The blues has a humble new bass hero on its hands, and his name is Alex Peterson. The 16-year-old is advanced on his instrument, hip to bass history, and generally reverential. He and his guitarist/vocalist brother Glenn Jr. radiate natural talent and chemistry. Growing up near Austin, Texas, the Peterson Brothers first learned blues, soul, and funk from vinyl records that their mother and grandmother picked up at garage sales. A gig at Antone’s opening for Pinetop Perkins’ 97th birthday party led to a slew of high-profile slots supporting the likes of B.B. King and Buddy Guy, and got the attention of producer Michael Freeman (Pinetop Perkins, Deborah Coleman). The Peterson Brothers’ playfulness, authenticity, and virtuosity shine through with youthful enthusiasm on their eponymous debut. Alex owns the spotlight when it’s on him, and his foundational playing is rock solid throughout. He spoke with BP the night after a festive CD-release party at Austin’s Waterloo Records—just a few days before heading back to high school!
Who do you look up to and learn from locally?
I’ve never had formal lessons with anyone, but I’ve learned a lot by watching Russell K. Shores, Chris Maresh [Eric Johnson], and Russell Jackson, who played with B.B. King for a while. We’ve sat down a bit, but never long enough to actually pick up much. I’ve learned most of what I know by listening to records, and I do play bass in the school band.
Can you cite three players who’ve had the most influence on your playing?
Oteil Burbridge, Richard Bona, and Pino Palladino are three primary influences. I love Pino’s work on D’Angelo’s Voodoo and Black Messiah records. I picked up on his behind-the-beat pocket, and his tone, which seems to fit any style. I admire his extreme versatility. I like Oteil’s playing for similar reasons. I appreciate Richard Bona’s melodicism, and I love to watch videos of him playing live.
You bust out a wild solo on Earl King’s “Come On.” Is that your usual onstage showcase song, as well?
For a bass player, I actually get a lot of solos throughout the night. When we picked which songs we wanted to record, we also decided which were best for bass solos. I didn’t plan them out musically—I just knew how long they were going to be.
Near the end you get into a rowdy hammer-on-and-pop kind of thing. How did you pick that up?
Watching live concert footage of Louis Johnson and Larry Graham inspired me to learn those techniques.
“Feelin’ Like Home” features a more musical solo, and also demonstrates your knack for playing a laid-back shuffle. Is that something you worked to develop?
Playing a smooth blues shuffle came naturally, but I have listened carefully to the greats, especially Willie Dixon. I also try to emulate great organ players like Jimmy Smith. I wanted more space in that solo—not too many notes. I used a Fodera Emperor 5 Standard through an EBS OctaBass pedal to get the sound on the recording.
I understand Bootsy Collins has become somewhat of a mentor. Can you elaborate on your relationship?
When he came to town, he came down to the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus and guested on a track we recorded. He invited us to his show, and then he eventually invited us to come with him to the NAMM show in California. Watching and listening to Bootsy taught me a lot about grooving, experimenting with sound, and putting notes in the right places. Above that, he’s an inspiring role model because he’s kind, humble, and generous with his time. That’s the kind of person I want to be.
The Peterson Brothers, The Peterson Brothers [2015, Blue Point]
Basses Fender American Deluxe Jazz Bass V, Fodera Emperor 5 Standard
Effects EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master, MXR M82 Bass Envelope Filter
Live rig Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 head or Ampeg SVT-7PRO head, Fender Bassman Pro 410 4x10 and Pro 115 1x15 Neo Bass cabinets