IndiePulse Interviews: Leland Sklar
Living Legend Series Interviews
Article and Exclusive Interview by IndiePulse Music Magazine Journalist: Joseph Timmons
Leland Bruce Sklar, known in the music industry as one of, if not the most prolific studio musicians has the distinct and most astounding honor of not only performing on over 2000 albums, as well as being part of groundbreaking musical creativity and touring with the most famous bands and musicians in history, is literally the inspiration of many of today’s bassists.
Starting during his time as a student at CSU Northridge, It was during that time he met James Taylor, who invited him to play bass at some venues. They both thought that the work would be short-term, but soon Taylor’s career took off with his first hit records, and Sklar came into the limelight and was asked to record with other artists. Leland went on to be the most sought after studio artist. Besides appearing as the backing band on numerous recordings by artists such as Jackson Browne, Carole King, Phil Collins, Linda Ronstadt, Sklar worked frequently with drummer Russ Kunkel, guitarist Danny Kortchmar, and keyboardist Craig Doerge that they eventually became known as “The Section” and recorded three albums under that name between 1972 and 1977.
Both in The Section and separately, Sklar has the most contributions to over 2,000 albums as a session musician and recorded many soundtracks to films and television shows.
During the research on this artist, we found over 236,000 results on Google and in the national congressional fact library, on Wikipedia.org, his page is the most visited and viewed of the musicians entered into the information database. On the website for TOTO, The page dedicated to Leland’s time in the group tells of his accomplishments with the love and pride usually reserved for founding members. On IMDB, the site that reports the backgrounds and facts on Movies and Television, Leland’s credits are brilliant. At 74 years of age, Leland is rocking the stage with the energy and exuberance of men a quarter of his age, with no sign of slowing down.
Recently, Leland released a book of Photographs titled “Everybody Loves Me”, and it sits well as a memoir of his career in images, about the book, as said in the Amazon notations “His first shot was of his bass tech, Steve “Chinner” Winstead. Chinner flipped him the bird, which delighted Lee. Over the course of 16 years, he amassed 11,000 photos of middle fingers from all over the world. Fans, collaborators, colleagues, movie stars and rock legends alongside hundreds of the forgotten faces that populate life on the road. People that share a moment, or an evening, and then disappear forever. But something about flipping the bird made the interactions less anonymous. In a sea of anonymity, they lent the moment a jolt of miraculous hilarity.”
In addition to his musical career, one little known fact is his artistic endeavors, recently he has ablso offered prints of his artwork which were from his earlier art school days, but are stunning and tell a rich story in each piece.
Leland Sklar is presently involved with the recording and release on a new album from his present music group, The Immediate Family, a group comprised of musical talent that was always backing the stars, and should be recognized as true stars in their own right, every one of them are brilliant in their own way, but combined is the literal history of American Rock and Roll, R&B and more.
I have been following Leland’s music and career for some time, from seeing his music performances on Stage, his interviews at NAMM and Online and knowing his part in the music I love. I took a chance to contact him online, not thinking I would actually get a chance to speak to him or even get a response so quickly, thinking his page may be controlled by a PR agent or intern, it was with great surprise he responded personally within 20 min, and at the end of the hour this interview was secured.
Leland Sklar is a humble man and a legendary musician, and in this interview, I hope to get you so see the human being that has made music enjoyable.
IPM: Leland, Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
IPM: Leland, your career has been well noted and you have a truly impressive list of album credits, one could say you were, and are, one of the hardest working musicians alive, my question on this topic, would you say it was ambition to expand your creativity or simply a love to create music that drove you to be so prolific?
I do not think it had to do with ambition. I have always had a strong work ethic. I love working and rarely say no to projects, so over the years they just added up.
IPM: Leland, asking you to relate all of the artists you have worked with would be an article in itself, but I would like to ask who some of the artists were or groups you worked with that gave you the greatest satisfaction to be in the studio or on stage?
