“You could play a one-string bass with a pick and still create amazing music”: Billy Sheehan disputes his reputation as “an overplaying icon of lead bass”

Billy Sheehan from Mr Big performs at Le Bataclan on September 21, 2011 in Paris, France.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When your professional career spans five decades and all the musical fads that period covers, you've played packed-out stadiums, made platinum albums and scored number one singles, what keeps you going? For Billy Sheehan it comes down to one simple thing: his instrument. “The bass guitar is everything to me," he told BP. “You know, everything I own and have is a direct result of people buying my records, or a ticket to my shows – and that all comes from the bass.”

Obviously Sheehan has been known for his incredible fingerstyle and tapping technique since time immemorial (well, 1979), and interviews with him by hacks like us tend to reflect that fact. But before we get into the details of his insanely evolved playing, Sheehan points out that the true focus of any serious musician should really lie elsewhere. 

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Joel McIver

Joel McIver was the Editor of Bass Player magazine from 2018 to 2022, having spent six years before that editing Bass Guitar magazine. A journalist with 25 years' experience in the music field, he's also the author of 35 books, a couple of bestsellers among them. He regularly appears on podcasts, radio and TV.