Rick Beato’s Leland Sklar Interview Summary

This post contains my summary notes from Rick Beato’s interview with bassist Leland Sklar.

It’s a great conversation that touched on session recording, working with James Taylor in the 70s, songwriting, and playing with Phil Collins.

Full interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hs23nSnBYzQ

Summary Notes

Early Session Work (5:00)

Rarely would you have access to charts or demos, you figure out what the song needed on the spot.

Sessions for movies, television, jingles, generally would have charts in those situations.

75% of everything I’ve done, it’s been up to me to find the parts…”

Sessions with Drummers (9:50)

If you’re going to do this gig as a studio player, you really have to be a chameleon. You wear many, many hats. You could be doing three different projects in one day, working with different drummers on each one…” 

Be a listener, don’t impose yourself on the stuff you’re working on. Listen to where the pocket is…”

Sophistication of songwriting back in the 70s (11:50)

Leland’s start with James Taylor was the advent of the singer-songwriter movement. James Taylor brought sophistication in his playing, songwriting, lyricism, and paved the way for many other players.

Leland’s parents had a sophisticated record collection, exposing him to a variety of music styles.

It was a band making records, a room full of creative musicians, we would feed each other, constant energy…”

In that era everyone was involved in the song formation process. Versus today you may get a gig, be asked to record to a drum machine, no vocal part yet. It’s a different experience to record a part of a song where the other instruments are missing.

It was a real team effort in those projects, no matter who it was, we were forming a band, it wasn’t just a gig, everyone was on their A-game, everyone was throwing out suggestions…”

Working with James Taylor was a great educational experience, the opportunity to explore melodic bass playing.

Impact of synthesizers in the 80s (17:20)

It was a profound change going from analog to digital in the studios. Had a great (adverse) impact on musicians that were just studio musicians and did not tour, as they may have started to have fewer studio gigs.

Songwriting (21:00)

It comes down to, do you have a great song? If you have a great song, can you put together the best musicians that can convey that song, and you’ll have great music…”

Phil Collins (21:40)

His pop sensibility is so strong…”

Leland joined Phil on the “No Jacket Required” album – initially started playing in theaters. But when “Sussudio” hit the band exploded in popularity – the tour was rescheduled for arenas.

The thing that was sweet about him, if you’re walking down the street and met him, not knowing who he is, and you got into a conversation, if you said to him so what do you do, the first thing he would say is I’m a drummer, to him that is his world…”

“He’s one of the best drummers, his pocket is so beautiful…”

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