Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sean O'Bryan Smith The Reflection Interview Part One

Sean O'Bryan Smith is one of the finest bass players working today. You can check out my review of his new release here:

Sean was kind enough to field some questions on  the new release and what it is like to be a person of faith or in my case a conservative writer in what is normally a liberal medium. Call it "group therapy."

Tell us about the origin and meaning of the record for you.

S.S. "The origin of Reflection literally came from playing at church when I wasn't on the road. My faith is a huge part of my being and I try to give back whenever I can. I was playing at my church in between dates and I started really listening to the melodies on the worship tunes and I felt compelled to arrange the music for a project. Initially it was going to be an EP but the more I dove into arranging the hymns and worship tunes the more I kept adding tracks and it was very apparent that this was going to be my second album. As for the meaning of the record this thing is dear to me for multiple reasons. The first is obviously the subject matter and showing people that faith based music can be cool. It can also be held to a very high musical standard which is something I strove to do while still making it accessible for any and everyone to listen to. I wanted people to hear how I worship and I think we achieved that. The second reason the album is special to me is that it was quite a journey to get it out. The album was actually completed a couple of years ago but we got caught up in record industry politics. Over the course of the past couple of years we had three major record labels put holds on the album only to ultimately pass on it due to the subject matter. I had accepted the fact that the album may never see the light of day but I finally let a couple of major industry people hear it and they wanted to support the project. So I found an investor to back my label and 3 1/2 years later here we are."

You have a stellar lineup did you have any difficulty recruiting people given the Christian genre?

S.S. "Actually zero issues. As a matter of fact the subject matter was almost a selling feature to some of the artists. Gerald Albright for instance is a strong man of faith so he was all in from the beginning. Chuck Loeb and Randy Brecker were all about recording as well and I think they both got a kick out of being asked to do it since they aren't associated with faith based recordings at all. The neatest addition was Malcolm-Jamal Warner. Malcolm is one of my dearest friends in the world and we've had similar challenges along the way so for us it was great to do the title track and share a bit of ourselves with the world."

You have a great musical resume but do you ever get negative feedback because of your beliefs?

S.S. "Luckily being based in Nashville it doesn't come up too much as a negative when I'm working with artists here in town because it is still the Bible Belt. I do get questioned by players, artists, industry etc out of Nashville though. I had challenges with it a lot when I lived on the West Coast in the early '90s but it was actually good for me to be around so many different cultures and beliefs. I have friends of all walks and strive to respect their beliefs without pushing my own on them. I just try to leave myself open and I don't hide who I am. Most of the time they'll eventually come around and ask why I am who I am and then it is an actual conversation instead of sounding preachy. My thought is that you can't minister to people if they don't want to hear it. Because of that the industry doesn't look at me as a "Christian" bassist and it keeps me from being discriminated against. Even though I have to laugh when I post scripture on my sites and I'll always have someone unfriend me or stop following me on social media because of it."

One other question who are your influences?

This is always a hard one for me because I listen to any and everything.  My first influence was my mother though. She was a professional jazz singer and sang with some of the greats so the music started at home. As for bass it started with old STAX records and Duck Dunn and once I discovered jazz it was Marcus Miller, Brian Bromberg and Mark Egan who helped carve my way. As for my faith it is my amazing wife and my family. They keep me centered and it is the best gift I could ever ask for.

Last disc purchased?

I've been digging the whole neo soul movement of artists lately and I've been listening to the new Mayer Hawthorne record a good bit.
Part Two: