From Cruise Ships to L.A (feat. Tim Lefebvre)

It’s hard to summarise how much respect I have for Tim Lefebvre in a concise intro, so I’ll simply express to you all that Tim has been absolutely pivotal to myself and my peers in the making of our own music and the shaping of each of our musical journies.

Whether it’s his innovation, his approach to music making or his humble attitude, it’s incredibly rewarding to have him share his insight with me and the online community.

For those of you who don’t know Tim Lefebvre, I encourage you all to put some good headphones on and do your homework. If you’re interested in honest, creative, generous and innovative bass playing, Tim is your man.

Can you please clearly outline all your current musical projects and professions which make up your life as a professional musician? 

Currently the bassist for Tedeschi Trucks Band, Donny McCaslin, producer and songwriter. co-leader of Whose Hat is This, Boomish.

How long were you working on ships?

3 years. 

What cruise company were you working for and was there any particular reason you elected to work with that company over any others?

Premier Cruise lines….no particular reason…they called me for the gig!

What was your role on ships and what was expected of you musically speaking?

Bassist in the house band…be able to play a lot of styles and have good reading skills..

Do you have any friends who stuck out the cruise industry after you left?

A few yeah, but most are on land now having families and continuing to be successful people.

Were you practicing/studying in your downtime or were you simply enjoying the unique lifestyle that comes with living on a cruise ship?

Yes after a while! I got pretty serious about transcribing and practicing…transcribed all of Tony Williams’ “Civilization” and “The Story of Neptune” and made the guys read the charts,,, My friend and bandleader Ruben Gutierrez was into it! He brought in a lot of Jump With Joey ska charts and Latin stuff…early fun.

Can you please share the story of how Zack convinced you to move to NYC?

He was friends with our drummer, Pete Davenport. Pete invited him out to the cruise for vacation. Zach sat in with the band, we hit it off, and the rest is history!

Were you already thinking of making the move to NYC prior to Zack visiting?

Yes, I had always had a major infatuation with new york. that was the plan all along. Zach just reaffirmed it.

Have you ever considered what your musical life may have turned out like had Zack not taken that particular cruise vacation?

All the time! I suppose I would have gotten somewhere, but he steered me into a scene where i found my voice and was able to work pretty consistently on the scene. forever grateful to Zach for that.

Would you say you ever felt at home on cruise ships?

Yeah, after a while!

Did you ever reconsider going back to ships after you made the move to NYC?

I did for a couple weeks, actually. subbed in my old band. it was fun!!

Have you ever cruised as a guest since you left the industry? If not, would that interest you?

No, I have not. most likely I would pass on cruising as a guest.

How would you best sum up your cruise ship experience in one sentence?

It’s where I learned how to play.

Did any of the skills you learnt on ships translate to the NYC scene? For example sight reading, vocabulary, social skills etc.

Sure! also my ears were tuned into some good stuff as our horn players, Mahlon Hoard and Greg Little, were very good and very original.

I know it took you roughly 2 years before you picked up solid work in NYC. Can you share what you did in those years to position yourself where you wanted to be?

I worked my day job, then went out at night to see people’s gigs.. Also, I did tons of jam sessions in Brooklyn with folks I still play with to this day.

What would you say to a cruise ship musician wishing to follow suit and reposition themselves in NYC? For example, do you even think it’s still relevant in today’s online media-driven climate to be in a city like NYC?

I’m not sure….plus NYC is hella expensive for artists.

How did you manage going from a solid and reliable income in the cruise industry, to starting again in NYC? Was this something you prepared yourself for or did you just “wing it”.

I got a job immediately, to ensure that i could stay.

Were you already mucking around with the OC2 and electronic sounds on ships before you made the move?

No. I was pretty focused on getting decent on upright bass, and doing a lot of transcription. I got obsessed when I wasn’t drinking with the band and crew lol. 

Did you have any ambition of being a sideman musician full-time before you moved to NYC?

Yes of course!

Would you say you ever felt at home in NYC?

Yeah totally

Did you have to consciously choose to say no to certain gigs when you were stating out in NYC to avoid being mistaken for a “Straight ahead, or Rnb Guy” instead of what you were looking to do and play in NYC?

Naw I just said yes to everything I could handle. plus you can learn something on EVERY gig.

When did you decide to move to LA and why?

Just felt like it was time for a change.

What are the biggest differences between being a musician in NYC vs LA?

There are more musicians making a living doing music in LA..and it’s a bit cheaper than NYC for now.

How have you found moving from the NYC scene to the L.A scene? For example, have you found it hard to get offers outside of what you were traditionally getting called for in NYC?

Yeah, some of the LA scene is frustrating, but I’m over it. I have plenty of stuff going on even tho quite a bit of it is not in LA.

I know part of the reason you moved to L.A was to “hit the reset button” so to speak and get some work that you normally wouldn’t get called for in NYC. How have you found the challenge of saying no to what you’re so good at, and welcoming a chapter where you have to potentially go backwards before you go forwards?

That totally happened!!

Do you think the trend of musicians moving from NYC to LA is going to continue to climb as it has in recent years? And also, what are your thoughts on this trend and why do you think it has been occurring recently?

Yeah seems so. LA is an easier place to live than NYC.

Given that you are such a strong and experienced improviser, do you ever find it hard to “stick to the script” when you’re doing work where you are not being called to follow your ears and “the moment’ so to speak?

It’s fine! you have to know the artist you’re working for. it’s really not that tricky.

Your skills are very diverse and valuable given that you are competent on acoustic, electric and are comfortable in almost any musical situation you’re placed in. Did this wide spectrum of skills ever come at a cost of going deeper into one or more musical areas? For example, have you ever felt you could’ve said no to acoustic bass and worked harder on electric, or has being diverse simply made you a better musician?

When I first moved to LA, I was able to practice upright bass quite a bit because i wasn’t that busy. being diverse DOES make you a better musician!

Do you have any pet peeves when working with a drummer?

Don’t drag!

If you could only practice three things what would they be?

Just time, note lengths, simple slow stuff

If you could play bass in any band who would it be?

Nine inch nails

What kind of coffee do you take?

Any good stuff from a good roaster. I Aeropress or use pour over

Beer of choice?
I quit drink in’

If you could pivot to another occupation what would it be?

Sports analysts. football (NFL) especially

For everyone reading this who respects your career, your musical attitude and skillset, what would you suggest are the top things to prioritise, and the things to spend less time focusing on?

Just hang in there, be on time, don’t be a dick, give full effort, try to learn something even if you hate the gig.

For more information on Tim head to:

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