Following an instrumental break in the middle of a recent set of Cher’s Las Vegas residency at the Monte Carlo Resort, the iconic singer emerged from the shadows and sauntered back onto the stage to cue her next song, “Walking in Memphis.” This night, however, she strutted past her microphone at center stage and over to the rhythm-section bandstand to stop the show and pay Ashley Reeve a compliment. “Those were really good notes you played right there.” It’s a rare occurrence to receive praise like that from Cher—especially mid-show—but it’s not surprising given Reeve’s extremely tasteful playing.
That’s why the Los Angeles native has been called upon by artists in a broad range of genres, including Adam Lambert, CeeLo Green, Money Mark, and Great Northern. And when she’s not performing with Cher, she’s busy with alternative rock band Filter, which she joined in 2015, just in time to record 2016’s Crazy Eyes. In that process, she met her husband, drummer Chris Reeve, with whom she now shares the Filter rhythm-section duties. Between a living legend and the love of her life, it would be hard to surround herself with better musical company.
How did you land the Cher gig?
Eva Gardner, whom I’ve known since our days at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, and who is so wonderful, had held the gig for a long time before me, but she had scheduling issues when Pink went on the road. She recommended me for the part, and next thing I knew, I got a text asking if I played upright bass and key bass. I’ve been playing upright since I was 13, so that was no problem, but I’ve never played keys. I answered that I’d learn it all quickly. They sent me the songs, and I spent 72 hours straight learning the key parts and building that muscle memory. I played those songs to death; my husband even told me that I would actually play those parts with my fingers in my sleep [laughs].
What was challenging about the songs from a bass standpoint?
A lot of those parts are all on the upbeats in an almost syncopated way, and that goes against my natural inclination as a bass player. Our instincts usually tell us to play on the backbeat or the downbeat. A bit of brain rewiring had to happen, but once I got used to it, I didn’t have to think about it anymore.
Do you play those iconic song parts verbatim?
Definitely. I’m playing Eva’s parts essentially, because she had organized all of the bass for this show. I charted it all out note-for-note, because once you transcribe something, your brain and body seem to digest it in a deeper way than just memorizing it.
How do you dial in your tone to get the right sound for those songs?
I don’t use a ton of effects for this particular set; I play it all really clean. There are so many different genres within this music, from disco, to ballads, to rock, to pop, to singer–songwriter numbers. To change my sound, I switch around my right-hand placement. If I’m playing a ballad, I want a really warm, round tone, so I place my hand near the neck. If I need to brighten it up for a funky disco part, I put my hand back by the bridge. Those subtle things make a big difference.
Describe your playing technique.
I have a soft touch because I’ve always liked a really fat, round tone. I usually play [with my plucking hand] over the neck and use the very edge of the neck as a thumbrest. But with Filter it’s way different, because all of the players before me used picks, so I have to emulate that tone. When I first started rehearsing with Filter I got acrylic nails, because my mom told me that Dolly Parton had done that. It actually allows me to play in a flamenco style. Instead of playing up and down with a pick, I alternate back and fourth with my finger. When I jammed with Ryan Adams, he nicknamed it “the flipper.”
What is it like playing with your husband as a rhythm section in Filter?
It’s the best thing ever. That’s how we fell in love. We were just friends and we had just such amazing musical chemistry, and that onstage chemistry translated offstage. Being able to perform and travel the world together as a rhythm section and as husband/wife is genuinely the best thing I can imagine.
Filter, Crazy Eyes [2016, Wind-Up]
Bass Fender American Professional Series Precision Bass, Fender American Elite Jazz Bass 5-string, NS Design CR5M electric upright
Rig Aguilar DB 751 head, Aguilar DB 412 & 212 cabinets
Effects Aguilar Tone Hammer DI, Moollon Bass Drive, Way Huge Swollen Pickle, Markbass Super Synth
Strings DR Strings Pure Blue
Synth Moog Sub 37