IN 1996, TULLY KENNEDY LEFT NEW York en route to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams of being a rock star. Stopping over in Nashville to visit his uncle, Tully soon found himself securing work with some of country music’s biggest acts, eventually landing the gig as bassist for country star Jason Aldean. In between tours and sessions with Aldean, Kennedy has made his mark with such artists as Jewel, Keith Urban, Doc Walker, and Bryan Adams.
What do artists recognize about your bass approach that has allowed you so many great gigs?
I think people realize I always take a melodic approach to accompanying great lyrics. It’s a mindset, really—records like Synchronicity by the Police taught me a lot about setting great bass parts to vocals.
What’s the key to being a respected player on the Nashville scene?
In Nashville, you typically don’t have a lot of time to record. I have a knack for understanding a song—it’s the discipline about knowing what an artist wants out of a song and how to approach it.
With Jason Aldean, you’re both the touring and studio bassist, which is something of an anomaly in Nashville.
There’s magic in a group of guys being on the road together, and then taking it to the studio. When we record, everyone is disciplined in their playing, and every part is there for a reason. When we take it to the stage, we are mindful that country music is about supporting the lyric. What you do to tape doesn’t always translate in an arena; sometimes it means simplifying a part or playing with more big, open notes.
“What Tully brings to the table is his deep musical toolbox that includes songwriting, producing, praiseworthy chops, a passion for all kinds of music, a strapping sense of humor, and most important, the brains to know when to kick back and rock with the band.” —Stan Lynch, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
“Tully knew early on that talent is never enough—you have to fill in the gaps with hard work. Clothing, hairstyles, wives, and girlfriends have come and gone, but we are still playing together because he’s so damn good!” —Rich Redmond, drummer with Jason Aldean
“Tully’s heart and soul bleed into his playing. He has the ultimate respect for his instrument, his part, and how to play for the song. He’s relentless in constantly pushing himself and those around him to be the best—he is the consummate professional.” —Kurt Allison, guitarist with Jason Aldean
“Tully is one of those rare bass players that can bring the energy of playing in front of 10,000 people to the studio.” —Michael Knox, producer
“Tully is a badass; he makes songs better with his instinct and creative input. His timing and his groove are impeccable, yet still have a cool, laid-back feel. I never know what he’s going to come up with, but I’ve never wanted to change anything he’s laid down.” —Jeremy Popoff, Lit
HEAR HIM ON
Jason Aldean, My Kinda Party [Broken Bow Records-2010]
Basses Sadowsky PJ5, Sadowsky PJ4, Lakland Bob Glaub and Joe Osborn signature 4-strings
Rig Two Aguilar DB 750 heads, two Aguilar 4x12 cabs
Effects Fulltone Bass-Drive, Dunlop 105Q Wah, Boss CEB-3 Bass Chorus
Strings Dean Markley Blue Steel NPS (.045–.130)