It is very hard to single any out. The thing I have always enjoyed is working in many genres so touring with james Taylor, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Phil Collins, Lyle Lovett, Billy Cobham, Veronique Sanson, Judith Owen, TOTO and on and on have all given me great pleasure and it is the same in the studio. Every day at work is an adventure and brings new challenges. I find great satisfaction in most projects.
IPM: Leland, through the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and through to today, how would you say music has changed, and relating to social consciousness, how has music sought to improve life, educate people or make a positive change in what goes on in the world.
Certainly throughout the 60’s and 70’s music was very much a part of our social tapestry. It was a vital and profound period of our history and the music reflected that.
Today I do not hear that nearly as much as during that period but that is not to say that there are writers addressing social issues today. Just not on the scale of that period.
I do not hear the profound issues of today being addressed in music as they were in the 60’s. We, as artists have a great platform to express our concerns and thoughts about the world we live in. I try not to hold back when expressing my feelings about the world I live in through music and/or social media platforms. Burying ones head in the sand does not help.
To the other part of your question, music has changed a great deal but mostly in the process of creating it. I started on 16 track analog tape and LP’s …………….
IPM: Leland, switching topics, how has the pandemic affected you, while other artists were struggling to find outlets, you seemed to take to your YouTube channel and use that as a medium of creativity.
The pandemic has been a nightmare on so many levels. First and foremost the loss of life and livelihoods. All my work for a year was gone in an instant, most of which was not to return.
But I sat and tried to think of what to do now. I had been kicking the idea of a book for ages but never had the time. Not a biography but something a little more entertaining.
I had been taking photos since 2004 of people giving me “The Finger”….started as a fluke on Phil Collins tour and carried on over the years until I amassed about 12,000 photos. I met a fellow at a function who has a company called Art Alliance and we talked about my idea and he said, “Let’s Do It!” So I did this coffee table book called ‘Everybody Love’s Me’ with about 6,000 pics in it.
I wanted to do something to make people smile during this most difficult of times. So the book was born.
Secondly, after finishing Phil Collins Not Dead Yet Tour I had some bassists writing me asking about some of my bass parts. I decided to take a board mix of one of our shows and play along with it with my bass part being over the track so they could hear exactly what my parts were and posted them on YouTube. By the third song I had people writing to me saying they loved my new Youtube channel. I did not really know what they were talking about. I did not intend to have a channel but it just took on a life of its own. I have now posted at least one video every single day since March of last year and have about 625 videos up. Every video is songs I played on and I talk about the artists, the other players and back stories.
I have about 158k subscribers and have formed a club house on the channel with bi monthly live streams and a once a month one on one Skype or Facetime. There is a website with my book, swag, and art prints of work I did as a graphic artist. Before the pandemic I had never recorded from home but suddenly I was not able to do sessions through the lock down. I got an SSL2+ interface and got into Garage Band and have done a number of album projects throughout this period.
Plus doing A Capella videos with Judith Owen who I love recording and touring with and doing a lot of work with the band that I am now in called ‘The Immediate Family’ with my oldest and best friends, Danny ‘Kootch’ Kortchmar, Waddy Wachtel, Russ Kunkel and Steve Postell …. we have recorded and done live streams during this period. So. needless to say, it has been a very busy period.
The book, as I stated above, really came about by chance. Meeting ‘Blue’ Trimarchi, with whom I did the book was the catalyst and I still have over 6,000 photos that did not get into the book so who knows????
It was an absolute blast doing it and the response has been wonderful to it. I self published it so I am shipping and signing and working it daily. If anyone is interested in checking it out, go to: lelandsklarsbeard.com …. I had to create that site for someone owns lelandsklar.com and leesklar.com. Was not about to go and have to buy my name.
IPM: you have been doing what you love for a long time, and I am sure you have seen trends come and go, and unfortunately, may have lost friends and loved ones along the way, whom are some of the great musical artists you spent time with that are no longer with us, and has their presence in your life inspired you to continue any parts your creative journey in memory of them?
