An Iconic Rock Musician and What Makes Us Feel Truly ‘At Home’, with Legendary Bassist Leland Sklar
As someone who has spent a lot of time on the road Lee says the great thing about touring in the modern age is that the buses have an Internet connection, “You’re not just sitting there watching a VHS you’ve seen 50 times and hoping that the machine still works after being bounced around.“ These days Lee is home like the rest of us, but he’s doing amazing things with his downtime, like growing a successful YouTube Channel and working on his book, “Everybody Loves Me”, a compilation of thousands of photographs of friends, fans, celebrities, band and tour mates that he’s been taking since 2004, all flipping him the bird.
By the end of our hour-long interview with Lee Sklar, we see in stark relief and with perfect clarity why the band he formed with Danny Kortchmar, Waddy Wachtel and Russ Kunkel is called the ‘Immediate Family’. Music is Lee’s home and those he’s collaborated, toured and worked with are his people. For example, most of 1990, he tells us, was spent on tour with Phil Collins. When it was over “you say good-bye to people you’ve been around for an entire year,” Lee says.
Southern California is the backdrop for Lee’s legendary career, from his early days playing the clubs with James Taylor while still a student at CSUN (California State University, Northridge) and helping to create the distinctive sound of rock which emerged in the seventies, exemplified by Taylor, Carole King, Jackson Browne and others, to the coming together of the ‘Immediate Family’ members, whose shared experiences playing in those legendary recording sessions laid the foundation for a magical collaboration that brings together classic rock, musicianship and rapport (“musically we’re almost like an organism that functions like a unit”) and packages it for a 2020 audience of Zoom-watching music lovers.
We’ve all brought our lives fully into our own homes in 2020. If we are lucky, we’ve got a living situation that’s a sanctuary, a place where we’re comfortable but energized, able to work, learn, engage in fulfilling hobbies and even creative endeavors. This kind of home is where Lee has always been able to find himself while working in music. He told us how he recorded Another Day in Paradise just with Phil Collins and the engineer present, and describes that the song doesn’t take on its fully realized shape until it’s taken on the road and played live, illustrating how seamlessly he transitions from the studio to the stage, and how he’s equally at ease in either of those settings.
Looking back at the Immediate Family, a name that arose out of Danny Kortchmar identifying the members as exactly that, Lee’s voice is filled with deep affection and gratitude that 50 years later they’re still working together and doing what they love. “One of the things I used to say with the Troubadour tour,” Lee says, referring to the Troubadour Reunion Tour which he did with Carole King and James Taylor, “is that there’s this old adage ‘You can’t go home’, but we actually got to go home and home was really cool.”
Lee doesn’t see music as something static or insulated, it’s a dynamic entity that flows in and out and through all aspects of his life. Even his bass, which he showed to us and pointed out all of its features, seems like a living, breathing thing: it’s an instrument he’s rebuilt and reshaped (“Frankenstein-ed” as Lee puts it) and which is covered in signatures and autographs from B.B. King to George Lucas and tons of celebrities, musicians, professional athletes and more.
Lee Sklar has stories that will make any classic rock lover, gear head and live music fan rapt, but incredibly the most stand-out takeaway from speaking with him is the need for all of us to keep our priorities straight - to stay close to our family, whether it’s the one of origin or the one we’ve chosen, and to focus on what brings the most amount of light and joy into the world, and that’s a message many of us may be glad to receive during this strange and uncertain time.
You can watch the video of our interview with Lee and see his bass up close here: https://youtu.be/Rfn6aBE3XXE
You can check out Lee’s website and pre-order his book here: https://lelandsklarsbeard.com/product/everybody-loves-me-book/
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