Tony Saunders is a two-time Emmy-winning bassist! Her world-famous keyboardist father, Merl Saunders, got her started in the music industry at an early age with Herbie Hancock and Sly Stalone.
Tony received one of his first piano lessons from Herbie Hancock. She received an Emmy at age 14 with her father for a special kids’s event Soul Isa PBS documentary featuring Black’s poetry accompanied by Tony on bass.
At 17 he began playing with his father and Jerry Garcia, and was featured on Merl Saunders & Aunt Monk. Later Tony played in the original Rainforest Band, and recorded all of his father’s projects. Legendary bassists Chuck Rainey, Jack Casady and John Kahn were all intrigued by Saunders’ abilities.
Saunders has scored films, corporate videos, TV shows and commercials, and produced many CDs, mainly from his own studio, Studio 1281. Tony has produced over 400 songs with his core musicians Dante Taz Roberson on Drums, Bill Hampton on Guitar, and Sylvester Burks on Keyboards.
Tony’s first solo CD “Bigger than Outside” was released in October 2011. It remained on the charts for 70 weeks.
I had an opportunity to sit down with Tony and have a little chat about his music.
Do you remember the first time you heard your music on television or in a movie?
I heard my bass playing on a PBS special The soul IS, which was recorded in 1969; the show won an Emmy.
Tell us about your Emmy Awards…
The first is for the title PBS Special The soul IS when I was 14 years old, which I won with My Dad. This is me playing bass playing together with black kids reciting poetry.
The second is for the Digital Journey series sponsored by Sun Microsystems. I wrote the music for this whole series and one of the episodes won and an Emmy. The episode featured me writing Chinese Music.
Who’s your hero?
Willie Mays, Michael Jordan, and my Dad, Merl Saunders; all of them have a desire to do great things and are great at their craft.
What do you like most about your profession?
I love that I get to do what I actually love in life. I love all aspects of making music. Production, recording, working with great musicians and singers all make me smile. The reaction of the people who heard the music really touched my soul. I work long hours, get up at 6am most days and put in 12 to 15 hour days on my craft. I actually Romantic Bass like me Love life.
What would you do differently in your career?
I will concentrate more on my music and wait to have a family until my 30s.
How have industry technologies changed in your thirty-year music career?
It has changed a lot. I remember the light on the wall to point every 30 seconds in the old Fantasy Records Studio. I remember learning as a teenager how to cut tape to do edits. Now everything is computerized and we can record globally with people we never see. Technology has improved everything except cassette sound and album sonic sound. The only thing that hasn’t changed is a good song is a good song. And great musicians or singers are still the best things you have ever heard.
Watch “My First Love” with Tony Saunders and Howard Hewett:
You can find Tony at: