“It’s almost impossible to make a living playing original music in San Diego, but there are other ways a player can make money,” says bassist Grant Clarkson. “Look at all the musical theater and opera that goes on around town.”
Over the past year, Clarkson has landed gigs in a half-dozen theater productions, including I Love a Piano, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Forever Plaid, Smokey Joe’s Café, and Little Women, which opens at the Avo Playhouse in Vista on February 18. “I play acoustic string bass in the orchestra, and the music is incredibly hip, very 19th-century classical. I did this show last year at the Don Powell Theatre at SDSU, and we had full orchestration. It will be interesting for me to play this music with a smaller string section this time. This classical style is definitely my growing edge, and my playing will be more exposed when we don’t have the cello or viola.”
Clarkson’s latest full-length, Dearly Beloved, was recorded in a single session at Flight 19 Studios (which at one time recorded Eddie Vedder’s San Diego band Bad Radio). “The album is basically acoustic jazz standards. Richard Sellers [drummer], Sky Ladd [piano], and I had done a lot of gigs together as a trio and had talked about recording. I pulled it together in part to test acoustic recording of the upright bass.”
The busy bassist also landed two weekly residencies, playing Fridays at the Wine Encounter with the Mark Augustin Trio and Sundays at Spaghetteria with the KSDS House Band, as well as playing over a hundred local jazz gigs in 2011. However, his aspirations have included several careers even less likely to earn income than playing music. “I have a master’s in philosophy from SDSU, which has never led to any professional or career opportunities. I do have several volumes of poetry and topical essays, which I think I’m ready to put into a more organized form, though I’m not a blogger.”
“I’ve also done about 30 paintings over the years. Even though I think I suck, people whose taste I trust tell me, with real sincerity and conviction, that my paintings are good. I even had my first [artwork] sale last year.
“It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you lay off the pot smoking.”