“Imagine rehearsing your song and seeing Paul McCartney dancing to it.” Nathan East, who scored Grammy Record of the Year gold for his work on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” calls the Reader from “somewhere on the 5 south.” He’s driving down to a gig at UCSD to benefit the family of his old music professor, the late Cecil Lytle.
“That was just too much fun,” he says of the 56th awards show. The grin in his voice is hard to miss. “It’s almost like the reason we all got into this business in the first place.”
Not bad for a hometown bass-guitar player. East, 58, lives in Tarzana now but was born and raised in San Diego. He and I were classmates in the same school music program at Crawford in East San Diego in the 1970s. I ask if he ever imagined back when we were sweating over band charts in Crawford’s musty old music room that his résumé would one day include album credits with Whitney Houston, Kenny Loggins, Phil Collins, Fourplay, or a long-term gig with Eric Clapton.
“You start with a great teacher like Dennis Foster. [Foster was music instructor at Crawford High during the 1970s.] Then, there was the good fortune of the mix of the students. There was Skipper Ragsdale, Steve Christie, Hollis Gentry, and later, Carl Evans.” Also, jazz bassist Gunnar Biggs, whom East replaced in the lineup when Biggs graduated. “That was an award-winning band. Crawford was a perfect storm of elements that came together.”
In recent days, East’s management announced that he would be reuniting with Clapton for a three-week tour of Japan, Singapore, and Dubai. He tells how he first met the guitarist. “Eric? When I was playing with Phil Collins in London, he introduced me to him. Later, when I played Live Aid with Kenny Loggins, Eric was on the side of the stage. When we finished, he asked if I wanted to hang out.” Yes, East did, which led to a job offer. How long was East in Clapton’s band? “Twenty years.”
In March, the Yamaha Entertainment Group will release East’s first solo album. For information about that and his online school of bass, visit Nathaneastbass.com.
I want to clear up a rumor about how Nathan transitioned from the hometown nightclub circuit to becoming a producer’s choice in Los Angeles. I’d been told that East made friends at industry parties by doing magic tricks. He laughs.
“I haven’t heard that one before. I actually am a magician, but magic tricks? No — you need a crowbar to break into the music business. There’s no free lunch in Hollywood.”