Hit The Lights: Eva Gardner: Pink 'Has Some Great Songs, And She Can Really, Really Sing'

artist: Eva Gardner date: 11/16/2009 category: interviews
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Hit The Lights: Eva Gardner: Pink 'Has Some Great Songs, And She Can Really, Really Sing'
If you have a parent who's carved out a successful career as a musician, and you wish to follow in their footsteps, that mental pressure can sometimes be quite daunting. You feel the urge to step out from under their shadow, and forge your own legacy, as huge or as little as it may be. For live Pink bassist and original The Mars Volta member Eva Gardner, it was likely the same. Some are successful in achieving that goal, while others are not. Of course, to truly assess whether someone has truly achieved that goal, you have to wait until their career has come to an end. Gardner's career is very much alive and well though, and coming along nicely. Eva Gardner was daughter to the late Kim Gardner, best known as bassist of The Birds and The Creation. Wishing to follow in her father's footsteps, Gardner took up the bass. A graduate of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, Gardner holds a degree in ethnomusicology from the University of California, Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.). Her first notable stint came as being part of The Mars Volta's original lineup, with late 2001 recording sessions resulting in the three-track April 2002 EP "Tremulant". However, Gardner's father sadly passed away in late October 2001, causing personal difficulties, and her eventual decision to leave the group. The summer of 2003 saw the bassist tour the United Kingdom with Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess as a part of his solo trek, while in January 2005, she toured Australia with Veruca Salt. However, she opted not to become a full time member of Veruca Salt, opting to concentrate on her own project Lyra. To date, Lyra has issued two EPs, namely 2006's "Protocol" and 2007's "Move". In 2007, Pink's musical director requested that Gardner audition to be a part of Pink's live group, the audition being ultimately successful. Told to learn four albums worth of material and to pack for three months, she left to join the group three days later. With just one rehearsal, Gardner played her first show as part of Pink's live group on June 23rd, 2007 at Malahide Castle in Dublin, Ireland. The 2007 "I'm Not Dead" tour would conclude in December, Pink taking time off the road to record fifth studio album "Funhouse" released in October 2008. Since late February 2009, Gardner has been touring with Pink's live group as part of the "Funhouse" tour, which draws to a close several days before Christmas Day 2009. On October 25th at 13:00 GMT, Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned live Pink bassist Eva Gardner to discuss touring with Pink, as well as her career. Residing at Manchester's Radisson Edwardian Hotel, Gardner was due to perform with Pink that night at the Manchester Evening News Arena. Eva Gardner: Hello? UG: Hello. Can I speak to Eva please? This is Eva. This is Robert Gray from Ultimate-Guitar.com. Hi. How are you doing? I'm ok. How are you? I'm good, thanks. Would it be alright if I began the interview? Yeah, sure. How did you initially become a musician? Obviously, your father was Kim Gardner of The Birds and The Creation fame. Having him as my dad, and growing up with music in the house - that's what ultimately inspired me to become a musician.

"Having him as my dad, and growing up with music in the house - that's what ultimately inspired me to become a musician."

