Q & A With Pro Bassist Mark Corradetti
From his early years at Berklee College of Music, to becoming an in-demand Bass Player in both NYC and Nashville, Mark is truly a seasoned pro with years of recording and live experience under his belt. Mark is a busy guy these days. In addition to a steady stream of recording and live dates, product endorsements for Stephen Sukop instruments and Phil Jones cabinets, he recently signed a recording contract with Asylum Music Group for a one album deal for his original instrumental compositions. We were really glad to have a chance to sit down with Mark and get his take on everything from remote recording, to life as a working musician, to being a good session player and much more.
You can find his services here: http://www.airgigs.com/user/macman
Tell us a bit about your background and how you found your way to the Nashville area?
Well, I was brought up in suburban New Jersey, about 15 miles west of New York City in a gorgeous community called Summit NJ. I have only fond memories of there. My mother was somewhat of a ham at times, and she had a wonderful personality. Loads of fun, but very strict! Both of my parents were always very encouraging, and it didn’t hurt that New York was so close, so there was that influence. I attended mostly public schools and the music programs in that school system were pretty top notch as I look back. If you took advantage of it you could be in all sorts of concert bands, jazz bands, marching bands, orchestras, choirs, musical productions, and pretty much whatever you wanted. At the time, in the 70’s, it was required that you played an instrument. They even had private instruction time and it was pretty organized. Looking back, it’s pretty impressive. All of the teachers there were very knowledgeable and were there because they loved to teach music. I chose to be a drummer. Remember, this was 4th grade so if you were a drummer, you were basically a percussionist playing different percussion instruments. Bass drum, triangles, snare drum, all sorts of stuff. There were some pretty decent snare drum players, that really had the technique for it. I wasn’t all that good at it. I was happy playing the “other” instruments. By the time I got to high school, the kids started started to develop their musical tastes, and identified with different groups and rock bands and such. I guess I was about in the eighth grade when one of my friends turned me on to the Beatles, and started guitar lessons, so I did too. To this day, I can only play 3 or 4 chords on that instrument. The whole time, I was listening to all sorts of popular music, and had a keen fondness for great pop music. I wanted to stand out a little bit, so I discovered the bass, and from then on I was a commodity as these things go. I started with private bass instruction and and almost immediately was turned on to Weather Report, and then I was hooked. Once we got to high school, the concert band was very, very good, and I enjoyed being a part of it. It was all good, I was always very impressed and happy to be a part of the group. I never really fancied myself a “band geek” per se. No way I was going to be in the marching band, I was not going to wear that hat. It was like 3 feet tall. No way, no how… There were many students there who would regularly attend Juilliard on some sort of a Saturday or after school program, and by the time I was 16 or so, I was fully entrenched. Several of my high school classmates have gone on to some fantastic musical endeavors. I was practicing everyday and sort of cutting a path. It had become a part of my personality.
You have worked with some amazing people over the years, can you share some formative experiences? i.e. things that really shaped your views on performing, recording, etc?
I’d have to say that my time at Berklee was the turning point in my development. There, I sponged everything. My instructors were scary good, the other students from around the world, and just the overall atmosphere. Some of my best friends still are from my time at Berklee. I am proud of it, and still to this day I use the material and life lessons I learned there in my everyday life. I learned sooo much about the business at large, and all the different things you could do. I still wanted to be a player and a composer. That never changed. I learned there how to conduct myself in the studio, and how to play some different styles, read real well, and how to grow further as a musician and player. I even gigged a bit in the real world. It didn’t always work out as successes, but that’s one of the ways how you learn in my opinion. To be placed in situations that are above you. Hopefully you rise to the occasion. If you have your ass kicked around some, it usually fosters growth if you’re up for it. After Berklee, I got quite busy. I played on a cruise line for a short time, returned to New Jersey, got involved in several working weekend bands, taught quite a bit, all the while wanting to be a top notch session player and performer with great artists. I was doing OK. In 1994, I decided to move out of the New York area. I was working far too much, and was not happy with the quality of work I was doing. Although there were flashes of great work, I was not happy overall and needed a change. So I decided on Nashville. I had never played a note of any country music, but I knew it was a great music center and I knew it had potential for me in the long term. This was before internet, computer stuff, etc..
Tell us a bit about your home studio and the tools you use for capturing bass tracks?
I have a pretty nice setup with a great big 36 inch screen. I run Nuendo software for tracking with all sorts of plug ins for my composing. When I track bass parts for clients, I usually run a raw signal. Lately I have been into outboard preamps. I have a Sadowsky outboard in my pedal board, and Eden outboard preamp, and have a Phil Jones Bass Buddy on order…tone, tone, tone. Sometimes I use a little reverb in my home practice time, or if there is a live situation that calls for it, but mainly, it’s just my hands. I let the client compress it, fold it, effect it, or whatever they want to do with it. if the raw tone is not cool and appropriate, then I’m not inspired and I can’t play right. I’m mostly about playing the right notes that sounds good. I’ve got this awesome Korg Triton keyboard, again with thousands of plug in options that I use for my composing. But again, for bass tracks, it’s my hands, my basses, and a good raw signal.
What makes a good session player?
