Oteil Burbridge Speaks About Jamming With The Grateful Dead, Praises Trey Anastasio, Reveals Favorite Dead Songs

August 11, 2015

Oteil Burbridge Speaks About Jamming With The Grateful Dead, Praises Trey Anastasio, Reveals Favorite Dead Songs
 
Original Article: http://bit.ly/oteilinterview_mh
Posted in News by Sara Furer.
 
As Oteil Burbridge prepares for his new role as bassist for Dead & Company along with Grateful Dead members Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart, John Mayer and Jeff Chimenti, the former Allman Brothers Band member spoke to Billboard about a myriad of topics, such as what the jam sessions have been like, his thoughts on Trey Anastasio playing with the Core Four in Fare Thee Well, and his favorite Grateful Dead songs.
 
On the jam sessions...
 
"It’s hard to describe really. I think it would have been easier if I hadn’t become a fan yet. After playing with [Bill] Kreutzmann and Scott Murawski in BK3, I was much more familiar with the music and had my own favorites. When I would hear the Dead in passing, which was frequently, my ear was way more tuned to it. I would get sucked into it a lot more than before. My wife plays Grateful Dead music around the house a lot. She always has. I had become a fan by the time I went into those jams, so I was a lot more nervous. The one thing you don’t want to do while you’re playing with the guys from Dead is think -- especially apprehensive, fearful, second-guessing thoughts. You just want to be in the flow."
 
Grateful Dead Members Discuss Mayer, Mike Gordon, And More 'Dead & Company' Tour Dates
 
On Trey playing in Fare Thee Well...
 
"I thought Trey did an amazing job. There can be so much pressure on you if you let it. I guess Trey didn’t let it. He seemed to me like he was perfectly melded into the stream of the collective band consciousness. He wasn’t trying to draw attention to himself. He was there as a true servant of the songs and the legacy. I was so proud of him."
 
On how his style differs from Phil Lesh's...
 
"It’s so hard when you come in to bands like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band where the fans actually do know and care who the bassist is. You don’t want to copy the original guy but you feel obligated to honor what bass melodies the founding bass player crafted for the song. It’s even harder in the case of the Dead though because with [the Allman Brothers’] Berry Oakley there’s usually a specific bass line that he wrote that you can play in the verses and choruses, so you can play that and then in the jams you totally do your own thing. With Phil there’s not usually a written, repeated bass line but more of an approach or philosophy that drives his choices. Billy told me that he purposely wanted to play the opposite of conventional bass so that means it’s like the negative of a photo. Or the equivalent of anti-matter to matter. That means downbeats, heavy grooves, tons of bottom, are gonna be totally elusive. Like Mercury."
 
On chemistry...
 
"It’s everything. Whoever is soloing is the 'lead singer' at that time. You make the bed for them as best you can. You want them to be able to soar higher than they could by themselves. Gregg [Allman] approaches his solos totally differently from the guitar players. Bill Evans approaches his sax solos differently from either Gregg or Derek [Trucks] or Warren [Haynes]. Even if it’s seven different guitar players in a row they’re all going to be different. It takes time to learn a person’s tendencies. When Weir and Mayer do enough shows together it’ll happen naturally. Same for me. Kreutzmann and I already have a deep chemistry established but there’s four other guys and we all have to merge into each other fully."
 
His favorite Dead songs...
 
"I’m really looking forward to songs I haven’t played before with Bill: 'Jack Straw,' 'Tennessee Jed,' 'Ramble On Rose' and 'Stella Blue.' Man there are so many. Jesus. Then there’s the ones that I do know that I Iove. 'Birdsong,' 'Estimated Prophet,' 'Help on the Way/Slipknot,' 'Eyes Of The World,' 'Bertha,' 'Sugaree,' 'Althea' and on and on. We covered 'Dark Star' on Jerry's birthday with the Aquarium Rescue Unit. Our fans really dug it."
 
Watch Aquarium Rescue Unit Cover 'Dark Star' On Jerry's Birthday
 
On how playing with the Allman Brothers will compare with this...
 
"I think it’s gonna be a lot looser and more unpredictable with the Dead & Company. More like the Aquarium Rescue Unit. Dead fans would always compare us (ARU) but we never got it. Now I understand. It’s not our styles that are alike but our philosophies. Last night we played this one song 'Jack The Rabbit' with the ARU totally different than ever before. It wasn’t really the same song anymore, but it was. It happened totally by accident and we just purposely didn’t 'correct' it. We just let it be what it was right then and it was way more fun. I don’t think that would necessarily have happened in the ABB."
 
On dealing with intimidation...
 
I am just going to breathe deep and go with the flow.
 
Read the complete interview here.