Premiere gospel bassist recounts his journey from the Reverend James Cleveland and Michael Jackson to being musical director for Chaka Khan
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
July 9, 2012
For over 30 years, Andrew Gouché has been considered the premier Gospel bass player. Andrew began his career with the late Reverend James Cleveland and has since performed and/or recorded with The Hawkins Family, Yolonda Adams, Andraé Crouch, Mavis Staples, Israel Houghton, Reverend James Moore, The Mississippi Mass Choir, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Kirk Franklin, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, BeBe & CeCe Winans and Vanessa Bell-Armstrong.
Andrew has also worked with a wide variety of non-gospel acts, including The Jazz Crusaders, Donna Summer, Cheryl Lynn, Madonna, Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Destiny’s Child, Julio Iglesias, Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight, Billy Preston, Joe Cocker, Patty Labelle, the Temptations and many others. He also served as the long-time musical directly for the legendary Chaka Khan.
FBPO: Tell me about your musical upbringing.
AG: My granddad was a pastor, so we grew up in church. When I was 8 years old, my parents told my brother, sister and me that we had to learn to play an instrument! I chose the trumpet because it only had three keys! [Laughs]
FBPO: How did you end up as a bass player?
AG: When I was 14, I was a lead singer in the choir at Rev. James Cleveland’s church. One day I saw Larry Graham on Soul Train and that was it for me. I begged my mom to get me a bass! She did and I knew that I had found what I was meant to do. After a year, I was doing gigs in local churches around LA.
FBPO: How do you think growing up in LA affected you, musically? Do you think you would have ended up in LA anyway, even if you hadn’t grown up there?
AG: The biggest blessing for me is that I was born here, so I never had to make that choice. But I probably would’ve moved here anyway!
See our follow-up video interview with Andrew, too!
FBPO: I guess getting into gospel music was inevitable for you, given your background and upbringing.
AG: With my granddad as pastor and my mom as the lead singer, church was all I knew.
FBPO: What misconceptions do you think people have about the gospel music scene? How is it different from mainstream rock, pop or even jazz?
AG: Actually, the gospel music scene is not as big as it used to be, which is why there are so many gospel musicians doing secular gigs. You can’t make a living playing only gospel anymore. Most cats still keep their church gigs, though. Some churches pay pretty well and that can tide you over between gigs!
FBPO: Tell me about your experience with Michael Jackson.
AG: I sang on “Man in the Mirror.” I was working with Andraé Crouch in the ’80s. He and his singers did the session and, because I also sang, I got to do the session too. Michael was kinda strange! He never spoke to us, only gave instructions through Quincy Jones, who was producing the record.
FBPO: How about the Chaka Khan gig?
AG: It was an honor to play her music, especially since Bobby Watson, the original bassist from Rufus, was one of my influences growing up.
FBPO: How did that gig come about?
AG: In 2002 She came to a club gig I was doing in LA with jazz violinist Karen Briggs (Yanni) and freaked out when she heard me play. I would see her from time to time. She always talked about me touring with her, but during that time I didn’t really want to travel. Then, in 2006, I got a call from her manager, saying she wanted me to be her MD and told me to name my price. I couldn’t pass that up!
FBPO: I hear you’re working on a solo recording. What can you tell me about it? Who’s on it? When will it be out?
AG: I’m mixing it now. It’s been a looong process because I’ve evolved so much, musically, and I’m very critical of myself! It’s coming very soon, though.
FBPO: What else is keeping you busy these days?
AG: I’m just a working musician, doing gigs and sessions around town. I’ve got some cool stuff in the works that I can’t talk about right now, but you’ll see soon enough!
FBPO: What else lies ahead for you and your career? What would you like to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
AG: Honestly, I’ve been very blessed. I’ve accomplished far more than I ever dreamed I could! I just wanna keep making great music for as long as I can.
FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
AG: When I was 18 years old, I decided that I was gonna make it as a musician, or be a bum. I never had a Plan B! Crazy, right?