There’s always another mountain to climb
By Jon Liebman
Week of March 25, 2019
My interviews with Billy Sheehan are always uplifting and inspiring. And the one we published this week is no exception. After bringing me up to date on his frenetic touring schedule, the latest happenings with Sons of Apollo, and an overview of his gear arsenal, Billy and I got into a discussion about his bass technique, including how – and what – he practices.
Yes, Billy Sheehan still practices. In fact, he says, more so now than ever. So what does a guy like Billy Sheehan practice? In what areas does he feel the need to improve?
To call Billy an established bassist would be an understatement. His history with Talas, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth, The Winery Dogs, etc., underscore the point many times over.
People in this category can easily rest on their laurels, thinking they’ve already got it made and have nothing to prove. Others might experience a feeling of “You’re only as good as your last note” paranoia, endeavoring to keep their chops up, with the hope that they’ll continue to get called for gigs, tours, sessions, etc.
But Billy’s a true bass junkie, always looking to learn something new. “I’m so pleased when I find something that I can’t do or that I don’t know,” he exclaims. “It’s just a new mountain to climb.” Whenever an idea hits him, he takes out his phone and records a selfie of him playing it, so he can take the time to master it later. He’s amassed hundreds of ideas this way, and always has “a whole lot of new bass things I’m working on.”
When I asked him, “What do you practice?” he said, “Everything. Constantly.” Even the basics don’t get overlooked. “I’ll sit and just practice quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes with a metronome for hours,” he says, acknowledging that it may “drive people crazy.”
What keeps him going after all this time? “The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know,” he explains.
So what happens each time he conquers a new technique, working his way up to the top of another mountain? When “you get to the top of it,” he says, “it’s another satisfaction. And of course, the cliché is true. What do you see next? It’s another mountain!”
Perhaps there’s an even bigger reason for his non-stop diligence: “So when somebody comes to a show, I can do my absolute best for them.” You always do, Billy. Thanks.
Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
In the meantime, check out my latest interview with Billy here.