Was there anything about your father's bass playing which particularly inspired you at all? Obviously, when he played with The Birds and The Creation, it was a little more straightforward, and went with the music of the time. He was a really creative person though that had a real free spirit, and that came through in his music at home, and in his artwork - he was also a painter. He had his own style going on, and that was really something that I admired - I looked up to that. Plus, being a little kid, you look up to your parents anyway (laughs). He was my hero - I was Daddy's little girl. When you entered the world of music, did that put any pressure on you? The fact that your father had accomplished various things in the world of music? I felt that I had this weird standard when I first started playing music - I felt like I had to do it the way that Dad did it back in the sixties. Him and his mates left school at like fifteen, and went on tour. In a weird way, I felt like I wanted to do that too. When I was thirteen, fourteen though, I didn't really realise that things are different now, and that the industry is different. I think I put that pressure on myself, and things just ended up unfolding a lot slower for me. I ended up going to school at sixteen, a school for music, so I progressed much slower as far as my musical career goes - it didn't all happen overnight the way it did for Dad. There was unnecessary pressure I thought I put on myself. You use RotoSound bass strings, which your father used as well. What do you prefer about RotoSound bass strings? About RotoSound bass strings in particular? I've just always loved how long they last; as far as the tone, they don't die as quick as other strings. With other strings that I've used in the past, I've noticed they just get real muddy and dead very, very quickly, and the thing about RotoSound strings that I really like a lot is they really have a nice, consistent and even tone for a long time. So you definitely intend to continue using RotoSound bass strings? Oh yeah, definitely. Yeah. RotoSound strings have been the most consistent and reliable strings that I've found. They've just always felt right to me. You have a degree in ethnomusicology, which you obtained from the U.C.L.A. (University of California, Los Angeles). Ethnomusicology is sort of a cross between musicology and anthropology. It's the study of world music, and how music itself correlates to culture. The emphasis wasn't so much on Western music, but more on music that's not from the West. I studied everything from Indian, to African, to Polynese, to Thai, to Eskimo music. We touched on a lot of different musical traditions. Did that help you in your bass playing at all? I would say it helped me in every way I can even think of. It was just so inspiring to learn about other cultures, and how they think about music as far as it not being a money maker, and not being a business. They think of music as a way to express their traditions, and culture, and life. You have songs for when your child is born, and there are songs for when the harvest is here, songs that express your relationship with your environment. And also, did studying ethnomusicology help you to embrace more unconventional sounds that some musicians might not even think of? Yeah. When I was in college, I got really into Balinese Gamelan from Bali, Indonesia. I started performing that with an ensemble at the U.C.L.A., and ended up travelling to Bali, and performing Gamelan in Bali. That was an inspiring experience; when I came back from there, I bought some of the instruments, and started implementing those sounds into my music. I just had a more open mind about things to bring into my music, such as different sounds and different arrangements. What early groups were you a part of? I initially went to an all girl Catholic school in high school, so I had an all girl band. Yeah, that was my first band, called Entropy. That was when I started writing original songs. We did covers and stuff too, but that was fun. The first ever gig I ever had was with them. When I went to the performing arts school (Los Angeles County High School for the Arts), I ended up becoming part of a group that was more of a jam band meets jazz, meets prog rock, meets... (laughs) a little bit of everything, so that was a really fun time. There were really no rules as far as that band went. That was the fun, and I just kept doing different bands from there. I can go on, but... (laughs). (Laughs) How did you come to join The Mars Volta? You were originally a part of that group, weren't you? Yeah, yeah. When they had first started out... At The Drive-In had broken up, and Omar (Rodrguez-Lpez, guitar) and Cedric (Bixler-Zavala, vocals) wanted to start a new project. I knew "Ikey" (Isaiah Owens), who was just the keyboard player, and I knew him from just living in L.A. We just became friends. I actually went to high school with his younger brother, who's also a bassist. He brought me in when those guys were forming another band. That's how I ended up doing that. What are your memories of the recording sessions for the 2002 EP 'Tremulant'? The sessions? Umm... where were we? I think we were in Long Beach somewhere, and it was a really exciting time because it was just this new music. It was a new project for these guys, so they were almost really excited about it. It was great. We did three songs, and it was so fun for me too because it was the first time I had actually been in a more professional... I had done recordings before, but it was just home studios with friends and stuff. This was a more established group. It was fun to be in a professional studio, and to play with really, really great musicians. Why did you part ways with The Mars Volta? It was a tough time for me. My father had passed away while I was on tour with The Mars Volta, and that was obviously a really, really difficult time for me to be going through. It just got to be a lot, and wasn't really working anymore. So just bad timing really, then? Yeah. The timing was just all off. It was hard to be gone too when he passed - my family was all at home having a tough time. Yeah, the timing was really rough. You've also worked with Tim Burgess, vocalist for The Charlatans. Yeah. My family owns an English pub in Hollywood, California called the Cat N' Fiddle, and I know Tim from there actually, from him and his wife coming into the pub. I'd see him in there, and when he was doing his own project, he asked me to tour with him on bass. We toured the UK, and had a really fun time. It was great, awesome. And you also toured Australia in January 2005 with Veruca Salt. Yeah. I ended up joining them because I knew their manager, and he asked me to join them for this tour. I was actually doing my own project at the time called Lyra, so when they came back home, I couldn't commit the time that they needed from a permanent member of the band. I just didn't have that time to give, but I still see them around. I actually went to one of their shows recently, and they released a record a couple of years ago I think. They're still doing their thing. What was that January 2005 Australian tour like? That tour was great, because that was my first time in Australia. The funniest thing about being on tour with Veruca Salt is that I was actually a fan when I was in high school. I actually saw Veruca Salt open up for Hole when I was about fourteen years old, and I remember standing in the centre of the front row, and being so excited about the concert, and rocking out to Veruca Salt. Years later, I'm playing and singing all the same songs I was singing along to when I was a kid at the rock show. That was really exciting for me, and being in Australia for the first time was exciting too. It's a beautiful country, and the people are wonderful. It was our winter too - I remember there were really awful rainstorms at home, and terrible weather. I got to Australia, and our winter is their summer (laughs). Everyone at home, my mom and my sisters, went through these terrible, terrible thunderstorms, with trees crashing and falling down, but I sat on a beach in Australia in this beautiful sunny weather. It was really bizarre, actually. What's the musical style of Lyra, your own group? I would say the style really varies a lot. When I was in high school, I played in a Latin jazz band, and I played Latin percussion. When I wasn't playing bass, I'd be playing percussion, so I got really into the clave and six eight time signatures. We implemented a lot of that into our early music, especially with our drummer, who's Alfredo Ortiz. He plays with Beastie Boys now, or has for a long time. He's really into that style too, so between all of us, there's a lot of Latin, and then obviously, I have my progressive rock roots, so I implement some of that. There's male and female vocal harmonies, so there's that element too with a real rock base I guess, a rock foundation, with various styles sprinkled in there.

