By Steve Caraway
Timothy B. Schmit came to Poco in the band's first year, replacing Randy Meisner who later went on to play with Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band and now the Eagles. Tim was born in Oakland and grew up in Sacramento, California, where his father played violin and pop music in various clubs. As a result, Tim spent endless hours growing up on the road and learning violin from his dad. The interest in music was ever present and Tim began playing the trombone, eventually becoming interested in the guitar via the folk music of The Kingston Trio. While forming various musical groups in high school, Timothy was faced with playing bass lines on the lower strings of a standard six-string electric guitar turned all the way on bass. By 1976, the 28-year-old bassist had scribed some of Poco's most memorable songs--"From the Inside," "Here We Go Again," "Restrain," "I Can See Everything," and "Bitter Blue" among them.
Do you remember the first guitar you ever owned?
The first I ever owned was a Harmony tenor with four strings and tuned to fifths. I really wanted to play the tenor guitar. When I was in late grade school and early high school I was into The Kingston Trio, and Nick Reynolds used to play it tuned like a ukulele. I learned to play the correct way. It just added the top end to the other two 6-string guitars.
What were some of your early musical experiences?
Musically I was with the people I learned with for about six or seven years under various names. We put out albums under the names of The New Breed, The Breed, and Glad. We had an album out in 1968 when we were called Glad.
You have studied music a bit. Do you read?
I used to. I am probably pretty rusty at reading music now. I don't think it would take me to long to get back into it.
Who and what influenced you when you were first developing musically?
Everything I saw on stage and everything I heard on the radio. When I started playing the guitar, as I said, I was into folk music; interested in musicians like Peter, Paul, and Mary, The Kingston Trio, and the Limelighters. When I was fifteen or sixteen, I got turned on to surf music. The group I was performing with got a drummer, and in our first rehearsal as an electric band we put together fourteen surf instrumentals with full reverb--like "Walk, Don't Run."
Were you listening to a lot of Beach Boys and Jan and Dean music in those days?
Yeah, when I listened to them I really got into the electrical music scene, especially "California Surfdom."
Is there anybody in particular who you would say had a major influence on the way you play bass?
Well, Paul McCartney was, just by listening to all that Beatles music. There is no doubt that McCartney's a fine bass player. When I was first playing guitar in Sacramento, I came across a few really fine bassists. I would watch and then I would go home and practice and try and copy what they did. Then I would try to incorporate those bits into my own musical trip or style that I was playing at the time.
Who are your main men on the bass these days?
I really like Pete Cetera, the bass player for Chicago. One of my favorite stand-up bassists is Ray Brown; he is just great! Chris Squire from Yes, his playing is way beyond me. Squire plays bass like a lead instrument, but he does it well. But to me the bass is a root instrument, it's part of the rhythm section. Not too many bassists can play lots of licks, almost a lead bass, and get away with it.
If I am not mistaken, you pick your bass with your first two fingers.
I began playing with my thumb and then I started using a pick. But it wasn't until I joined Poco that I used my first two fingers. At first I was terribly clumsy, but I forced myself to play that way. Now I find that I have a little more control using my first two fingers.
How often are your strings changed and what kind are they?
I use La Bella flatwood strings that I change only when they break. I hate new bass strings.
You play a Fender bass on stage, right?
Right now I am using a Jazz. I have a Precision too, but for about the past year I have been playing the Jazz. It's a standard 1964 Jazz, no customizing on it at all. The Fender bass has a nice sound on its own, as well as being solid. I could probably take mine and chuck it out the window and it wouldn't phase it; it would sound just as good as it did before it went out the window. My other Fender is a 1957 Precision with all the original workings, tuning heads and knobs; it's a really fine instrument. I've got a Gibson EB 2 hollowbody. I'm never going to sell any of my instruments so they just keep piling up. I have an Ernie Ball Earthwood acoustic bass guitar and a custom 4-string fretless guitaron that are used in Mariachi bands. When this one was made, the luthier took the body and neck apart and built it into a 4-string. I used to use the fretless guitaron on stage when we used to do our acoustic music. The guitaron is not that much of a precision instrument, and I had trouble hearing it on stage, it was hard to hear it in the audience too. I tried using the Ernie Ball bass on some recordings a few years ago, but I could never get a nice recorded sound out of it, unless I taped it on my home deck.
What kind of amplification system do you use on stage?
I use two Cerwin-Vega cabinets. One cabinet has an 18" speaker and the other has an 18" speaker with two 8" speakers that are front loading and are hooked up to a crossover. These cabinets are powered by the real big Fender amp, the 400 PS. I am truly a technical clod; they plug me in and if the guitar sounds good I like it. I get a real boomy sound out of the Fender - not enough distinction - great bottom, though. I get the definition with a Sunn bottom that has six 12" speakers in it which are powered by a separate Sunn amplifier head which is a Model T tube amp. The Cerwin-Vega cabinets powered by the Fender amp and the Sunn bottoms with the Sunn head are patched together for a nice balanced sound.
How does the size of the hall you play effect your equipment?
The equipment stays the same. We'll just change settings a lot to get the right sound for the hall we're playing. I always run my guitar volume full up, and so are the tone knobs. On the amps, the tone settings are always changing depending on what particular method sounds good. The Sunn's volume is up about half way and the submaster is on about 3. I use the Sunn stuff mainly for top end, so I really don't push it much. The Fender system's volume is set about half-way on acoustical songs and up to about 7 or 8 on the more electrical stuff Poco does.
Do you ever use any extension cabinets on stage so that (lead guitarist) Paul Cotton can hear you?
When we were a five-man band, Rusty (Young) at one point had a hard time hearing me, because I was way on the other side of the stage; so I had one of my cabinets over behind Rusty. Now we don't have to do that, because my amps are right in the middle of the stage so the sound is spread equally between everybody.
What kind of standard guitars do you have in your "stable"?
I have two 6-strings and a Guild 12-string. One 6-string is a Martin D-28S and the other is an Alvarez-Yairi.
Does Poco rehearse or jam a lot?
We rehearse quite a bit. I think since we have become a four-man band we have gotten into jamming more and it does my heart good. That is where I came from, the old bands, we used to play all the time. Mostly with Poco, during rehearsals, we work on our strict song structures.
What is in your musical future and Poco's?
I am really dedicated to Poco. For a long time I felt that the next thing is the big thing, or people ask, "Why hasn't Poco been pushed over the top?" I just figure that if Poco hangs in there, it's just all going to happen. The last few albums were important to our musical future. The albums are all ours, all the songs are ours and all the production is ours, totally ours. That was a big step. It taught me a lot about production and it's opening the way to do some outside work in the future. I just enjoy performing in the studio or on stage, I just love performing. My only plans are to just keep doing that.
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