This is the first interview we've done with a musician who's not been releasing CDs under his own name as an artist. But I dare say he's appeared on more recordings than any artist we have interviewed. In a town notorious for dangerous pickers, Michael Rhodes is certain to be in most anyone's list of top three bassists, though the other two may vary. Beyond his profound musicianship, his look and his vibe have branded him. He doesn't appear American, really-tall and wiry, shaven head, loose clothing, frequently barefoot on stage. Penetrating eyes, quick to smile, a quipster in the extreme.
I will go to see him play regardless of whom he's playing with, and there is no one else in that category. When he's onstage, everyone plays their absolute best, I've seen it happen many times. I've even talked to other players about it, and they've said literally that they feel called upon to be as present and musical as they can be in his presence. It's rare, but some people just Do that. I've learned a lot about music just watching and listening to Rhodes play: groove, note duration, note selection, concentration, communication, playing off the other players and singers, playing your rig...it goes on and on. And he's not the kind of guy that talks about any of that stuff, he just is it, and does it, and it's there to be seen and heard. He's just showing up and getting in the zone, and having a good time.
Although he's a highly sought after session player and has probably played on a number of CDs in your collection, on our Listen page we will feature some clips of his work with a few Nashville bands of which he is a member:
The Fortunate Sons is a roots rock band with songwriter Gary Nicholson as the principal writer and singer, but guitarist/producer Kenny Greenberg is also a featured composer here. Chad Cromwell is the favored skinsmith in this fast running crowd, and the mighty Reese Winans is on organ and piano.
The Players is a collection of red hot session guys that did a CMT special and this is an accompanying CD. The legendary Eddie Bayers is on drums. John Hobbs on keys is not only a rare player, but turns in some beautiful writing. Paul Franklin on steel and Brent Mason on guitar need no introduction to anyone who likes inspired country playing, it doesn't get any better than those two.
Lastly, the Vinyl Kings is an amazing conglomeration of hit songwriters, session players and producers doing original Beatles type material. No, it's much more than that. They sound like the Beatles. Check it out, it's mindblowing. Their shows are so much fun, an excellent dance party I never miss. The CD hasn't really been officially released yet, and it's already a best seller at CD Baby. [See our interview with Jim Photoglo of the Vinyl Kings here.]
recently at the Red Wagon on Nashville's East Side with Michael and Lindsay,
I realized we had to get an interview with him; he's such an interesting
character, so extemporaneous and aware. Popped over to his beautifully
done house a week or so later, and we went next door. He showed me his
current project, an old house that he was gutting and making into his
hang, think he called it the boy's club. He took obvious delight in uncovering
original sliding doors and ancient custom windows that had been boarded
up or over, stuccoed or drywalled into obscurity. Here's where the studio
will be, here you step up to the asian style tub, the guest quarters....
We went out back into his backyard, where he'd been planting bamboo, so
I took a couple of pictures before he cleaned up. Messed around with his
two Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies, and headed in to cool off and tape a
conversation. Dusk was being swallowed by a slowly descending darkness
as we settled into some modern but comfy chairs. Michael lit an Export
light, smiled, and gave me that look that says "So..." continue