LAMA has been honored to have Norm Stockton around campus teaching several classes. We caught up with him for a quick conversation about life at LAMA and his current projects. He is a bassist/solo artist/clinician/author who travels extensively throughout North America, Europe and Japan, has been profiled in Bass Player magazine and is recognized by many in the industry as one of the premier bassists today. From 2006-2012, he was the touring and recording bassist with chart-topping worship artist (and former Steve Perry guitarist) Lincoln Brewster. He currently performs with Grammy-winning singer Bobby Kimball (original lead vocalist with TOTO). The Q&A follows:
Q: You’ve done a number of Master Classes for the bass department at LAMA. Based on your interactions with the campus, students and staff, how would you describe LAMA and its “vibe” to new students or musicians who are interested in attending the school to pursue a music degree?
NS: I think it’s fantastic – lots of energy and enthusiasm on the part of both staff and students. There truly seems to be a mutual respect between the faculty and students, with faculty clearly going the extra mile to motivate & prepare students for music careers, and students recognizing & valuing faculty insight that’s obviously coming from decades of real-world experience.
Q: LAMA draws students not only from the US, but from all over the world. Why do you think Los Angeles still a great location for the music industry and those pursuing a music degree?
Despite the changing music industry, L.A. obviously remains one of the epicenters of the global music and entertainment industry. The faculty of LAMA bears testimony to this fact: the collection of world-class musicians—in such a broad range of genres—that has been assembled is extraordinary. Having teachers in every classroom with decades of session and live experience at the highest levels is a very special thing.
Q: What are 2-3 tips you have for bass players who are interested in pursuing a career in the music industry today?
None of these are earth-shattering, but are absolutely essential:
1. Learn your craft
This should go without saying—the primary thing you can do to prepare for a music career is to be ready and capable when the doors of opportunity open. Regardless of the genre, it’s invaluable to be a well-rounded musician with a solid understanding of harmony, arrangement, technique, groove, reading, etc., etc. This will accommodate a much broader range of possibilities career-wise.
2. Play for the song
Don’t feel the need to impress everyone with out-of-context fills or pyrotechnics. Such playing will likely be viewed in a “wow…did you hear that?…that would be so awesome in someone else’s band” kind of way. Have the musical maturity to play for the tune—to emote the tune—and do everything in your power to make the song FEEL amazing for the rest of the band and audience. Pick one or two key moments in the evening to throw in a tasteful embellishment that serves the music.
3. Approach every opportunity with professionalism
Whether it’s the 11 pm set on Tuesday night at some hole-in-the-wall or otherwise, always bring 100% to whatever playing opportunities to which you commit. If you walk in with a bad attitude, or your gear isn’t working right, or you’re “phoning in” your parts…people will remember and you’ll start developing a reputation that will take YEARS to reverse, if it’s even possible. On the other hand, I’ve experienced it many times: committing to a gig that’s probably going to be a grind, but making my best effort to be a good hang, play well, sound good, and generally interact in a positive way—months later, I get a call for something considerably cooler, based upon the recommendation of a player I met back at the earlier gig. Suffice it to say: if you commit to a playing situation, bring your best.
Q: What is the most important piece of advice you can offer LAMA students and alumni when it comes time to audition for their next gig?
I’d reiterate my point #2 in the preceding question, for sure. Otherwise, I’d say that it’s so important that a player develop solid interpersonal skills. If you and another player auditioning are both monstrous musicians—but he’s a good, easy, fun hang, while you’re…not (ha)—you probably won’t be getting the call. I’ve heard of many occasions where less capable musicians got the gig because they understood this. This obviously has huge applicability beyond just an audition or music career thing; it will serve you well in life.
Q: What projects are you working on now? Are there any links you’d like to share with our readers? Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m excited about my instructional site, ArtOfGroove.com. 60-lesson groove course, song tutorials, interviews with industry professionals, etc. Subscribers from around the world and the cost is incredibly low. It also allows me to work at home more, which is awesome.
The Norm Stockton Artist Edition bass by MTD is in the final prototype stages and should be in production by the fall. We’re ironing out some last details now with electronics. I’m so honored, humbled, and stoked!
I also wrote a book for Hal Leonard Publishing that should be released soon. It’s called “The Worship Bass Book: Bass, Espresso and the Art of Groove.”
Otherwise, I’m doing freelance session, clinic, conference, and live work, including tour dates with Bobby Kimball (original lead vocalist of TOTO) as well as The Norm Stockton Group (see us at the Baked Potato on July 30!).
I stepped down last year from a 6-year tenure playing with Lincoln Brewster to spend a bit more time with my family while my daughters still want to hang! It’s been awesome. I’m very blessed & grateful to be able to get this time with them while also still making a living. Anyway, thanks! I’m honored to be part of the LAMA extended faculty; always such a great time with students and faculty alike.
And we’re so happy to have you here Norm!