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Compass Newspaper Article
A Life Filled With Music

From traveling on the road with a circus to designing and building his own electric upright bass with the help of a luthier, Rusty Springfield has lived a life of music. Sitting at a local coffee shop, his red hair swept into his signature pony tail, the musician talks about his life and the different bands he plays in.

Born in Memphis, Tenn., Springfield moved around the country before settling in St. Augustine in 2003. Playing in numerous jazz and funk groups and touring with the Ringling Brothers Circus and the Big Apple Circus in New York City, the bassist spent years honing his skills and his sound.

"I think every musician wants to find their own voice, stand out from the herd a little bit," Springfield said.

When he struggled to find that voice he drafted the help of a luthier (someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments). Springfield drew a design and explained the sound he was looking for in an electric upright bass. It took him a year to build the instrument. Fitted with a hand-carved ram's head and six strings, the bassist said, "It has become part of my signature sound because of its depth of tone and soloing capability. It's been my voice for 20 years now," he added.

Springfield counts his inspirations as Jimi Hendrix ("His guitar was an extension of himself"), Jaco Pastorius (world famous bassist) and Stanley Clarke ("First real bass hero for the jazz and rock world"). Besides his mentors, he looks to the bands he plays in and his fellow musicians for inspiration. Three of the bands he collaborates with are NightFall, Chaos Theory and Funk Shui.

NightFall consists of vocalist Christi John Bye, guitarist Tony Scozzaro, Sean Andrews on drums and Springfield playing his signature six-string upright electric Ram Bass (as he likes to call it). They formed in 2004 and play contemporary jazz with Springfield writing the songs specifically for Bye to sing. With two albums recorded and a new drummer, Springfield says they morphed into a somewhat of a concert band. "That is our current path," he explained.

"Chaos Theory is essentially the rhythm section of NightFall playing an entirely different style of music," Springfield said. The band members consist of everyone from the previous ensemble except vocalist Bye, and with the addition of a saxophonist. "It tends to be more electric, with a lot of instrumental jazz, R & B, and even some Stevie Ray Vaughn thrown in for good measure," he added.

Funk Shui plays on the Chinese term Feng Shui. The quartet consists of guitarist and vocalist Ron Norris, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Rob Peck, Bruce Royal on drums and Springfield playing electric bass. The band plays original music written by Norris and Peck, along with covers by artists like Bob Dylan, Little Feat and Motown. "Translated through us it all seems to take on a New Orleans vibe, and who doesn't dig that?" Springfield said.

Between numerous gigs and a colorful past, Springfield has become a musical staple around town. Look for any of the half dozen or so bands and duos he plays with next time you're out.

— Kara Pound, Compass Correspondent
Friday, July 27, 2007
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