Leslie Johnson Discusses Getting Funky on #3, Looks Ahead to What’s Next

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Leslie Johnson joins Preston Frazier in this Something Else! Sitdown to discuss his latest album #3, upcoming projects as a musician and producer, and a newfound focus on getting deep into a groove …

PRESTON FRAZIER: Leslie, your new album #3 comes three years after your last album, The Leslie Johnson Project. What other projects have occupied your time since then?
LESLIE JOHNSON: Well, I spent all that time touring as music director for one of the biggest Christian artists in Latin America, Marcela Gandara, so that definitely took most of my time. I was also producing different albums for different artists – which I still do. I’ve always considered this my day job. And I also did a few bass and production clinics in different cities and countries.

PRESTON FRAZIER: #3 has a lot of similar elements to The Leslie Johnson Project. It seems a little funkier, too. What was the theme this time?
LESLIE JOHNSON: I was trying to go a little more groove-oriented. I think “funky” is a key word for this album. I love when musicians go crazy on their instruments, but this time I wanted to focus more on the groove side of music, and let every song revolve around the groove – although you can still hear these great musicians blaze.

PRESTON FRAZIER: This album also includes world class players. We premiered “Walk It Off” featuring Hedras Ramos, who is now based in L.A. “Groove Session” features Mark Lettieri from Snarky Puppy. How did he become involved?
LESLIE JOHNSON: I’ve always had this list of musicians I’d love to work with, and Mark was definitely on that list – and still is. So, I contacted him and he was very nice and really easy to work with. This is definitely not the last time I hope to work with him. Stay tuned for more.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Tell us about the concept and the recording of some of songs like “Funkier Than Oli’s Diaper” and “Late Night Walk.”
LESLIE JOHNSON: “Funkier Than Oli’s Diaper” is all about the groove. This is probably the one track that summarizes the rest of the album. I think that whatever this song makes you feel when you listen to it, that was my intent with the whole album. This track features Estuardo Stapleton from Nashville on keys and Dave Giraldo of Chicago on guitars. “Late Night Walk” was one song I included as a solo-bass piece on my previous album, The Leslie Johnson Project. This song was one of the songs that people really loved, and then I made a bass-and-drums version with drummer Jay Jackson for YouTube, and people again loved it. So, I decided to include this version of this track, and the only thing I changed from the original version is the bass solo.

PRESTON FRAZIER: You’re now based in Texas. Where were most of the basic tracks recorded? What was your main recording process?
LESLIE JOHNSON: I’ve been living in Texas since 2012 and, from here, I’ve been blessed to meet all these incredible musicians, either in my travels or through social media.
Some of the stuff was recorded here – some drums, all the programming, bass and most of the keys. The rest was recorded in each musician’s country or city. Echa Soemantri recorded in Indonesia, Mark Lettieri in Dallas, Hedras while he was still in Guatemala, Luca Mantovanelli in Italy, etc.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Now that the album is out, are you putting back on your producers hat?
LESLIE JOHNSON: I’m always with my producer hat on. People only see the musician side of me on social media, which is cool, but they don’t get to see me as a producer most of the time. But as I mentioned before, I’m blessed to say that my day job is to produce music for other people, and I’m always working on something for someone. And this year, I’m going to focus even more on the production side of music. As for my own projects, there’s a lot of more new music coming. I’m planning to release two more projects this year. Let’s see how that goes. The next one I’m thinking will be ready in a couple of months, and the other one I’m hoping to release it towards the end of summer. So, stay tuned.

PRESTON FRAZIER: What is your main gear?
LESLIE JOHNSON: For basses – Mayones Jabba Custom 5 (with Mayo M-BP2 preamp and Aguilar “AG 5J-70” pickups); Fender Jazz Bass V (with John East “J-Retro” preamp and Aguilar “AG 5J-70” pickups); Fender Marcus Miller (with Hipshot Bass Xtender); Fender Precision Bass (with Hipshot Bass Xtender and Aguilar “AG 4P-60” pickups); Sire Fretless Jazz Bass V7. As for pedals and FX – Fireboard Pedal boards, Boss TU-2 tuner, TC Electronic Polytune Mini 2, Xotic RC Bass Booster, Boss OC-2 Octaver, DOD FX25 Envelope Filter, MXR M83 Bass Chorus Deluxe. BS Multidrive Overdrive, Crybaby 535q Wah Pedal, Dunlop 105q Crybaby Mini Wah, Dunlop DVP4 Volume X Mini Pedal, TC Electronic Nova Repeater, Aguilar TLC Compressor, Aguilar DB924 Preamp, MXR M81 Bass Preamp, DIGITECH Ricochet, TC Electronic Ditto Looper, MXR M87 Bass Compressor, MXR M82 Envelope Filter, MXR ISO-Brick, MXR Phase 95 and Singular Sound BeatBuddy.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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