The gone list is not longer than the still here list I am afraid. So many are now gone. Certainly Jeff Porcaro, Carlos Vega, Larrie Londin, Hal Blaine, Billy Thorpe, Michael Brecker, Don Grolnick, Andrew Gold, Kenny Edwards, Glen Campbell, Mac Davis, Kenny Rankin, Chris Squire, Hal David…the list goes on and on. When I really thin about those who have passed it is heartbreaking, but their legacy can be enjoyed all the time and for that I am happy.
IPM: Unlike many musicians, when you post on Facebook and other social media, you post about others, showing your joy in knowing them, you and your cars, and Bass, your friends and some of my recent favorite pictures, of your dogs. Can I ask what you feel are the most important things in life?
There are so many things that contribute to our lives. Loved ones, friendships, health, the pleasure of doing what you enjoy.
IPM: Leland, tell us about your new musical endeavors, The Immediate Family, can you give us a run down on the connections, the artists you perform with and what we can expect from this album.
As I mentioned above my newest yet oldest connection is The Immediate Family. When I began my career with James Taylor in 1970 our band consisted of Russ Kunkel on drums, Danny Kortchmar on guitar and Carole King on piano with JT. That was where our friendships began.
A couple of years after that Waddy Wachtel came into the fold. During those early years Carole recorded Tapestry and needless to say had to move on and I had done a project with Craig Doerge on keys and recommended him as Caroles replacement. He joined Kootch and Russ and myself and The Section came from that. We recorded three albums and toured with JT and Jack Browne and Mahavishnu Orchestra. It was through the touring with Mahavishnu that Billy Cobham and I became friends and I ended up doing Spectrum with him.
The band disbanded by the end of the 70’s but we continued to work on project together. Then skip ahead to about 2017 or so. Kootch got a recording deal with a Japanese record company and when he was ready to go into the studio he called Russ, Waddy and myself to see if we were around to do it. Kootch had become friends with Steve Postell at this point and did pre production with him. I knew Steve from having worked on his solo work and done gigs with him. We went into Jackson Brownes studio and recorded an album in about 3 days.
Waddy was out with Stevie Nicks but made it for the last day. When the label asked about a name Kootch thought about it and said that we were really his Immediate Family so the Japanese album was called Danny Kortchmar and the Immediate Family. We toured Japan on it and when we got back we knew this was what we wanted to be doing.
It became The Immediate Family. We signed with an American label called Quarto Valley Records and went into the studio and did a new album. It was about to be released and then the pandemic hit. Everything ground to a halt but at last the album is coming out on August 27th of this year.
We have also been in the studio again and have 10-12 tracks waiting for next year. Along with this there is a documentary film being made about us by Denny Tedesco, who did The Wrecking Crew film. It is close to completion and we are stoked about it. Will be hitting the road in November and so excited to be playing live again. It has been such a dark period for all.
IPM: Leland, where can readers find the music once released and what are the upcoming tour plans?
We are on all the social media platforms and have a YouTube channel. (links will be listed below article)
IPM: who are some of today’s young artists you find impressive, and have any of them asked for your council or to work with them?
One of the hardest things about today is finding out who I am listening to. In the ‘old’ days the DJ would say who the artist was on the radio but today I drive around and listen to music and never find out who it was I was digging. I know there is a lot of great music that I hear but I am not sure who to name. Maybe just too busy or lazy. I do not want to be an old fart but I do listen to a lot of classic rock that was part of my upbringing.
IPM: Leland, and last words for our readers or anything else you would like to share?
I just want to wish everyone all the very best. Try to find things that bring you pleasure. Enjoy life….I assure you it goes by faster that you can imagine.
Leland Sklar is one of music most lively living treasure of American music. For one person to achieve what he has done, and continues to do is both inspiring and formidable. But, unlike many with, as my grandmother may have said “Hootdsba”, to rock out well into his Golden Years, Leland shows no sign of slowing down or hanging up his axe, in fact with The Immediate Family album coming, we may see his calm and grooving stature grace the stages of the world and remember that fading away is not an option.
Leland, thank you for making this world a better place to live.
Learn more about Leland’ music and present endeavors at the following online links and Resources.
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