Today we’d like to introduce you to Ted Russell Kamp.
Ted, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m a professional musician and have been living and playing in L.A. since 2000. I’m a singer, songwriter, bass player and producer and have been doing all of these things at home, all around the US and Europe for years now.
I was born and raised in Westchester County, about a half hour north of Manhattan. I started playing trumpet in the 4th grade and then acoustic bass and bass guitar in the 9th. I played in countless school jazz bands and pit orchestras and then rock bands with my friends.
Because the city was an easy train ride away, I went regularly with my Mom to see Broadway shows and Museums as a kid. As I got older, hanging out in the village and going to rock shows with my friends were invaluable experiences for me. Being so close to the world-class music and art of New York City was pivotal in getting me hooked on the arts and making music.
After college, I moved to Seattle for a few years which is where I really learned to make music for a living. I loved Seattle, but after a few years, I realized there was a glass ceiling, and I needed to come to a bigger city to keep growing and stay inspired. L.A. was the place. I realized after a few years in L.A. that getting more specific about what I love and want to do were more important to me than just being a freelance musician who could do any gig.
I gradually got the courage to only take work with people I respect and relate to and started fostering relationships with people in the roots rock, country, and singer-songwriter worlds. I started playing bass with a dear friend of mine, Shooter Jennings, in late 2003 and I still play with him. I wrote one of our early hit songs and started visiting and writing in Nashville a lot and then got a publishing deal there from 2007-11.
L.A. really is a music industry town that started in the Wild West, and I really love the inventiveness and creativity that is prized out here. That and the home and community I have here are big reasons why I continue to stay here and love making music here.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There are always struggles and growing pains and a lot me still being able to play for a living is sheer persistence and love for the music I try to make.
I remember being about 30 and watching many of my friends who were making music for living slowly start doing other things to pay the bills. Finding a way to rise above the $75 or $100 a night bar gig scene was a hard one.
I remember a really painful plateau I lived in for a year or two as I felt talented enough and ready for more artistic gigs but being caught in the cycle of local bar band work. I had to figure out what I was doing wrong to keep me there or what I didn’t see that would help me meet the people to rise above it.
Some of my answers were: move to L.A. and get ready to learn from being a small town fish in an extremely big and world-class sea, get more serious about writing music and recording and then leading my own band to get my own music into the world.
Every few years it seems I’m confronted with an updated version of that same feeling. My way of dealing with it is to try to do better work, be present and be the kind of support player that I like when I’m the bandleader or producer and try to stay self-aware and learn from my mistakes.
Many who have a hard time rising in their fields seem to make the same mistakes over and over again without learning from them or changing their behavior. I guess we all do that to an extent because it’s hard to get out of your own head and see things objectively but the more we can, the more we can grow and the better teams we can be a part of.
We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I’m a singer-songwriter, bass player and a record producer.
Mostly I work in the Americana, country and singer/songwriter genres and I have a strong dose of the organic and acoustic rock of the ’70s in my playing and aesthetic. I have a brand new record coming out in March called Walkin’ Shoes. I’m an independent artist, and I’m self-releasing the record.
It was recorded mostly in L.A. with my friends, and a lot of it was done in my home studio, The Den. I can’t really say what I’m known for, but I can say what I strive to do and am proud of. I’ve spent years learning to be a sympathetic part of a band and be supportive while trying to be myself at the same time. I try to write heartfelt and adult songs. I want music to be honest, soulful and organic.
Playing some groovy bass is also a part of it, without a doubt. Something really beautiful happens when people start hiring you to be yourself because they like what you do or how you write or how you play rather than just hiring you because you can fulfill a specific function.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My dad was an amateur musician when he was a young man. Once or twice a year, I remember him waking up on a Saturday or Sunday morning, wearing his bathrobe walking around the living room doing his Louie Armstrong imitation. He’d play and sing Basin Street Blues in his best Louie Armstrong frog voice.
- Website: www.tedrussellkamp.com
- Instagram: @TedRussellKamp
- Facebook: facebook.com/TedRussellKamp and facebook.com/TedRussellKampBand
- Twitter: TedRussellKamp
Stacie Huckaba, Deone Janke, Tracy Fultz, Anni Lopponen, Karman Kruschke