Tyler Walsh is the bassist for Tattoo Thief and is credited with starting he band—getting the right guys together, and then getting the band into regular gigs. We sat down with the hero in Tyler & Stella to talk music and get a little more insight into Stella Ramsey, the reporter who’s been spending a lot of time with him lately.
What do you like about the bass?
It’s the foundation of the music. I like to play rock and also some older folk and blues stuff, because it drives the whole song.
When writing a song, does the bass line ever come first?
There are times it does. If a song starts with a weird bridge, that would be my time to shine. Look at a song like “Superstitious.” If you can play licks like that, the feeling is just phenomenal.
Do you have a favorite bassist?
Check out Victor Wooten doing “Isn’t She Lovely?” He’s been the bassist for Béla Fleck and the Flecktones since they started, and he’s like the god of bass. He’s untouchable.
What do you focus on during a gig?
It’s the bassist’s responsibility to be locked in with the drummer. That’s where the chemistry really matters, because you’ve got to move on notes at the same time. It’s also where things can come apart. I’ve played with a drummer who’d get high when playing gigs. You work so hard for that moment to be up on that stage, but then the drummer’s off and it’s ruined.
How does playing a show feel for you?
There’s a high from performing, and that high is very real—you’ve got so much adrenaline in your system that when you wrap up a set it’s like you’re flying. It takes hours to come down, which is why a lot of musicians get into drugs and booze to take the edge off. Dave [Tattoo Thief’s drummer] makes us work out after practice to take the edge off in other ways.
The other guys in the band seem to date a lot, but you don’t. Why not?
It’s not that I don’t want to date. I got a huge growth spurt in high school and I was like a flagpole—six-four and maybe 120 pounds soaking wet. Girls would barely talk to me. Even in college, when they other guys had plenty of attention, I was terribly awkward. So while they were out getting girls I spent a lot of time practicing the bass.
Now that our band’s gotten really big, it’s swung the other way—there are tons of girls, and they’re really aggressive. All of us could be going out with a different girl every night, but you never really know if they’re into you, or just into dating a rock star.
What about girls turns you on?
I love the way some girls smell. Not the ones who wear a lot of perfume or hairspray—I just dig the real smell of a girl’s skin and hair. The first night I met Stella, we rode together in a taxi and I sat really close to her because I wanted to smell her more.
What does she smell like?
That’s an impossible question, like trying to describe a melody just with words. Do you ever smell fruit at the grocery store to tell if it’s ripe? And the ripe ones just smell more real? That’s what Stella’s scent is like—kind of musky, with something like orange or vanilla.
Sounds like you’ve got a thing for her.
She’s incredible, but she’s also incredibly tough to figure out. At first I wasn’t sure if she was like the other girls—she came onto me pretty hard, and she wanted to get a story on the band really bad. But now that I’ve seen her at her worst, when she doesn’t have an agenda, I recognize there’s a lot more to her than just her will and her spark. She’s magnetic—when I’m around her, I can’t not touch her.
So are you dating? Anything official?
I told you I’m new to all this. Trying to figure it out. I think I probably screwed up my chances with her already because I wasn’t ready to just have a quick fling, and from what I gather, that’s Stella’s style. But I like her more than that. I can’t just let her be a fling when she’s already so much more to me. I don’t know much about relationships, but I know this: when you meet someone who reaches you, right down to your core, you don’t just try harder—you never give up.