“I NEVER THOUGHT WE’D GET TO THIS LEVEL,”
says Zac Cockrell of rootsy buzz band Alabama Shakes.
“Just playing shows outside of Alabama felt like a huge
accomplishment to me. I love the music we make, but I
never would have guessed that other people would like
it so much, too.” Two years ago, Zac and his high school
friends were playing small bars. In time, the band’s sound
morphed from progressive rock to roots rock, reflecting
the 24-year-old bassist’s songwriting influence. The quartet
took on the name Alabama Shakes and decided to record
an album for the scrapbooks of their family and friends
titled Boys & Girls. In a matter of months, the album went
viral and put the quartet on the map as a hot new talent.
|Zac Cockrell of Alabama Shakes performs at Th e Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee on May 16, 2012.
How did you approach the bass for Boys & Girls?
I didn’t have any one mindset, but I’ve always been a
fan of players like Donald “Duck” Dunn, Tommy Cogbill,
and Gordon Edwards. I’m sure their influence came out
in some of my playing. I just tried to not overplay and to
give the songs what they really needed.
How did the single “Hold On” come about?
Our guitarist Heath [Fogg] and I had written that
groove, and the rest of the song was built onto it while we
were gigging at a local bar. Steve [Johnson] put a drumbeat
on it that really locked it in, Brittany [Howard] wrote
her vocals, and I just kept tight with them the whole time
and filled out the body.
You get an authentic, vintage tone with your
I mute the strings as much as I can with my left hand,
and I dig in hard with my index finger. I’ll use my middle
finger as well if it’s a faster line, but I’m used to playing
with one finger. I try to keep from sounding too muddy;
I prefer a big, clear tone.
Do you approach larger shows differently, compared
to the small ones you’re used to?
Even on a bigger stage, we still set up close to each
other. I’m not a big fan of running bass through the monitors,
so I try to get as close to my rig as I can. When we’re
playing a big festival and we’re spread out, it doesn’t feel
right. I like being close to the drums and in the middle
of all the noise.
What can we expect from the sophomore album?
I think it’ll be different, but it’s hard to say at this
point. We don’t want to make the same album twice, so
we’re exploring new approaches with our writing. It will
still sound like us, but we’ll probably take some risks
What are you going to do differently on bass?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Joe Osborn and working
on my picking. The muted pickstyle tone is something
that sounds so good when it’s done right. Carol Kaye on
the early Quincy Jones stuff is amazing. I’ve been playing
along with that music and it’s been wearing me out.
Alabama Shakes, Boys
& Girls [ATO, 2012]
Bass Fender ’50s Reissue
1966 Fender Precision
Rig Ampeg SVT
Classic head and
Strings La Bella flatwounds