"I just had a more open mind about things to bring into my music, such as different sounds and different arrangements."

And with Lyra, what are your plans? I haven't been home in awhile. Our guitarist plays with a band called VHS Or Beta, so they tour. We have two different drummers, and they both tour, so... (laughs). Hopefully, when we're all home, maybe during the holidays at the beginning of the year, we'll get back together and start writing. The band started as three friends just hanging out and writing songs for fun, and playing music. I'm sure that's what we'll wind up doing again when we're all home in the same city. In 2007, you auditioned to be a part of Pink's touring group. How did that come about? In 2007, I got a phone call from Pink's musical director. I had auditioned for a show called 'Rock Star' a few years ago, and the musical director from that show remembered me from the audition - he's also the musical director for Pink. She needed someone, and he recommended me. I think I auditioned with maybe three other people, or something like that. I got the call that I had gotten the gig, and they told me that I had to learn four albums worth of material, pack my bags for three months, and that I was leaving in three days (laughs). I had to get it together really quickly. It was really fun. It really put a fire under my feet, and it was a good challenge. Was being Pink's live bassist stylistically different for you then? Yeah. I think I had just known her on a surface level, as far as hearing her on the radio. From what I knew, I had thought of her as just a pop artist. When she came out, she was kind of associated with the... you know... Aguilera, Britney Spears thing. That's how I knew of her - on a surface level. When I was learning her songs though, I just had a whole new respect for her. She has some great songs, and she can really, really sing. Yeah, stylistically, it's very different from things that I do, but there's definitely elements of pop and rock in a lot of the music that I've done. And for those who don't personally know Pink, what is she like offstage? Offstage? She's so fun, she's great. She's so funny - she's probably one of the funniest people around (laughs). She's hilarious, and really, really witty, and very compassionate. She's great to be around, and she's a pleasure to work with. There's still a good vibe out here on the road with all of us, like a big family. So you've become friends with Pink? Yeah. Obviously, as far as the relationship between her and the band, she's the artist. There's a lot of discretion when it comes to being able to go out in public, and stuff like that, because she's quite popular. Whenever we can though, we all get together, and we'll have dinner, all hang out, and have a good time. What are your memories of the 2007 'I'm Not Dead' tour? I jumped in on the festival run, so I had just missed the whole production with the dancers and the stage, and all that stuff. I wasn't a part of that. What I was a part of was the festival run, so it was a stripped down show, and was basically what they called "the rock show". It was just the band rocking out, with an hour long set as opposed to two hours. We just travelled around Europe for the summer festivals, like the V Festival, a lot of German festivals, and stuff like that around Europe. It was really fun (laughs), but the production had been stripped down quite a bit. Considering the amount of time you had to learn Pink's back catalogue, were the first several Pink shows you participated in pretty stressful? Yeah. It was pretty stressful, because I had one rehearsal. I flew to Dublin, and had one rehearsal with the band, and of all the stuff I had learnt, a lot of the live arrangements had changed. I learnt all that stuff, and then thought "Oh, great. Ok. Cut that down by eight bars, add this part in" and so on. I was on my toes, as far as having to concentrate on the amount of changes, and making sure it was all good. My first show was in front of thousands and thousands of people, and I hadn't even played with her yet. The first time I actually played with her was at the show. It was a lot to remember, but you do it four to five times a week, so I got the hang of it pretty quickly. With the 'Funhouse' tour, how different has it been for you the second time around? I've been a part of the group for a couple of years now, so I'm comfortable with the songs we've done, and then learning the new songs. It's still a process, and it's still a lot to think about, to remember, and to be a part of this big production. I know everyone though, and we're like a family now, so we're all in it together, as opposed to me getting on a plane, and meeting thirty people, and trying to remember everything, and jumping into this already well-oiled machine. With this tour, I was a part of it from the beginning. It's familiar. I don't want to say it's easy, but it's not as crazy as it was when I first joined. Was the 'Funhouse' tour your first experience with Pink's full stage production, and everything? With this kind of production, yeah, as far as the dancers, and lights, and aeralists. Yeah, it's the first time I've been a part of something this big. As a musician, how do you interact with said production? We have production rehearsals when we first start getting everything together, so you rehearse everything together. The dancers have their rehearsals, the lighting and the production people get together when they need to get together, the band have their rehearsals, and then with the production rehearsals, we all come together. We then rehearse with the dancers through it, and the lighting guys do the rehearsal along with us. We all have these rehearsals together, and you familiarize yourself with the show. Everyone has their own little part. On the 'Funhouse' tour, what memorable shows have there been? Definitely the Staples Center show in L.A. was very memorable for me because L.A. is my hometown, and the Staples Center is the biggest venue you can play. My family was there, my friends were there - everyone that's really important and special to me were there. It was just a great moment for me to be doing that show, and having everyone proud of me, and seeing what I'd been up to for the last two years. That was a really special moment.

