Stories Behind the Songs: Nathan East

Nathan East

Nathan East’s prolific playing has graced so many albums, it would probably be easier to list who he hasn’t work with rather than who he has. The Philadelphia-born, San Diego-raised bassist picked up his first 4-string at 14 after studying cello in school and went on to be one of the world’s most in-demand session players. He’s been called on by Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Kenny Loggins, Anita Baker, Mariah Carey, and many, many more.

He also continues to write and perform with Fourplay, an on-going collaboration with Chuck Loeb, Bob James, and Harvey Mason. Their thirteenth album, Esprit De Four, will be released September 18th on Heads Up International. Described as a throwback to the early days of the band, the new effort features East’s vocals in addition to his slick bass skills. It also contains his composition ‘Firefly’, which was inspired by the Swedish trio Dirty Loops.

In addition to all of his session and touring, the intrepid bassist teaches the pop and rock section of the Artistworks Bass Campus. The interactive video lessons allow for students to watch video lessons, then send East their own videos for pointers and guidance. “It’s exciting to me to know that I will be interacting with students personally,” he says. “When you record a DVD – it’s done. Now I will get to respond to students’ playing and be directly engaged in watching their progress.”

With such an incredibly diverse catalog, we tasked East with naming ten of his favorite tracks from his career.


1. “101 Eastbound” – from Fourplay’s Fourplay (1991)

Fourplay: FourplaySonically, this is as good a recording by engineer Don Murray as you could ever wish for, especially as a bass player, he captured the essence of my bass tone and sound.


2. “Love Will Follow” – from Kenny Loggins’ Vox Humana (1985)

Kenny Loggins: Vox HumanaI enjoyed coming up with this part and working with Kenny Loggins on this record. It’s a classic R&B song with an active bass part.


3. “Windy City” – Rodney Franklin’s Rodney Franklin (1980)

Rodney Franklin: Rodney FranklinThis was one of the first solos that I took on a recording after moving to LA. I also toured with Rodney Franklin.


4. “Easy Lover” – from Philip Bailey’s Chinese Wall (1984)

Philip Bailey: Chinese WallIt was an honor to work with Phil Bailey & Phil Collins on this project and even more of an honor to co-write this song with them. I tried to create a memorable bass part that contained elements of R&B and Rock-n -Roll.


5. “Restoration” – from Bob James’s Grand Piano Canyon (1990)

Bob James: Grand Piano CanyonI call this the first Fourplay song. We recorded with Bob James for his Grand Piano Canyon album with Lee Ritenour on guitar and Harvey Mason on drums at which point the group Fourplay was conceived.


6. “Love Me As Though There Were No Tomorrow” – from Jack Lee and Bob James’s Botero (2009)

Jack Lee and Bob James: BoteroThis is a duet with piano and upright bass recorded at a studio in Seoul, Korea and arranged by Bob James contains some wonderful chord changes!

7. “Fairy Tales” – from Anita Baker’s Compositions (1990)

Anita Baker: CompositionsA live recording session with Anita Baker in studio singing with the band which included Greg Phillinganes on piano & Steve Ferrone on drums…we had fun and you can tell on the recording.

8. “Passionate Raindrops” – from Stevie Wonder’s A Time to Love (2005)

Stevie Wonder’s: A Time 2 LoveMy first time playing on a Stevie Wonder record! Recorded at 4am at his studio and I played upright bass following his left hand .. no charts, just listen and play!

9. “Tears in Heaven” – from Eric Clapton’s soundtrack to the film Rush (1992)

Eric Clapton: Tears in HeavenObviously a very emotionally charged performance, especially having known his son Conor, and being very close to the situation, every note was spiritually guided and straight from the heart.

10. “Change The World” – from Eric Clapton’s single from the soundtrack to the film Phenomenon (1996)

Eric Clapton: PhenomenonThis was the Grammy Song of the Year 1997, produced by Babyface and so much fun to play!

11. “Footloose” – from Kenny Loggins’ single from the soundtrack to the film Footloose (1984)

Footloose SoundtrackI developed this bass part over a series of rehearsals and this song became a number one hit in 1984 and was nominated for an Oscar, Grammy, Tony & Golden Globe.

12. “Giving You The Best That I’ve Got” – from Anita Baker’s Giving You the Best That I’ve Got (1988)

Anita Baker: Giving You the Best That I’ve GotAnother classic R&B song with great chord changes and wonderful marriage between the lead vocal and bass part.

13. “Don’t Look Any Further” – from Dennis Edwards’s Single “Don’t Look Any Further” (1984)

Dennis Edwards: Don’t Look Any FurtherThe bass line really drives this song and was lots of fun to record.

14. “Bali Run” – from Fourplay’s Fourplay (1991)

Fourplay: FourplayThis song on the first Fourplay record epitomizes what the band is all about and contains classic performances from each member.

15. “Wildfire” – from Hubert Laws’s Family (1981)

Hubert Laws: FamilyThis was my very first recording with master of the flute Hubert Laws, a song that features the bass playing the lead melody and solo. One of my first original compositions to be recorded by a major recording artist.

Nathan East’s Top 15

Note: Rodney Franklin’s “Windy City”, Bob James’ “Restoration” and Hubert Laws’ “Wildfire” are not available in digital format.

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  1. east is a bass legend. he’s probably been in just about every studio and on every stage that exists. bet he can play almost any song in his sleep. no treble hall of fame!

  2. Genius is something to behold! awesome Nate!

  3. ….and he plays a Yamaha bass – none of that boutique stuff.

  4. Nathan is my all time favorite bassist, I even have an autographed Yamaha Nathan East Signature bass. All I need to do now is play like him. Great article. As for the bass, it comes from Yamaha’s Custom shop, so it is their boutique bass. Check the price.

  5. This guy is so good. Total pro. I ” Footloose” and ” Bad Love” are my two favs.

  6. A great article on one of the finest bassists (and gentlemen) in the industry. One of my favorite albums to feature NE is actually a contemporary Christian disc from 1991–“Anonymous Confessions of a Lunatic Friend” by Bryan Duncan. Every song except one features a rhythm section of Nathan East and the late Jeff Porcaro. And they are killing it on every tune. It’s a fantastic album.

  7. “Love will follow’ stopped me cold in my tracks and made me a fan of Nathan and Kenny.