That’s a good question. It takes a special skill to be able to place your ego aside and play what they hear in their head and what fits for the client at hand. When you have an idea to bring to the table that’s great. Sometimes, they know EXACTLY what they want, and other times they don’t. There’s this place I go to in my head to just let it happen. If I am asked to play, they usually want my input and my way, and my musical personality. I’ve found that experience is what makes the best session players. No school, or lessons in that can REALLY prepare you for that in the real world. You can get a good head start with instruction on that, but when there is money on the line, it’s a different story. If someone says that want to hear more brown in the bass, a thunderous approach, zing zangy, meaty, or any number of adjectives, you have to really place your creative side in their head to know what that may mean and what they want it to sound like. It’s about communication and the hang, knowing the language of music and the artist’s goals. It’s all a means to an end. I had one guy say he wanted it to sound slippery. That meant fretless with some well placed glissandos.
I listened to your EP on Itunes, and really dug the spacial quality of the compositions and sounds. Did you write, produce and perform everything yourself?
I write everything I release, but I don’t play everything. I do play some simple keyboard parts, but nothing else. I bring in experts at their craft. Some of my best friends are some of the most experienced musicians and players in the world with resume’s to kill for. I just installed a new drum kit in my place, so I can bring in live drummers. Some of the material I am writing and recording is quite ambient and calls for varied talents.
You are an early adopter of the online session thing. If I’m not mistaken, I think you were out there doing it even before AirGigs was born (2012) It seems to be just now beginning to reach the mass consciousness, and it’d be interesting to hear your take on how it’s evolved for you (pro’s, con’s, lessons learned etc)
I still treasure the time you get from playing in a room with other musicians, but these days it isn’t always possible, that’s where this whole online session thing has it’s place. You can literally play with anybody now. I’ve played with some great instrumentalists that are known the world over, that I have never even met or spoken to, and they all come into my home with all these tracks I play on. It’s nuts.
To be a working, full time musician these days (DIY or otherwise) you have to be able to wear multiple hats at times. You manage a lot of roles effectively, from composer to performer to engineer to product endorsements. Can you share any thoughts on what it takes to stay working and in-demand?
It sort of takes on a life of it’s own after a while. that’s what you do, so you do it. I’m a working class sort of guy, so I make it my business to let people know what I do, and wish to do. My product endorsement aren’t really work. The man who makes my basses I’ve known for almost 30 years from back at Berklee, Stephen Sukop. I’m honored to play his instruments, I love them, they work for me. I tell everybody that asks that they are awesome instruments. I showcase his instruments on my website. I know people love my basses and the way they sound. I’m out there playing them, and it’s great advertising for him, but It’s not like I work for him. He’s my friend. I’d gladly pay full price for his instruments. Same with Phil Jones Bass. His amps and cabinets are freaky great. He’s also my friend and we get along real well. I’m happy to tell everybody about how great his products are, because they are. I’ll go and sit in his booth at a NAMM show anytime and play his gear. It’s all about exposure for the product industry. It’s also mainly about getting a great sound with the gear you choose to use.
I imagine being in a music hub like Nashville has it’s advantages in that your in the midst of a thriving music scene, but I also imagine there is a lot of competition. How do you find the scene where you live?
I don’t consider music a sport, and yes there are a lot of players and musicians and one could definitely say there is a great deal of competition, if you choose to look at it that way. I choose not to. If somebody chooses another bass player, so be it. So? I like hearing other people’s work. That’s one of the things I like about music, which is sharing it. I want to grow, listen and be peaceful with it. To enjoy it. That’s why they call it “play music”. I don’t keep score with it. I don’t have any angst with it. I love it, and it’s how I express myself everyday. I get to do this everyday and play some meaningful music of my own, and for others and get paid for it? How nice! The overall scene here is varied. There are a great deal of different styles of music, writers, studios, venues, rock bands, jazz dudes, and all sorts of others. I like it. You’re near the middle of the country, so when you need to travel, you’re not all that far. You also have access to all these publishing companies, and other music business avenues to explore. It’s what they call a “10 year town”. For me, it took every bit of almost 20 years to get any type of real foothold here.
Your top 3 bass players of all time, and why?
have to cite Jaco Pastorius, Jimmy Johnson, and James Jamerson. I’m not a slap happy player, so my first influences have to be finger style guys. I also love Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten. Victor Bailey is a favorite, and Michael Rhodes and a number of people that aren’t on the tip of my tongue. You know, I just like all the guys that care about playing a great, clever part, with a good tone. There are a ton of them I love. I love that Philly soul sound, that New York slick sounding bass playing that Will Lee does so well. All the great pop bass lines that groove. All those LA cats that just let it hang out. Mark Egan, Michael Manring. I just listen to it all.
Can you share any exciting projects that you’re involved with at the moment?
I’m a part of a group based out of Germany called Counting Clouds on Go Fish Records. Real ambient, groove, chill music. All of us are living in different parts of the world, and record remotely. I love this group. We just finished an album recently. Check out the music on my website. Also, I have a record deal with Asylum Music Group. They are going to release some of my instrumental music later this year. I also have to travel to San Francisco to play on a record project with Dawn Oberg, an old friend and a great, great singer/songwriter. That comes in June for a few days.