Taylor Swift has become a household name with a succession of catchy singles, although not so many people would be able to name her touring band. But Taylor’s bassist, Amos Heller, is a man who has shared a stage with anybody who’s anybody when it comes to country music, having toured and recorded with names like Josh Gracin, Rhett Akins, and Mindy MacCready, as well as joining Swift’s backing band back in 2007. His part in a distinctive sound has helped tickets to Taylor Swift concerts (http://www.stubhub.co.uk/taylor-swift-tickets/) sell like hot cakes.
His story is the classic Hollywood story – boy goes to the big city with little else than a dream to make it big in the music business, and succeeds. But how does a bassist go from humping gear in the Arizona desert to playing in front of 15,000? It’s a long story.
Although now based in Nashville, Heller is originally from Virginia, and began life as an orchestral bass player, spending life stood up playing bass. It’s not everybody’s starting point into country and rock music but Heller believes that playing at school stood upright with a giant bass was a great introduction to playing electric. As a result, he found making the jump to electric pretty easy. At school he soon discovered a real love for heavy metal and funk and the rest is history. He says he’s never stopped loving being a bass player.
There’s a million people out there who want to play music for a job, and in Nashville you’ve got the best players from all the over the USA – everybody’s the best in their home town. At the time Heller was working in a Nashville coffee shop, but man, was he hungry for success, so he hustled like crazy, later meeting a touring professional in Nashville who became his mentor.
One night over beers at a club he was asked what he wanted to do in music. He said he’d do anything. But the question was asked again, what exactly did he want to do? The answer was; be on a tour bus and play big cool shows. Easier said than done, of course. He was then asked by a friend if he knew any bass players for a gig playing casinos. Naturally he jumped at this opportunity.
It was hard graft, and not the rock ‘n’ roll gig some might imagine, as he helped to unload equipment, and set up the PA, then playing four hour sets before packing up and driving to the next gig. But it was all valuable experience of being on the road.
He became friends with Al Wilson, who eventually became Taylor Swift’s drummer. Her then-current bassist decided to come off the road, by which time Al was the bandleader, so Heller quickly got the call from Al to join the band. Heller sees his style as being able to connect to the spirit of the song you’re playing, making sure he’s playing to the person screaming their heart out in the front row, and to the person sat right at the back of the gig.