The Amtrak Sessions: Making Music on the Train

The Amtrak Sessions: Making Music on the Train

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One of the greatest perks of being a freelance bassist is having the opportunity to travel the world. A few weeks ago, I was headed from my home in New York City to Washington, DC to perform with the band Zusha at the Verizon Center. The idea of performing with one of my favorite bands in a 18,000 capacity stadium was more than enough to get me excited.

The band normally travels by plane or van, but on this occasion we were to take Amtrak. I was traveling with Andrew Freedman and Andrew Marsh, the band’s keyboard player and drummer. When we boarded the train we noticed that each of the seats had a power outlet. We immediately realized that this was a game changer.

With the help of a single power outlet, we had the instruments and gear to create and record music on the train. After some adjustments and working out the kinks, we had a full fledged studio set up on the tray tables in front of us, including a synthesizer, bass, iPad with Garage Band, Apogee Duet interface, and a headphone splitter. The footprint of our setup fit squarely on the two tray tables at our seats.

We put on our headphones and got to writing. Freedman would improvise on the keys, I would track bass, and Marsh would program in drums. We have clocked many miles and hours traveling together in different settings, much of it just spent passing the time—but not on this trip. This time we exercised the extent of our creativity for the entire journey.

We exited the train feeling giddy with everything we had created. The next day we gave one of the best performances the band has ever done, thanks in part to our time spent connecting artistically on our travels down.

About the Author: Max Jacob is a freelance bassist living in New York. He is also the founder of Shattered Glass, a conductorless ensemble dedicated to breaking down the boundaries between audience and performer. Find him on Instagram.