Groove – Episode #3: Leland Sklar

Leland Sklar

“Who is that bass player with the long beard?” That was my initial reaction when I first saw the video for Phil Collins’ smash hit, “Sussudio”, in 1985. I did not know Leland Sklar’s pedigree as a bass player before that (and, what happened after is a journey of impressive artists and songs that continues to expand to this day and beyond).

Sklar was studying music at California State University in the ’60s, and that was when he met James Taylor. This is the gig that shot Sklar into the limelight and has led him to become one of the top session and live bass players ever. He turns 68 this year, and has no desire to slow down. His list of credits is a veritable who’s who of rock, pop and country (literally from Air Supply to Warren Zevon and everyone in between). He has played on over 2,500 albums and close to 30,000 songs. His melodic grooves and focus on the artist and the song over trying to over-power a song with a bass line, speaks to his mastery of the instrument and how he thinks about the creativity behind the riffs.

In this third episode of Groove – The No Treble Podcast, we talk about how the bass has evolved, the role of the instrument in the songs that he has played on and how bass players can better contribute to a band. Enjoy the conversation…

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  1. Petey

    Yup! Another one of my mentors. Always loved his work with Phil Collins. Then saw him with James Taylor. (My Mom loves James Taylor) then I got a DVD of him playing with my favorite band TOTO, filling in for Mike Poccaro. He definitely has a stellar career! Next to Nathan East, Abraham Laboriel, Marcus Miller and the like. I always loved studio bass players that can play all styles with ANY artists. Leland is up there with them.?

  2. Peet

    This is a great and stunning interview! Can`t discribe it with other words ;-)

  3. Willy Cole

    One of the most down to earth interviews about bass with a true legend I’ve heard. Most honest and humble. Thank you.

  4. nice one down to earth right to the point ….make music… have a good life your best… he makes this world a better thanks

  5. Steve

    The essence of the best in every aspect.

  6. The thing I love most about this interview is that all the feelings he has on his sessions are the same as mine. It really helps me put things into perspective. I think you should continue a series of interviewing session bassist so that we can all learn from them. Good job!

  7. Great interview Mitch, loved Leland from his early days with Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Phil Collins. Insightful, honest and humble…you caught the essence of the player.

  8. Such a great interview, Mitch. Thank you so much.

    Now that you’ve recorded this interview with James Taylor’s first great bass player, is there any chance you could snag an interview with JT’s second great bassist–Jimmy Johnson? I see so few interviews with JJ and would love hear him talk about playing with JT, Holdsworth, and others.

  9. And Ricardo’s idea of interviewing more studio bassists is outstanding. An interview with Anthony Jackson would be epic.

  10. Andrew Rios

    What a awesome interview. I was able to meet him t NAMM a few years ago. What a nice guy.

  11. Nice job, Mitch…. Lee is a stellar bassist, but he also is an amazing personality. As many times as I have talked to him and seen him in action , he remains humble and a model of great character.Each friend and/or bass player that has followed Lee is honored in his presence.
    A class act …thanks, Mitch .

  12. I saw Lee Sklar during the But seriously tour, first ever concert, been following him ever since, and originally I wanted to play bass 25 years ago, not just for the past 4. Great to hear him talk about his expectations about the jobs he takes, and the humbleness, even after 2600 albums/songs. Thanks for this, Mitch.

  13. DH Bennett

    Its always interesting how much we bass players talk about insignificance or distastefulness of flashy bass playing, but when given the chance… most of us spend a lot of time listen/watching Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Hadrien Feraud, etc. That said, I truly believe that Sklar walks the line he talks. And I think you can hear it in his playing. He truly takes the space when its there and he leaves when best suited for other musicians. Come to think of it, Sklar is so honest about what he thinks of that type of playing its not even offensive.

  14. Pbw30

    Always thought he was one of the best bassists out there. His approach to bass playing totally explains why he has had so much work.

    Also – Great interview – you’re a good interviewer Mitch. Too many podcasters insist on imposing themselves on the interview – you actually listen (which sounds obvious but is actually rare)

    Plus – You might need a bass player – classic!

  15. Great interview. Great series. Good looking’ out, man. Thanks, Mitch. Respect. Jah Bless & One Love.

  16. PatG

    awesome and inspirational. I feel so close to the way he considers bass playing.

  17. Thanks for the interview. I’ve heard of him but was not familiar with him. Love his tone in the beginning of the episode

  18. Wayne Renardson

    Thank you for the interview with this extraordinary musician.

  19. bob glaub

    great interview, great person…& always inspiring…one of the great bass players of our time… lucky to call Lee my old friend…ALL bass players should listen to this insightful interview from a very humble master.

  20. Great podcast, guys! Lee is fabulous, I am so glad I could get to town and download it. It is not often we get to hear the stories directly from legends.

  21. I think pretty much alike: musicians should be serving the music not their own ego

  22. What an aewsome interview! Lee seems to be a great guy, besides an incredible musician. I wish him the best today, on his birthday.

  23. Absolutely brilliant. Crossed paths with him in an airport as I was leaving the restroom. Contemplated waiting for him to come out to relate my admiration. I decided that was a bit creepy so I hope to run into him another time. Great interview. Great musician.

  24. wish I could wish him a happy birthday in person ( or on facebook) but if You’re reading this Leland. Happy Birthday !!!!!!

  25. Bradly Wolkis

    You people keep listing great bassists, but I don’t see anyone mentioning Thunderfingers himself, John Entwhistle!!

  26. John

    Bradley, did you listen to the interview? Lee Sklar himself mentions being influenced by Mr. Entwistle, as well as Jack Bruce, Paul McCartney, among others. By the way, there is no ‘h’ in Entwistle, who is among the top three names in rock-n-roll in best bassists, hardly needing more recognition. Mr. Sklar, an impeccable and undisputed bassist’s bassist is someone more people should know about, hence Mitchell’s well deserved and much appreciated focus in this podcast.

  27. Make no mistake about it: John Entwistle is a bass God. The Who is one of my top bands, and I attribute my desire to play the instrument to his playing and prowess. Saddened that I will not get the chance to include him in this podcast project!

  28. this podcast is quick becoming my favorite thing on the int3rweb

  29. Sandy Clark

    Been following Lee since his work with James Taylor and Jackson Browne in the mid 70s
    His lines are just so Pure and serve the Songs Perfectly . Huge Respect for this man

  30. Rob Crumrine

    Lee describes being a bass player the same way as I see myself as a bass player. Serve the song. No more, no less….

  31. Frank Lewin

    There were two bass guys with CSN, Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels and Greg Reeves. Their tenures were short but Reeves was exceptional on “Déjà Vu” and Samuels played his tush off on “Four Way Street (live)” rarely hear them mentioned.. listen to Samuels’ bass lines on “Carry On”..extended version. Outstanding!