"I don't know what it is, but she [Pink] really is incredible, and she really, really sings her ass off man."

When you played 'Funhouse''s L.A. show, did you feel as though you had "made it" so to speak? Yeah, it was definitely that kind of that feeling. I'd been playing these amazing shows overseas for the last couple of years, and hadn't done anything in the States. Coming back home, and bringing this production to my hometown, and to people that I had known since I was born, it was definitely that kind of feeling for me - that I had come really, really far. I'd worked really, really hard, and now I was there, and every second was worth it. It was amazing. In an earlier interview, you said that of Pink's songs, "Funhouse" is the most interesting to play as far as bass lines are concerned. What about the bass lines in that specific track are interesting to you? "Funhouse" just has a really fun, kind of funky, groovy bass line, and from what I know, I think that Tony (Kanal) from No Doubt produced the song, the bassist. He came up with the bass line, and actually, it's a really fun part to play because it was a bassist who produced the song. It really is a bass driven song, where the drive really comes from the bass line. In future, do you hope to record with Pink? Yeah, I would love to. Hopefully, I would love to at some point. I think, from what I know, she works with producers though, and they either bring in their own people, or play the instruments themselves. That's how it's been. I would love to record with her at some point though. Do you feel Pink's music is misunderstood by some people, people who are maybe into rock and other types of music? Yeah. I think she's gone so far, as far as breaking through those boundaries, and breaking through the stereotypes that she's been pigeonholed with, and the categories she's been placed under. Again, it took me to sit down and listen to her songs, and to learn her songs, for me to really, really appreciate what she's doing, and what an amazing, talent artist she is. I'm not really sure what happens. I don't know what it is, but she really is incredible, and she really, really sings her ass off man. She's a really, really talented musician. As a part of Pink's live group, where do you see yourself going? I'll be around for as long as she wants me. I'm dedicated to her, and to this group. It's been a really amazing experience, and it's a great family vibe, and I'm around whenever she needs me. Ok. Thanks for the interview Eva - it's really appreciated. The best of luck with everything. Well thank you very much, and take care. Bye. Bye. Interview by Robert Gray Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2009
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