about “A Bass Only A Mother Could Love.”
The title comes from when I first started playing bass, I played with a pick and people didn’t like it at first. It became something that I developed my sound and style with. For me, it’s my poke at the people that said something about it when I first started. Also, Phil Brunson (the Fourchestra’s old drummer) came up with the name.
The album will focus me as a composer and ensemble player in the band first, and then soloist maybe second. A lot of people think the album will be a bunch of “Blackbird”-type stuff, but that’s already been done before.
I wanna let whatever unit of people I put together create something awesome, and I’m gonna back it up.
Where are you at right now in the recording process?
Right now I have my core special guests squared away. I’m working on getting the copyrights to use a song, it will be my only cover on the record. It’s pretty much one of my favorite songs ever, and I’m not gonna reveal what the cover is just yet.
Will I hear Cody the Guitarist at all?
You’ll hear me as a rhythm guitar player a lot on there. There’s still some things I’m working out arrangement-wise and if there’s a spot that a guitar solo fits I’ll put it in. One of my favorite things to do as a musician is to write guitar solos. I don’t know why.
If you listen to Brian May of Queen, he composed all that stuff. Most of that was not off the cuff, he wrote it. Sometimes the song becomes its own thing when the guitar solo starts, it takes on another level of composing and then it returns back to the theme. Another great band that did it in the nineties was a band called Extreme. The guitar player of that band had a real similar approach to writing solos that built an orchestration off of the initial concept of the tune. I’m real into that.
Bass solos will be up that ally, so you might hear some guitar solos as well.
You are currently the bassist for Jonathan Scales & The Fourchestra. What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from Jonathan so far?
Probably what it means to be professional and what it means to be a (listening member) of an ensemble. Also just time and rhythm, how to understand and feel rhythms. To be shown things instead of being told things. Working on albums was a big part of me learning those things.
I am the only non-percussion instrument in a percussive group. I’ve learned how to still stick to my roots and express myself with a rhythmic band.
What is your biggest advice for people that want to do what you’re doing?
Make sure you love the music. You’re not always going to play stuff that you love, make sure you play something every night that makes you feel special and reproduce the sound that turns you on. In college I got into Art Tatum, and he plays his version of “Body And Soul.” He played harmonies built off the melody and it was the most beautiful thing i’ve ever heard. Since the recording wasn’t of the best quality, I went to my school and I learned it on the piano so I can hear it. What I’m getting at is THAT inspiration transcends everything. That’s what’s gonna keep you focused on it.
Also staying and keeping yourself together; eating healthy. It really revolves around love for me. When someone feels it, if one person is inspired, then I’m good. If you channel everything to be being a better musician and better communicator today than you were yesterday. Everyone that I’ve heard that’s been successful (Bubby Lewis, Kevin Eubanks) have all said it all came from wanting to be a better musician.
JONATHAN SCALES & THE FOURCHESTRA “LONE WOLF” COMPOSED BY CODY WRIGHT.