Nashville, Tennessee (USA) is one of the world’s well-known cities, most popular for its musicality. The “Music City” is home to the highly-regarded bass guitarist Jon von Boehm, who has recently embarked on establishing himself as a solo artist, after a lengthy tenure as a devout collaborative bass guitarist.
In the course of establishing a lane for himself, Jon will be releasing his sophomore album called Ortus. The Latin titled solo offering encapsulates his journey of having to overcome and rise above certain circumstances – something many independent artists’ may identify with. In this offering, Jon really brings a colourful array of sounds, which makes him particularly hard to put in a box. The “Ortustic” volume and vibes of the album do not fall short in communicating his distinct nature and personality, despite not having any vocal contributions on the project.
In this interview, Jon speaks about his sound and where it fits within the context of modern genres. He also spoke at length about his latest album, which features a collaboration with South African-born, US-based fellow bass guitarist Vuyani Wakaba. Apart from being a talented artist, Jon is a wealth of knowledge too and his passion for music oozes through.
Lavatory Records: For people who aren’t familiar with you, who is Jon von Boehm?
Jon von Boehm: I’m a bass player residing in Nashville Tennessee and I’ve been playing bass for over 30 years. I have worked with various artists and ventured out doing my own thing about five years ago with my first self-titled release.
LR: When did the music bug bite? And what was the connection with the bass guitar?
JVB: I was always around music when I was a little kid. My grandfather played the guitar and banjo so I was around music and instruments quite a bit when I was younger. I always had a connection to music. I listened to music a lot when I was a little kid. Sitting in front of my parent’s stereo listening to music for hours with the big headphones on is a pretty vivid memory for me. My dad who is a devout Christian saw that the worship leader in church was a bass player. So of course, my dad asked me if I wanted to go look at the Bass Guitars at the local music store. Ha-ha I think his hope was that one day I would become a worship leader in church too. We came back home with a bass, that was about 31 years ago. Once I started playing though it really connected with me and it’s been the only instrument I have really played since then.
LR: Who were your greatest musical influences while coming up in the music game?
JVB: Oh boy, there is so much. Real early on it was more of a genre thing for me rather than specific players. I was big into punk rock and heavy metal not to mention rap. As I became a better player I started to notice other bass players. This is the age before YouTube so it was guys like Billy Sheehan, Stuart Hamm, Fle, Les Claypool, and Doug Wimbish…all the usual suspects for guys my age. Then one fateful day I discovered jazz and everything changed for me. I fell in love with what horn players and jazz guitar players were doing. I started transcribing a lot of their solos, and stealing ideas from them. Then I found bebop, went to jazz conservatory and the rest is history. But I still have this deep connection to my earlier influences and all that stuff comes out in my music.
LR: As a bass guitarist you obviously perform within a band setting. What’s your take on the notion that there’s a lack of quality live bands these days?
JVB: I think there are so many great bands out there its crazy! I also think a big problem is that the public in general is not looking for them like they used to. In the US the mainstream media basically feeds us garbage every day. But if you look below the surface there’s some great things happening. Again, so many people are unaware because you have to search for it. People are really lazy these days. There are far more than just the five artists that you see on TV ha-ha.
LR: Coming from a musical city such as Nashville (Tennessee), do you have a signature sound? If yes, how would you describe it?
JVB: I do have a signature sound. I’m an oddball here ha-ha! In a city full of P basses and flat wound strings I stick out a little bit. I’ve tried to use that to my advantage though, and it’s worked in my favor. If people call me and are looking for a specific sound that I don’t think fits me I just tell them out right that I’m not their guy. I’ll suggest someone who is really great for it though. If I had to describe my sound it’s this, rock bassist that plays jazz licks.
LR: Your forthcoming project is titled Ortus, describe the significance of this title to your musical journey thus far?
JVB: Ortus is Latin for risen, originated, emerging. The last couple of years have been a little rough. So, I felt like I was emerging from all of that…hence the name! Plus, I love astronomy and it seemed to fit well for the album title. The picture on the cover is actually the sun emerging from a total solar eclipse.
LR: What can the audience expect from the Ortus offering?
JVB: Something they probably never heard from a bass player before. I don’t really listen to other bass players that much anymore so I’m not really thinking “what would so and so do”. Nor am Ithinking “what do listeners expect from me”? I really just write what I want to hear, and what I like. If it puts a smile on my face I keep the idea and keep working on it until it’s a finished song. Mostly they can expect to hear who I am.
LR: You’ve collaborated with Vuyani Wakaba on the song Soweto, how did that come about?
JVB: I was working out this song idea. The bass line I wrote was for five strings. I’m not really much of a five-string player but Vuyani who is a dear friend, is a five and six string player. The composition seemed to work really well for his sound. So, I completed the song with him in mind and named the song Soweto which is the township he is from. His tone is huge!
LR: Speaking of collaborations, which other artists would you like to work with on future projects?
JVB: Miles Davis ha-ha! Seriously though, anyone who has their own unique voice and is really saying something on their instrument does it for me. I haven’t given it much thought to be honest. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some amazingly gifted musicians. If I write a song and hear a certain player in my mind I’ll give them a call and see if they want to put their stamp on it.
LR: Apart from your soon to-be-released album, are there any other projects/ performances to look out for from you?
JVB: I’ve been part of a project called the3AM. It’s a project featuring saxophone, drums, and bass. The sax player Miqui Gutierrez uses a lot of effects as do I,it is super hip! Usually our sets are fully improvised. We won’t talk about what we’re going to play before we go on stage. It’s a lot of fun and the stuff we’ve been creating is actually quite awesome. You can find us on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube. I also just started working with this amazing artist named Blake Ashley. She’s the whole package. Super talented, great songwriter and the girl can sing like it’s nobody’s business. I’m excited to see where she goes with her career. I also do a lot of sideman work here in town that keeps me pretty busy. They’re all great people and great musicians.
LR: Away from music, what do you do to relax?
JVB: Smoke cigars and drink red wine.
LR: Any special mentions you’d like to acknowledge?
JVB: I would just like to thank my listeners. The outpouring of support and love from them has been awesome. As well as all my close musician friends, they know who they are!
We would like to thank Jon for taking time out and speaking with us. If you want to keep in touch with him, you can check him out on his website, where you can get news on his new album, his other music and all that you want to know about him.