Catching Up with U•Bass Artist Tony Russell

Catching Up with U•Bass Artist Tony Russell

Tony Russell exudes the well-balanced confidence of a seasoned music professional. Dreams of a career in music took hold around the age of twelve, now he’s supporting Kendrick Lamar on bass and serving as Musical Director for The Championship Tour.

The son of Chicago Gospel singer Angela Spivey, Tony was immersed in music at a young age. "When I first started, all I wanted to be able to do was play at church," he recalls. "I wasn't thinking about money. It was just about love. All the money stuff, that stuff happens as time goes on. If I could just play on Sundays, I was good."

Every aspiring musician needs an opportunity. For Tony, that opportunity came from Donald Wood, the church's organ player.

"He took me under his wing. That was an act of kindness. He looked out for me and my brother on and off the instrument. If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't be doing what I am doing today."

With opportunity comes sacrifice and Tony's story is no different. By 14, he was playing pro gigs.

"I played no music in high school. I was already gigging and working. I kind of missed a lot of the kid stuff."

The sacrifice seems to have paid off. Before working with Kendrick Lamar, Tony supported Jay-Z, Diddy, and Dave Hollister.

"This is what you work for. There is a lot of mind-blowing stuff, even at this level. Some things are still a shock. [It's] a blessing [that] we get to see the world and do what we love to do."

Now, Tony serves as the mentor for the younger generation of musicians on the tour. He continues to model the behavior that helped him reach this point in his career.

"Take it a day at a time. Day by day, show by show. The road is what you make it. [In] the beginning, you have this big expectation that it is a party every night. Until you actually get out here, and you realize you're at work every day."

Tony only recently began to include the U-Bass into his repertoire. While he had heard of the U•Bass, it wasn't until he saw Kala artist Tarron Crayton post a video on Instagram that he really took interest in playing one.

"I heard it on a record [before] and it was a big sound. But I had never seen it. Then I saw Tarron play it and I thought 'Man, this is that bass!' From there, he connected me with you guys."

Tony has a couple of the Ebony U•Basses for the tour, one for on-stage use and one for the bus rides between cities. He appreciates its short scale, making it easy to experiment with while on the road.

The Championship Tour is officially scheduled through June and ticket information can be found on the Championship Tour website.
May 11, 2018 by Nick Fletcher
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