When asked why he was first drawn to the instrument that would help him make his name in rock music, bassist Tommy Stinson provided a surprisingly unromantic explanation. “I think because my brother left the case open,” Stinson said. “I just happened to see it and saw hey, that’s kind of cool looking, and I started monkeying with it.” His brother asked if he wanted to learn how to play, and from those beginnings emerged a long rock career launched when he was just 13 year old. The Minneapolis-native rocker would quickly find fame with the punk rock band the Replacements and later join Guns N’ Roses.
While Stinson might be best known for his work with The Replacements, and is currently the bassist for Guns N’ Roses and Soul Asylum, he has managed to carve out a solo career for himself, though he admits that putting together albums is done “piecemeal” because of his other commitments.
When he first set out as a solo artist, he made the decision in part because of his many musical engagements.
“I travel so much with other bands that pay me and stuff, it’s like it doesn’t really behoove me to have anyone just kind of sitting around waiting for me to get into action,” Stinson said. The cost, too, of putting together a band was a downside. After the breakup of Perfect and Bash and Pop, two short-lived bands Stinson started in the wake of The Replacements’ breakup in the early ’90s, Stinson had joined Guns N’ Roses and began performing solo.
“I went out and did some club gigs here and there, just by myself with an acoustic on my back, and found that it was a lot of fun,” Stinson said. “After being in Guns N’ Roses, certainly – we’re loud and get a lot of people and stuff – it was cool to just go out on my own and just basically busk in front of a crowd of people.”
He released his debut solo album, Village Gorilla Head, in 2004, backed by performers from Guns N’ Roses and Perfect, and followed up the record with One Man Mutiny last summer, released on his own label, Done to Death Music.
Stinson will be coming to Jammin’ Java April 13, touring on his latest album. While the show will focus on One Man Mutiny, concert-goers can also hear songs from his days with Perfect and Bash and Pop.
According to Stinson, fans of his earlier band projects won’t find One Man Mutiny is a far cry from the kind of music he’s made before.
“I don’t think that you’re ever going to hear one of my records and go ‘Oh my god, this is so different than anything he’s ever done,'” Stinson said. “I’ve got a pretty wide musical palette, but where I always go is sort of a rootsy kind of rock and roll place.”
He joked that a dance record isn’t anywhere in his near future, but county isn’t out of the question. Chip Roberts co-wrote and plays slide guitar on some of the album’s tracks, and Stinson credits him for the country influence that can be heard on the album. Roberts’ niece and Stinson’s wife, Emily Roberts, lends her voice to harmonies on the album. She and Stinson share vocals on “Destroy Me,” Stinson’s first-ever duet.
Stinson will be donating some of the profits from the sale of this latest album to Timkatec schools, which provide for orphaned children in Haiti. Wanting to do more than just write a check after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the nation, he traveled to Haiti and “got emotionally involved and financially involved,” he said. Last summer, he raised $40,000 for the schools in an online auction, and plans to continue to raise funds for the schools.
As for his musical commitments, Guns N’ Roses has international tour dates lined up for this summer, and Soul Asylum will release an album this summer which Stinson played on, but for now Stinson is focusing on his solo work and hopes to expand his label to produce other acts.
• For more information about Tommy Stinson, visit tommystinson.com.