NMG Musicians Spotlight - Dave Pomeroy
©2009 By Bronson Herrmuth
Recently elected president of the Nashville Musicians Union, Dave
Pomeroy, has played bass with scores of great artists crossing over many
genres. Here's a partial list to give you an idea of the magnitude of his career:
Acoustic Alchemy, Mose Allison, Chet Atkins, Adrian Belew, Dickie Betts, Clint Black, Karla Bonoff, Bonnie Bramlett, Garth Brooks, Sam Bush, Larry Carlton, Kim Carnes, Johnny Cash, Roseanne Cash, Beth Nielsen, Chapman, The Chieftains, Guy Clark, Steve Cropper, Rodney Crowell, Billy Dean, Iris DeMent, Joe Diffie, Jerry Douglas, Duane Eddy, John Fogerty, Peter Frampton, Vince Gill, Nanci Griffith, Emmylou Harris, John Hartford, John Hiatt, Don Henley, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Elton John, Eric Johnson, Phil Keaggy, Hal Ketchum, Earl Klugh, Mark Knopfler, Alison Krauss, Kris Kristofferson, Patty Loveless, Shelby Lynne, Raul Malo, Kathy Mattea, Tim McGraw, Don McLean, John Mellencamp, Edgar Meyer, Allison Moorer, Bill Monroe, Lorrie Morgan, Willie Nelson, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tim O'Brien, Maura O'Connell, Mark O'Connor, Paul Overstreet, Carl Perkins, Bonnie Raitt, Tony Rice, Collin Raye, Peter Rowan, Earl Scruggs, Randy Scruggs, Dan Seals, Ricky Skaggs, Jo-El Sonnier, Sting, Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt, Steve Wariner, Jimmy Webb, Jesse Winchester, Keith Whitley, David Wilcox, Don Williams, Steve Winwood, Victor Wooten, Trisha Yearwood.
The following is taken from my 20 minute interview, meet Dave Pomeroy.
You can listen to this entire interview: Part 1 of 3 (4.8 MB) mp3 Part 2 of 3 (4.2 MB) mp3 Part 3 of 3 (5.7 MB) mp3
Bronson: You've had a heck of a career. Where are you actually from?
Dave Pomeroy: Well my dad was military so we had a little bit of a nomadic childhood.I was born in Italy, we lived in England for four years in the early 60's which I think was the beginning of my musical awakening before settling in Northern Virgina when I was 8. When I was 16, we moved to Pennsylvania for a couple of years. I went to two years of college at the University of Virginia and at that point I was 20 years old. My dad was stationed in Belgium so I dropped out of school, went to Belgium and informed my parents that I was going to London to become a rock star, (laughing) obviously that didn't turn out but I lived in London for a year and it was an incredible life experience. I got a work permit and played in five or six different bands. After my year was up it was time to come back to the states and a singer that I'd worked with in college had moved to Nashville and had some stuff going. She was signed to Roger Cook and Ralph Murphys' publishing company, Picalic Music, and so I came to town to check it out for a couple of weeks and that was 32 years ago.
Bronson: So when you first got to town did you find yourself finding the studio type things or just playing live?
Dave Pomeroy: Oh no I didn't even know what a studio musician was. I was here about three weeks and I got a job with a guy named Sleepy LaBeef.
Bronson: Now what year was this?
Dave Pomeroy: This was 1977 and I toured with Sleepy for a year, we literally did not come back to Nashville for a year. It didn't pay very much but it was a great musical education. I had grown up basically playing rock and roll and jazz so it was such an incredible education in roots music but I knew I had to get back to Nashville to get something going on. I came back here about a year later and then I ran into a drummer at one of my first ever recording sessions named Freddie Fletcher. We hit it off and he got me a job with Guy Clark, who he was playing with at the time. At the same time Billie Joe Shaver and Guy were kind of sharing a band with Eddie Shaver and Freddie. We played around town, we did a few road gigs and I did that for six or eight months. I had met and hung out a bit with the guys in Don Williams' band, Biff Watson, Danny Flowers and Pat McInerney, and we became friends and we'd gotten together and jammed but, (laughing) I was so naive I was never thinking of things in a career curve. I didn't realize at the time they were kind of auditioning me to join the band because the bass player was getting ready to leave. So when he left I was one of two guys that were up for the gig and when it came open, I prayed and hoped and my son Philip was just born so it was perfect timing. I joined Don at the beginning of 1980 and I stayed with him for 15 years and I owe the vast majority of what's happened in my career to him. I became his band leader around 1988 and I was his band leader up until the time I left the band in 1994. What I learned from Don Williams, the most important lesson I've ever learned in my musical life, is play the song and leave out the stuff that doesn't really enhance the song. If you're just doin' it for yourself, don't do it. I've been able to take that approach to all kinds of music and it's always served me well. He was amazing.
