“A lot of fans have just been
relentlessly baiting us [to reunite],
and that was probably more
of a factor than anything else.”
Serious rock fans need little introduction to Billy Sheehan. The eclectic electric bassist, known for his bold, virtuoso playing on an instrument often relegated to the background of your average rock band, became famous once David Lee Roth asked him to join his solo group for two full-length albums, Eat ‘Em And Smile and Skyscraper, in the mid-Eighties. Sheehan had cut his teeth with the trio Talas, which hailed from his hometown of Buffalo and had even opened for Van Halen, but the DLR gig helped establish his name in a big way.
Following his tenure with DLR, in 1988 Sheehan went on to join and do six albums with hard rockers Mr. Big — a powerhouse quartet comprised of himself, frontman Eric Martin, guitarist Paul Gilbert and drummer Pat Torpey — that tempered their pyrotechnic playing with catchy melodies. Ironically, their breakthrough #1 hit in America (and many other countries in 1991), “To Be With You,” was an acoustic tune written by Martin when he was a teenager. While their star did not shine that long in America, Mr. Big remained major icons in Japan and parts of Asia, playing stadium gigs and reportedly selling millions of records. After disbanding in 2002 (Gilbert departed in 1997, to be replaced by Richie Kotzen), the Mr. Big members went their separate ways, with Sheehan delving into solo albums and playing with fusion trio Niacin, drummer Terry Bozzio and guitar wizard and ex-DLR bandmate Steve Vai.
Mr. Big reunited for live dates overseas in 2009 and just released their first new studio album in nearly a decade, What If…, which has brought the bassist back to a comfortable yet still exciting place.
Just prior to the release of What If…, A.D.D. spoke with Sheehan about the Mr. Big reunion, their maturation as players, being a counselor at Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp, unearthing archival video material for YouTube, offering advice to younger musicians and his hopes for an Eat ‘Em And Smile reunion.
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