Eva Gardner has held down the bass for a whole wave of pop and rock artists, becoming a go-to bassist for a generation of stadium-sized acts. We find out how she did it. Pic: Lisa Skarell-Schulman

You’ve been touring with Pink for quite some time now, Eva.

Twelve years. It’s a big family. Everyone is so happy – the shows have been amazing, it couldn’t be better. To play at Wembley this year was definitely a pinnacle for us. It was just absolutely amazing. We were all blown away.

Are you a different bass player now to the one that you were 12 years ago?

I would say yes and no to that. I would say yes because I think I’ve grown as a player, I’ve grown as a person, and I’ve grown as an artist. I think one of the most important things is to continue to grow as a musician and as a person, to keep on acquiring new skill sets. I’ve learned to play a bunch of different instruments, for example, although I still have an affinity for Fender Precisions. I would say no because I still love a lot of the same music that I always loved, and I still have those roots, so in that way, I’m still the kid that loves all that music and who grew up on grunge. On the other hand, in the band maybe our pocket’s deeper, maybe it’s tighter, maybe there’s some subtleties in there that just come with playing together for a long time. That could be a possibility as well.

Is Pink a musician?

She is. She has done shows where she played guitar and piano, and she’s learning the trumpet right now – she’s already incredibly musical.

Does she get involved in the writing of your bass parts?

She knows what she wants to hear, and how things should sound. As for the language of music, again, she’s growing and learning. Unlike some of us, she didn’t go to school and learn that vocabulary, but she can explain things to where we can do it.

Last time you were in this magazine, you told us that you were given a bass for Christmas as a teenager, but you were annoyed because it wasn’t a vintage bass.

Yes! I was 15, and all I wanted was a vintage bass, but I look back now and I’m so grateful that it was a new bass – because every scratch on that bass is mine, the blood, sweat, and tears are all mine, and it’s close to being vintage now!

Your father was the bassist Kim Gardner, whose catalog as a bass player in the Sixties and Seventies is second to none. He must have been a huge influence on you.

He was. He’s pretty much the reason I do what I do. From an early age I heard stories about tours and being in England in the Sixties and the music. He and [Rolling Stones guitarist] Ron Wood lived in the same neighbourhood. They played in their first band together, and did shows with the Who and the Stones. He played with members of Deep Purple for a while too – the list goes on and on. They were all just kids playing music together, 14, 15 years old, dropping out of school, and hitting the road. It was all new and fresh and young back then, and hearing those stories made me want to do that too.

Do you have any of his bass gear?

I do, actually. I inherited all of his gear – so I do have those vintage basses now that I always wanted to have, although I don’t really tour with them anymore.

What gear do you take out?

Well, I use the Lectrosonics L Series wireless rig, and for amps, I’m usually on an Ampeg SVT-VR or an SVT 2PRO. I take both a head and a cab with me, but for the show we’re in right now it’s a clean stage, so I’m running through an Ampeg SCR-DI and I’ve got ButtKickers onstage to give me the vibrations you would get from a cabinet, normally. The ButtKickers were originally designed for drummers for their throne, so that whenever they’d hit the kick drum, they’d feel it. Our drummer has them. I have three onstage: one is on my riser, and two are where I walk around. They vibrate whenever I hit a bass string. I also have them connected to the kick drum, so I feel the drum and bass. If I’m playing upright bass, I have it connected to the upright. If I’m playing keyboard bass, I have it connected to the key bass. I feel it whenever I’m playing any kind of bass notes.

And for Pink, the basses are all four-string Fender Precisions?

Yes. A couple of them are stock, for instance I have a ’62 Reissue that’s stock, and which I really love. Sometimes the pickups sound great in certain instruments and they’re the perfect formula for the sound. I got really lucky with the ’62 Reissue. I’ve had it for a while now, and it’s just right, but for some of my other ones I use Seymour Duncan pickups. I also use Rotosound strings and I’ve got a Turbo RAT distortion.

How many basses do you travel with?

I believe I have eight all told, because we use different tunings, and sometimes we have an A rig and a B rig traveling ahead of us. Over the course of a single show I’ll use two or three.

Are you a five-string player too?

If I need to be. I once got hired for a gig where all the music was very low and grungy, so for that I used a five-string.

When you were coming up as a bass player, who were the bassists that you admired?

I was lucky enough to have my dad as a role model and someone that I admired, of course. One of his best friends was John Entwistle. We stayed at his house one time, and he opened this huge closet and he was like, ‘I hear you’re learning how to play bass. Take out any bass you want for the weekend’. That was amazing! So it was him, James Jamerson, John Paul Jones and Rocco Prestia.

And the grunge guys as well, if you came up enjoying that music?

Yeah, for sure, like Jeff Ament, because when I started playing bass, Pearl Jam had their first record out. Nirvana were huge, so it was Krist Novoselic, and also Robert DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots.

Your solo album, Chasing Ghosts, has some of those influences.

I actually recorded a lot of it while I was on tour last year. I was doing it on days off, on the bus, things like that. I wrote most of it on the road. When you hear to it, you’ll probably be able to tell what I was listening to as a teen. You can tell I was listening to all those grunge bands.

Were you into Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten and all the rest of the fusion greats?

I wasn’t a big jazzer. I didn’t really get exposed to jazz until I got to high school. During that time I got more into groove-oriented Latin stuff because my band instructor was a Latin-jazz guy. I really fell into that kind of stuff, like playing the congas and timbales and Latin percussion. That was more my focus at that time.

What is good bass playing, as you see it?

Listening. I really think that’s a lot of it. You need to listen, to find the pocket, and you’ve got to think about not just the notes but also what’s going on in between the notes.

Who did you play with before the Pink gig?

I came over to Pink from Cher. Before that I was with Gwen Stefani, and Tegan & Sara.

Is it the case that people know you and trust you and will give you the call for that reason, because they know you’ll deliver the job?

Exactly. Things come around. I’ve been fortunate to work with some really incredible people and been recommended. When tours finish, I pick up with whoever’s calling. You work with different people, they know you, they know your work ethic, and they know who are as a person. It really helps if you’re easy to get along with, and if you’re kind and considerate – not just as a player but as a person. That’s all part of the deal, because no-one wants to work with a jerk!

Chasing Ghosts is out now. Info: www.evagardner.com


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Eva Gardner Reflects on a Lifetime of Ampeg

Los Angeles, CA - June 2016...Eva Gardner is a first-call bassist who’s held it down for the likes of Pink, Gwen Stefani, Mars Volta, Cher, and Telstar. You might say she was born to play bass. Growing up in a rock and roll family, her dad Kim Gardner was bassist for the legendary British Invasion band The Creation, and his Ampeg bass rig is among her earliest recollections.