Bronson: Do you have a preference for playing live or playing in the studio?
Dave Pomeroy: I love both and I honestly try to look at it as more like the same thing. To me what makes Nashville recording special is the group mentality when you're all there at once. Yeah, you can record it one guy at a time but when you get five, six, seven guys in a room together and you create, to me it's much better. It's a performance it's just the audience is a tape machine or now a computer instead of the audience but to me the essence of it is the same. It's emotion that you're trying to translate into a tangible form whether someone's listening to it live or listening to a record. To me the goal is the same - you're translating emotion, but I do love to be on stage. I love to move around when I play and sometimes if I'm in the studio and it's a certain kind of a song I'll stand up and dance around like I would if I was on stage just because it gets me in that place. I need to play like a guy who's standing up and not somebody who's sitting in a chair like a bored studio musician might do but I will say I've never been bored in the studio. To me it's the most incredible job ever. What's great about playing live is that instant feedback that you get from an audience and I could never give that up. To me it's great to be able to do both.
Bronson: You just recently won the election to be the President of the Nashville Musicians Union. Fantastic and congratulations on that.
Dave Pomeroy: Well thank you. I'm very honored and very humbled by being elected and
I'm very excited to be here to serve the musicians of Nashville which is
Bronson: A lot of people that read our magazine and listen to my interviews are people that just came to Nashville or haven't been here very long. What would be the difference for them joining the union now that you're president?
Dave Pomeroy: Well I think the reasons are the same in terms of collective bargaining and what that means as a group, looking out for the interests of a group. Those things, the basic premise of the union, has never changed in that we can protect each other if we unite as a group. We can share our problems and our problem solving techniques with one another. It's about building a consensus of what is good for the whole and technology has changed the music business drastically over the last ten years and Local 257, the Nashville Musicians Union has not kept up. There's a lot of reasons, but I like to dwell on the positive and what's going on moving forward. You know Craig Krampf is the new Secretary Treasurer so we have a whole new slate of officers. Craig and I have both had pretty varied backgrounds musically, as well as from a business standpoint. We have both been producers, songwriters, been out on the road, done sessions, so what I think is perhaps different now is that we're really making an effort to reach out to the community to people who maybe didn't understand what the union can do for them. It's our job to explain what we do so that people understand that it could be worth it to them. Just to give you a couple of quick examples, an independent singer/songwriter, guitar player, or piano player, whatever you might play, but in Nashville most people who get out and do gigs on their own are usually guitar players, they would probably think, "well I'm not a session player, why would I need to be in the union?" and the answer is we have a live engagement department, we have live contracts that are available free to any member that you can use to book your own gigs because a lot of people in this day and age book your own gigs whether it's house concerts or club shows and we offer you legal back up for that contract. If you have a problem it's not just a verbal agreement or a hand shake, you've got a piece of paper then we will back you to the hilt and protect you in that way. Also a real big area where things are changing is in the area of intellectual copyright. Songwriters have done a great job through the NSAI especially and other organizations to insert themselves in the legislative process, assert themselves into the entertainment community and say hey, don't steal our stuff and we deserve to be paid fairly, and so the musicians who play on these recordings are contributing intellectual property to a song, no they may have not written the song, they may not have produced the record or be the artist, but that is very real and by helping people do their recordings union and filing contracts and helping them understand the paperwork which is not as complicated as people think it is. It just needs to be explained properly and we have people, including myself here, that that's our job to explain these things so our goal is about communication and outreach to the community and explaining to people why they would want to join the union as opposed to the image that some people have had of the union which is, all the union really does is tell you what you can't do and to make what you want to do more difficult and complicated, and we want to bust that myth for good because that's not what we do and we have some catching up to do in terms of our perception in the community, but we're doing it on every level we can. Reaching out to the colleges, we've not had much of a presence there and you know Belmont's turning out hundreds of musicians a year, Blair, MTSU, Austin Peay, there's a lot, even Vol State. We want to be a bigger part of the community and I think that the awareness of what we can do for people will come naturally. We can't change a perception that's taken years to get in place overnight but we've got a lot of tools at our disposal to do that so our hope is that people will get curious and want to know more about the union.
You can visit Dave at www.davepomeroy.com
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