“That was a good idea.”

“That was a good idea.”
“That was a good idea.”
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Richmond-born Steve Bassett has entered his sixth decade as a successful singer, songwriter, musician, performer and recording artist. Two weeks ago, with the release of his autobiography, “Sing Loud,” he lets us retrace the ride with him. The itinerary goes across the country, around-the-clock and back again. Industry icons are around every corner, but the trip remains relaxed and the direction feels right. For Bassett, longtime friends share equal billing with music legends, and they’re as often one-in-the-same, as not.

 

SIFTER sat with Bassett on the grounds of Richmond’s Montrose Recording Studio to talk about the book.

 

 SB Steve Bassett - SingLOUD cover

Why write a book and why now?

I entered my fiftieth year of entertaining people around here a year ago…and it dawned on me that the path I had taken in music away from here—but also here—was at least interesting. And that if I ever wanted to try to remember it all it would be a good exercise for me to try to recollect those 50 years just to have it for myself, but also for my family.

 

It was more than, “let me get a book together.” It was a creative project…I have pictures and boxes and boxes of that kind of memorabilia, but rather than go through it, I started writing whatever I could think about that I remembered first…and wrote in that order, which was not chronologically at all.

 

And when I ended up with it, it was all out of order, but then I got to thinking about some books I had read that were like that—and that might be OK.

 

The book covers a lot of ground—what would the “today” you say to the younger you?

“That was a good idea.” If you had asked me when I was 18 what I wanted to be doing when I was 63. I would have told you I wanted to spend my life playing music, and loving my family, and being home. It was a good idea.

 

How did the process of writing a book compare to writing a song?

In a song—they’re three or four minutes long—so they usually have a couple or three verses and a chorus that will repeat maybe…it’s a very concise thing you put a whole lot of energy into and a lot of choices for just a few words to create a poem.

 

The thought of “a book”—and filling up a book’s worth of words and seeking to choose the right ones to translate what you want to share…it’s a lot of work, if you’re a songwriter. Some songwriters do it different, you know—labor over it. It’s a craft and they’ll work on it like a poem…I’ve never been that way. The only time I’ve ever written a song is when I had something on my heart that I needed to process and I would process it by writing a song—by trying to go to my heart and perceive my truth on that subject and turn it into words that made sense to me and captured the way I felt about a certain situation.

 

 

sb in studio with John Hammond and Jerry Wexler

Bassett in the studio with John Hammond & Jerry Wexler

 

What are some of the stories we’ll see in the book?

There’s a section called “Mentors”—I’ve been so lucky…if you’re going to have a producer that you’re going to become friends with, it would be the ones I became friends with.

 

My book begins with a quote, “I never heard a white man sing like that.” Well that was uttered to me by the great John Hammond, Sr., who was the most legendary talent procurer for Columbia Records…he introduced me to Jerry Wexler, his competitor… he owned and ran and produced everything on Atlantic Records—all the great soul music. So all of a sudden, the three of us were hanging, so I had them as mentors.

 

And then later in life, out of the blue, a guy named Rick Darnell calls me because he had retired to Virginia. He was one of the greatest blues song writers—he wrote “The Thrill is Gone”—and I spent the last four to five years of his life with him every day, writing songs and hanging with him and learning about the blues from the perspective of somebody that  writes it…I’ve just been somehow routed to get to study the roots of American music

——-

For about eight years I was one of the most sought after jingle singers—in New York, Chicago, Nashville, everywhere—singing with the greatest musicians in those towns and being broadcast…to the planet every 50 minutes to somewhere.

——-

People have done some horrible things to me and I could have written about it. I did, but I tried to write about it in a way that wasn’t judgmental or wouldn’t incriminate them, because it would just be my judgment that they had done me that way. Their judgment might have been that they didn’t. So, that was interesting to try to tell some of the tales in a way that would be the tale told without drama. I tried to keep it on just an honest level of how I felt.

——-

I wrote this chapter in the book about agents that my wife suggested I not put in the book. She said, “You might need one of them one day.” I said, “No, I’m going to go ahead and put it in there because if one of them ever needed me, they’d know what they were getting into.”

 

Who will enjoy the book? 

Well, the real reason to do this—if you’re going to put it out in front of people—the way to feel about it would be to hope that it could help somebody—either encourage them or discourage them—whatever help they need at the time.

 

Most of my reading has been for the purpose of learning. Or soul food. And I think—kind of like a music artist or other artist—if you learn to surrender to your intuition and allow it to speak, then what gets said will land where it needs to. And serve whomever in their way—not so much in whatever way you intended.

 

I tried to put my heart into it. I tried to speak the truth about what has happened to me as a result of where my music and my attitude have carried me.

 

I put a lot of love into doing it. I hope that love comes out of it – that’s what needs to be going on right now, everywhere. On and on.

 

 

Find “Sing Loud” at his website or upcoming book signings:

December 11 – 12:30 p.m. – Fountain Bookstore

December 12 – 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. – Fraiche On The Avenues

December 14 –  1:00 – 3:00 p.m – Barnes & Noble, Libbie Place

December 15 – 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Westbury Pharmacy

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