Tag Archives: Bryan Dondero

Catching up with Bryan Dondero

dondero3Bassist Bryan Dondero was an original member of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals during which time he became known for both his upright and electric bass work. He played with the band from 2002 until a messy-split with the group in 2009, appearing on the band’s first three studio albums. Since his departure from the band Dondero has kept a relatively low musical profile.


Honest Tune had the chance recently to catch up with Dondero to reminisce about some of his favorite memories from his time on the road with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and to find out what is in store in the future for the bassist.



Honest Tune: When was the first time you played the bass in a live setting?

Bryan Dondero: The first time I played bass live was during my first semester at Penn State. I was eighteen-years-old at the time, and aside from a few talent shows, had never played in front of people. I was actually really new to the bass. A couple of friends of mine were forming a band and they needed a bass player. I had played guitar for a number of years, so I figured I would give it a try. My philosophy Professor loaned me his bass since he wasn’t using it. I think I learned eight or nine songs in two rehearsals with those guys, so needless to say I was really nervous. It turned out that the bar was a biker bar and the crowd was pretty rowdy. The band before us was really good too. I remember them rocking out some heavier tunes, and here we were about to get on stage to play some Dave Matthews and a few originals. I thought for sure they would eat us alive. It turned out great actually. The crowd was really supportive. It definitely helped that our drummer was a monster behind the kit and our singer had a really great voice. We played there a few more times and made a bit of a name for ourselves.


DonderoHT: When you were first starting out on the bass who were the influences you looked towards?

BD: Well, I got to break this down by upright and electric. For upright I would say Charles Mingus, Ray Brown, and Chris Wood. I am really lucky to have gotten to tour and learn some things from Chris. I was a huge Medeski Martin & Wood fan in college, so his upright and electric playing was definitely a big influence.

For electric I would have to say that John Paul Jones, Duck Dunn, and George Porter Jr are the biggies. Sharing the stage with George Porter Jr was a major highlight of my musical career too. I’ve been revisiting some of the old Zeppelin tunes recently. I absolutely love John Paul Jones’ fingerstyle, but recently I’ve been trying to emulate some of his picking style. His tone on “Heartbreaker” where he runs the bass through a Leslie is fucking amazing. It’s got such a heavy dirty sound on top of the chorus that he gets from the Leslie. It would be hard to emulate that tone with just pedals, but I am determined to find a way.


HT: You have become known for your ability to switch seamlessly from the upright to electric bass, which do you prefer?

BD: I really like playing both. I enjoy playing a lot of different styles. I can get down with some “Whiskey before Breakfast” on the upright or be just as happy rocking out some Nirvana. Both of which were recent musical ventures for me. I love playing old R&B/Soul stuff too.


HT: Is there anyone you would like to share the stage with that you have not had the opportunity to yet?dondero4

BD: There are so many great bands out there now. I love the way their bass players play, so I’d almost rather watch them side stage. As far as backing up an artist goes, I’d love to back up M. Ward or Neko Case or maybe sit in for a few with the Alabama Shakes. There are a lot of great local artists here too that I’d love to sit in with as well. It would be a blast to sit in with Madaila or Rough Francis. Those guys are so good!


HT: During your time with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals you were constantly on the road, do you have any favorite memories from that time that really stand out for you?

BD: There are so many it’s hard to single out one.Some of the festivals that we did were really amazing.  Playing acoustic jams with Jay Farrar and Shannon McNally back at our RV at Bonnaroo was areally great time.We also dragged some of the guys from My Morning Jacket back with us to theRV once. Several bottles of bourbon were going around which culminated in us doing anappropriately inebriated version of “Every Rose has its Thorn.” Who knew Poison was such aninfluence on Jim James?


HT: What have you been up to lately? Are you still playing music?

BD: Right now I am in my second year of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of Vermont. It’s a very different lifestyle from my days with the band, but I am really happy withwhere I am.  I still play music regularly and look forward to being done with school so that I canplay even more of it.  I’d love to get an original band together again someday too.  I’m happy just playing whenever and wherever I can.

Positive vibes from Tea Leaf Green and Grace Potter

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals with Tea Leaf Green

20th Century Theater

Cincinnati, Ohio

June 6, 2007


Opening their show with Tea Leaf Green at Cincinnati, Ohio’s 20th Century Theater on June 6, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals came to the stage with bounding energy, driven by drummer Matt Burr’s pounding intensity.  Touring behind Nothing But the Water, Potter and the Nocturnals energized the small yet rabid early evening patrons with a set steeped in blues, gospel and rock music.

Potter reached back into a treasure trove of material, banging on the keys of her piano and Hammond B-3.  The upper registers of her booming vocals bounced around the back of the room as Bryan Dondero’s bass lines connected with Burr’s shuffle patterns to work the rhythmic magic inherent in an ode to bad boys on "Joey."  Scott Tournet’s razor like guitar leads sliced through Potter’s sharp vocal attack, adding fresh menace to the call and response masterwork, "Nothing But the Water."

Tea Leaf Green occupied the late night set slot, expanding upon a broad canvass of loosely improvised riffs and tight, compact harmonic compositions.  The San Francisco quartet hypnotized the room with a gently swaying mixture of tight blues and powerful, epic jams that fed off of Scott Rager’s propulsive drum clinic and Ben Chamber’s undulating bass workouts.  Josh Clark offered strength in feedback and distortion on lead electric guitar, and he even took the spotlight when he sang two of the stronger numbers in Tea Leaf Green’s catalogue.

But, the band truly does coalesce around the trippy keyboard structures of lead singer Trevor Garrod, who offered up some tasty harmonica playing as well.  The band has a well defined sound, adding nuances to the road hardened masterpiece, "Incandescent Devil" and many of the selections from the movie soundtrack Rock’n’Roll Band and the stellar studio offering, Taught to be Proud.

Overall, one couldn’t have asked for a better double bill than Tea Leaf Green with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and the 20th Century Theater’s denizens walked out into the open summer air lifted by the positive vibes and heartfelt performances of both groups.