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Talkin’ Steinberger with Merry Adin

Steinberger caught up with longtime fan and Brazen bassist extraordinaire Merry Adin on how she discovered Steinberger, why she loves Southern Rock, and why modern pop music is bad for future bass players. Adin splits her time between Brazen and numerous other projects including tribute bands to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sammy Hagar, and Journey.  

Thanks for your time, Merry. Catching up with you is not easy. You never seem to slow down.

(Laughs) That’s true! I’m always playing. Right now, I’m doing a Sammy Hagar tribute and a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute. Plus, I have my band Brazen as well as an all-female Journey tribute, so I’m definitely out there feeling the love. 

Was bass your first instrument?

I started as a drummer. One night, I got to play Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing” on electric bass. And I loved it. Back in the late 80s it was all about Sheila E., so of course, I was working a lot as a drummer. But being up front and being able to actually perform really put the bug in me. I left the drums and became a lead singer for a couple years. But then I got really bored so, I went to a music store one day and picked up my first bass, which was a Music Man. That was a great bass but it was like carrying a truck around my neck. Sometime after that I was in Tampa, Florida at Thoroughbred Music and I sat there for a good four hours and went through a bunch of basses. I finally found a Steinberger XL-II and the second I put it on, I knew it was going to be my bass. I was absolutely in heaven and I’ve been playing it ever since. But, honestly, my favorite sounding Steinberger would be the Synapse because it was fully active and had that extra growl to it, that extra bite. 

When you dedicated yourself to bass, who were you listening to?

I was listening to Michael Anthony (Van Halen, Sammy Hagar) and Sting. Also, Paul McCartney and Geddy Lee (Rush), because he has that nice growl with a ‘pop’ in his sound. He’s the reason why I even heard about Steinberger. 

Did you grow up in a musical family?

My brother was a drummer and my father was a crooner. He traveled on the road with a big band. He wasn’t very upset when I didn’t go back to college. I said, “oh, it’s summer break, I’m going to go on the road…” (laughs). And I never looked back. I started in bands in ’87 and went on the road in ’89 and I’m still playing! 

It must be difficult to recreate someone’s style on stage. Especially when the audience knows the original records so well.

It’s true. The approach to each band is completely different. I’m thoroughly enjoying Michael Anthony lately because his approach and his technique are completely different than, say, ‘Southern Rock’ acts like Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Each band calls for a completely different attack and a different groove. I’m finding Journey is a lot more ‘forward’ than the Southern Rock bands. I love Ross Valory’s playing—he has some tasty bass lines. All of those bands have super meaty, exciting, bass lines. And I can pull them all off on a Steinberger. It’s really just about manipulating your tone. 

What are you listening to for inspiration?

I gravitate toward the old stuff. I think a lot of new things we hear are looped or the bass is chopped up and it affects the way you feel the groove. Are there significant bass lines these days? I don’t hear them--except in country. A lot of times the bass parts aren’t even written by a bass player. Remember when you heard the bass to Player’s “Baby Come Back?” You knew exactly what song that was. And that tone! All of that old stuff is so great. I never get tired of it.