Bassist Oteil Burbridge has had a pretty epic career. Besides stepping into his role with the Allman Brothers Band years ago, to founding the Aquarium Rescue Unit, and now becoming a full-time member of Dead & Company with three original members of the Grateful Dead (Bob Weir, Billy Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart), along with guitar wonder John Mayer, Burbridge can hold it down with the best of them. There isn’t much arguing that.
With Dead & Company tour having kicked off this past weekend at Manchester, TN’s Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Burbridge sat down with Cincinnati.com for an interview to discuss a range of topics, from comparing bass playing for the Allmans to the Dead, stepping into Phil Lesh‘s proverbial shoes, to playing with a bona fide international superstar such as John Mayer.
When asked about playing bass in the Allman’s as compared to the Dead, Burbridge responded, “With the Dead’s music, there’s just a wider range, and the Allman Brothers have a pretty frigging wide range of stuff they do. But there’s more long-form pieces in the Dead catalog. Solo sections will go through a lot more chord changes. They’ll go through the full form of the song. The Allman Brothers, there’s not nearly as much of that. But I think the roles are essentially the same.”
He was then asked about what he’s learned from listening to Phil Lesh. Burbridge responded, “I would say that I’m a lot more licensed to take really big chances with the Dead catalog because Phil set that precedent. There’s nothing I can do that’s too weird….Phil is always doing something different. Like if there’s a regular chord, he’ll substitute another bass note for that chord that is not the regular root of that chord, and there’s any number of choices for any number of those chords. I have to listen to five different versions just to figure out what the original bass note was supposed to be”.
Burbridge then gave his thoughts on John Mayer.“I think he’s doing phenomenal. It’s really obvious that he loves the music. It’s something that you can’t fake, especially not for these fans. He’s either doing it, or he’s not. We would be crucified if it wasn’t happening, or at least run off stage. He had a lot more skill set that I realized guitar-playing-wise”.
Burbridge will play Citi Field with Dead & Company in New York on June 25th and 26th, as the band makes their way West to Boulder, CO for two shows at Folsom Field on July 2nd and 3rd. He will also play a special late-night show with Tom Hamilton’s American Babies, Marco Benevento and Grahame Lesh’s Midnight North post-Dead & Company on the 3rd at The Fox Theatre. That show has limited tickets available.