April 23, 2024

Adam Blackstone, the musical mastermind and director behind some of music’s biggest names, events, and live productions, has recently been honored with something special: his very own Pro Series Signature bass with Jackson Guitars.

The award-winning multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter — who was notably behind Rihanna’s iconic Super Bowl LVII half-time show and recently assisted Justin Timberlake’s Tiny Desk with NPR — has now introduced the “Gladys Jackson” bass guitar named after his grandmother.

“It feels incredible, something like I kind of have never dreamed of,” he shared with VIBE. “When you are a young musician upcoming and you’re getting whatever instrument that you can afford and you’re getting whatever your parents give you, and even sometimes I’m getting hand me down instruments. I’m just super thankful to play. Now, to see my name on an instrument that is going to live forever and hopefully impact young, Black and brown kids for a long time coming, I feel super honored and blessed.”

The BASSic Black Entertainment (BBE) creator presents a classic bass silhouette with “vivid black stone finish, creme pickguard, black block inlays, a mixture of black and gold hardware, dome-style control knobs, Jackson 4-and-one color matched paddle headstock and a gig bag.”

The 34”-scale bass includes a custom neck profile, 9”–16” compound radius maple fingerboard and 21 jumbo frets with custom Jackson BBE J-style pickups, voiced to the artist specifications. Additionally, the instrument is paired with an active 3-band EQ circuit to tune a perfect tone, a Jackson Hi-Mass bridge to enhance note attack and open-gear tuners for stellar tuning stability.

Blackstone revealed that upon the bass’ creation, he had to give it a test drive. He’s already played the beauty at the 2024 Grammy Awards, on Saturday Night Live and for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The “highly affordable” bass which is priced at $899, is deemed the perfect guitar for a musician “who requires nothing less than the latest in high-performance bass technology.”

Courtesy Of PR Fender

Adam Blackstone spoke with VIBE to further discuss his latest accolade in addition to working with greats like Rihanna on Super Bowl 2024, the challenges that come with being a musical director, and more.

VIBE: Why were you inspired to name the bass after your grandmother Gladys?

Adam Blackstone: Jackson is my mom’s maiden name. And [ironically] the company happened to be Jackson. My grandmother, Gladys Jackson, was heavy in church and music. But also, it’s my daughter’s middle name and my wife’s grandmother’s name is Gladys as well. So, it’s legacy all the way through and through.

Did your grandmother make music too?

No, she was more like the church announcement girl that introduced the singers. But we were in a very affluent African-American church where music was definitely a focal point. And so my whole family was in music; my uncles, my aunts and that’s where I got my start for sure.

As a Grammy and Emmy-winning musician, you know what great live music should sound like, you know what great instruments should sound like. When offering your expertise on the bass’ creation, what were some of the things that you focused on?

That’s a great question. I was concentrating a lot on tone. I was concentrating a lot on stability and having an instrument that could work well and travel well; wear and tear. I was also looking at the aesthetic, what stands out to people right away and draws you to the bass? And then, once they’re drawn to the bass, let’s make it also sound super incredible with the EQ, the tonality, the evenness.

With the style of music that I primarily play: pop music, R&B, hip hop, I wanted to make sure that the groundwork was set to have the foundation of the bass be in the forefront at all times, without being too overpowering. This instrument does all of those things. It’s a beautiful instrument and it sounds great.

So, does it stand to the test when playing it live?

Heck yeah. Absolutely. People have talked about it and it’s been one of the best sounding instruments they’ve heard in a while, so I’m excited.

You’ve musically directed so many countless events, award shows, concerts and so much more. What would you say is single-handedly the most challenging part of being in charge of creating the musical atmosphere?

Ironically enough, one of the most difficult parts is dealing with people, personalities, and their management. So, it’s non-musical. Having to be in charge comes with managing personalities, managing schedules, managing people’s expectations and making sure my artists are comfortable at all times.

You’ve also been in charge of one of the biggest platforms: the Super Bowl. Working with Rihanna on the most-viewed halftime show, and then Usher and Alicia Keys, what was that like?

[Rihanna] is one of the most iconic, prolific artists of our day. She continues to transcend genre, sound, race with her music, and it’s been a blessing and an honor to work with her and for her. Going into that last year’s Super Bowl, we had a sit down and I basically was asking her like, “Hey, what’s the story that you want to convey in 13, 14 minutes?”

And one of the things that she told me was she wanted to have fun and make it be a party, make it about how strong her catalog was. And we tried to put a set list together that conveyed that, and I think we did a great job. She has so many hits, but at the same time, each song is an impactful, different, iconic moment in the listener’s life. You can almost remember where you were exactly when you heard some of these songs.

How was it traveling to India with her for the private wedding concert that she recently did?

That was epic as well. One of the difficult things about working with Rihanna is she’s so involved in many other aspects of business from Fenty Beauty to Savage Fenty and more. It was Fashion Week, so we came from Milan and went to London, and then ended up in India. We were able to do an incredible show, impact the people over there, and I think we’ll be back real soon probably.

You just did Tiny Desk with Justin Timberlake, what was that like working with him?

It was great. Justin is a consummate professional. What I love about working with Justin is that the ideas that he brings to the table, he has thought about. I trust his vision.

Who are five artists that you wouldn’t mind assisting on a Tiny Desk episode?

Let’s say JAY-Z, Beyoncé… I would love to see Fantasia do a Tiny Desk. Mary Mary and then ironically enough, I would love to see Rascal Flats.

What would you say has been the most important thing about building trust between you and artists and other platforms that call on you?

I think that the artists know that I have their best interest at heart. I always want to put that on display first. I’m not up for my own self-gratification, I want them to win at all times, and that’s no star-status attached to that. Whoever I’m hired by, I want to see their vision come to fruition. I think that’s why I’ve been able to work so long in this business is because it’s not self-serving to me: I always want to see the other person win because a win for them is a victory for me as well. It’s been a long process to gain these people’s trust, but I think my track record speaks for itself. And now, we can just now talk as peers when we’re coming into a space to be creative.

You posted on your Instagram that peace is the most expensive currency that you could have, why did that resonate with you, or provoke you to repost that quote?

That’s a good question. I know that in this business we can get caught up in the glitz and the glam and even money and status. But there are a lot of suffering musicians and artists out there that have everything that the world may desire or want, and sometimes, all they want is peace. I’ve heard artists say, ‘Man, I’d give all this money back to have my family back,’ or, ‘I’d give this fame up to have a parent back or a child back.’ Everybody has a different level and sensibility of what peace means to them. I just wanted to remind people to hold on and value those things because without those things, anything else that we do is pointless.

You’re a real-deal musician who knows how to play instruments, yet there’s A.I. technology out there now where you can create whatever sound you want. Do you see A.I. as a good thing for music, or as a possible factor for the fall of it?

I don’t see a fall. I’ve got to be honest and say one of the great things that sustained me through COVID was the fact that music had the power to heal and help people and put a smile on people’s face. And sports and music was one of those things through our global pandemic that continued. So with that being said, I think the impact of A.I. can only help the music business. And then again, for what I do, I feel like what God has for me is for me, a computer can’t generate the feeling that I give with my instrument. So there’ll always be room for me.

The Adam Blackstone Pro Series Signature “Gladys” bass guitar is available for purchase on Jackson Guitars official website here.

Courtesy Of PR Fender

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