Ladysmith - Tanner



(Photo by Tony D.)

Bass player Tanner (she prefers to be addressed by her last name, thank you) comes to Ladysmith after stints with several bands in the Los Angeles area.

Born in St. Louis, Tanner moved to California at age 10, and a childhood passion for basketball netted her a full scholarship to Pepperdine University. The 6-foot-2 athlete even furthered her basketball career by playing with a women's professional league in Switzerland for a time.

Returning to California, "BAT" (her initials) picked up her musical career by playing with bands in and around the Pepperdine area. Working on a film score with a limited budget led to her playing bass, and she found the instrument that she felt she was born to play.

Over the last couple of years, Tanner has been a member of BandShe, a six-piece all-female party cover band. When guitarist Jennifer Paro, a former BandShe member, and Cheap Chick guitarist Robin Beacham began thinking of an all-female Aerosmith tribute, Tanner was called.

Tanner joined us for this chat in July of 2006 to discuss her midwestern roots, musical influences and her career, along with her involvement in the beginnings of Ladysmith (Tanner has since left the band, replaced by Amy Tung).

St. Louis is home for you?

Yeah! I mean, I lived there until I was ten. I consider it my home. I consider myself a midwestern girl. I wouldn't want to move back there, but I love it that I'm from there.

That root system.

Yeah. Plus, nobody in California is really born here; everybody's from somewhere else.

And, I guess there's that value system that you may not always find in L.A., either.

Yeah. Like, looking people in the eye, and meaning what you say and saying what you mean. And ... I don't know, I just feel like I'm kinda old-fashioned, and I think that comes from the midwest and my upbringing. Just a little bit, you know. Just enough.

Did you live in St. Louis proper or in the outlying areas?

Well, I lived all over St. Louis when I was little. Mostly University City and Flourissant. I have a lot of relatives in St. Charles now ... I spent a lot of summers in southern Missouri, my grandparents had a farm down there.

Down in the foothills?

Of the Ozarks, near Farmington? Yeah. It's beautiful there.

I always liked driving up there, and after all that flat of east Arkansas, getting up into the foothills, going up ... (Highway) 61, I think it is? And going up past Taum Sauk (Reservoir) and going into those hills and your ears would start to pop, when you start to get into the high country.

(Laughs) Yeah; yeah. At least the "high country" for that area, at least (laughs).


(Photo by Victor Moller)

Well, compared to all that flatness of east Arkansas, that is high country.

I guess it is, yeah.

When did the interest in music start for you?

I was around a lot of musicians. A lot of my mom's side of the family are musicians, working musicians, playing in the midwest hotels. And they were always, like, coming by the house in-between gigs on their tours and stuff. But, I think, right away I wanted to play guitar. But I didn't really start doing that until I was a teenager.

You were a jock when you were younger, right?

Mmm-hmm. Yeah.

A lot of sports?

Well, basketball is the only one that made sense to me.

As tall as you are, that makes sense.

Yeah. I was naturally athletic, so having that and height, I did alright.

And basketball got you scholarships, right?

Yeah. I graduated from Pepperdine University ... I played two years there for the Waves after initially going to Oregon State University. I was on full scholarship at both schools.

And you played pro ball, too?

Upon graduation I received interest from a few pro teams - the WNBA had not been created yet - (and) I chose to go to Geneva, Switzerland, and play for a team called Bernex. That's the neighborhood that the club was in.

Interesting.

It was a good opportunity for me to see a little bit of Europe, and i met a few great people that I stayed in touch with. Switzerland is a gorgeous country and Geneva is steeped with history and mystic. I enjoyed wandering the cobblestone streets late into the night. There was no fear of getting mugged or raped. (Those things) virtually do not exist there.


(Photo by Victor Moller)

When did you actually start to play music?

In high school. I started playing in bands. I played guitar for a long time, just making a lot of noise in the garage, and driving my parents insane. That was a lot of fun. And then after I graduated college I hooked up with some musicians around L.A. and started playing, mostly coffee shops and stuff.

Yeah.

I was playing guitar, writing songs, and playing with those kinda folk-outfitted groups. And with one of the bands I was in, one of the highlights was opening for the Marshall Tucker Band, being on an independent CD ...

Did you listen to a lot of the old folk music when you were a kid?

I listened to everything when I was a kid. I think mostly what I had around was like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Allman Brothers, the Moody Blues - my parents had a lot of Moody Blues. Elton John. I pretty much went through every kind of musical phase you could go through. Lots of blues. When I started playing guitar I learned as many blues licks as I could. I didn't actually start playing bass until about five years ago, and that's mainly what I'm doing now.

And what was the first band?

There were always little bands. I guess, probably, during the coffee shop days, Big Dumb Love was the biggest band that I played in. I was in there for awhile.

Big Dumb Love?

Yeah (laughs).

There has to be a story behind that name.

Yeah, but it's a big, dumb story.

(Laughs)

The lead singer and the guitarist, were, at the time, together. So they came up with it. But that became a big, dumb idea.

What time frame are we talking about here?

We're talking like '98, '99. The coolest thing that happened was I was working with a friend of mine, writing music for an indie film - that I don't think ever came out - at least I wasn't notified. And there was no budget for a bass player, so I ended up playing bass on this album. Or, these songs that were going to be on this album. And I fell in love with the bass, and I've been playing bass in bands ever since.

It was just a natural fit?

Yeah. It makes more sense. It's much more like me being tall and strong, it's much more of a physical instrument, that I kind of relate to. And it's like ... humble and powerful at the same time (laughs).

Well, you know Carol Kaye (legendary L.A. studio bassist) kinda started the same way. She was a guitar player, and was at a recording session and the bass player wasn't there.

Yeah. I met her a few times, I took a couple of lessons from her. She's fascinating. But yeah, she's amazing. Have you ever spoken with her?

Only through e-mails. No, we've never met.

Yeah. She's great. But, the funny thing was, everyone was like, "Oh, you're the guitarist. You play six-string, this is only four strings, it'd be much easier." (laughs)

Not necessarily.

No, not at all. I mean, I love it when guitarists say, "Oh, I can play the bass;" right. But, I mean, you have to have beat, you have to have feel, you have to have this ... thing. You know what I mean?

Yes. Well, even the left hand technique is a bit different when it comes to playing bass.

Yeah. It is. It is different, and you need decent-sized mitts to be able to get around it a bit better.

So, the indie movie, you found bass, and then what happened?

What I did was ... I had never studied music in any kind of form or setting, really. Which has its advantages, too. But I went to the L.A. Music Academy, within just a few months after that experience, and I just wanted to concentrate on learning as much as I could about the bass.

Right.

And so, I did that for a year. And that was... I guess that's been five years (ago) now since I graduated from there. And since then, I've been in a lot of working bands, cover bands.


(Photo by Tony D.)