Born and raised in Kingston Jamaica, Donald started playing the piano at the age of 7 encouragement by his parents. When he was 17 years old, he found his brother-in-law’s bass guitar and by the next morning had taught himself to play a few bass lines. His passion for the bass guitar and for music, in general, grew from there. When he started College, Donald became serious about his music career. He studied visual arts, Jazz theory and the bass guitar at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica.
Lars Mullen: Well, we've certainly been to some countries in this program. Oh, we're heading off to Canada Ontario to meet Mr Donald Waugh. Hello Donald.
Donald Waugh: Hey. How are you doing?
Lars Mullen: Nice to see you again. Whereabouts in Canada are you?
Donald Waugh: I am in Strathroy a little small town. I live out in the country actually. It's about 30 minutes outside of London and most people probably won't know London, so that's about two and a half hours outside of Toronto.
Lars: We're southwest of London UK, about the same amount of time as well, that's a coincidence. So, as I say Mr Donald Waugh, annoyingly good on bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, flamenco guitar, classical guitar, drums it just goes on and on...
And every time I see you at one of the NAMM Shows or wherever guitar shows anywhere around the world, you're covered in microphones and cameras and you are promoting yourself on these guitar stands. You're a self-promotion person.
Donald: You know even with COVID, I find a lot of musicians now realise the value in in using the internet we don't necessarily need a PR person or a road manager or all that because all the tours I have done it's pretty much just been me sourcing them and I've been touring since 2008.
You know, I've been almost everywhere in the world except Africa and China.
Lars: Well, you must be missing this, in lockdown at the moment with the shutdown period.
Donald: Actually, I'm enjoying being at home because I don't remember a time being at home for an entire year, ever. You know, so this is the first time. I've never actually stayed home for a full year and another fantastic thing happened, you know, a new little person came into the world and I get to see her. I'm seeing her grow, she's now nine months old and it's just amazing to see her grow. So I'm glad I'm home and not touring, so it kind of worked out.
Lars: Congratulations on that! I'm sure the Fusion Team and the camera people here are going to say 'oh well done to you'.
Last time we talked, quite a while ago, you had a band called Purple Haze.
Donald: In Purple Haze... I was a sideman in that band. I was singing yeah, I was lead singing but I was hired to play with Purple Haze. Pretty much everyone in the band was from the Caribbean. The guitarist was from Trinidad, the lead vocalist also from Trinidad, the keyboardist on the lead of the band was from Barbados as well as a drummer and I was the lonely Jamaican.
Lars: Again going back to when we talked a few years ago I was commenting on your writing skills. Some of the songs are really, really good content and the lyrics and stuff but I didn't know where you were from but I said there's like a reggae influence in there somewhere, which you've just explained why.
Donald: Yeah, I'm quite happy that you noticed that. You know, it's something I try to still incorporate in music from my country. But I always try to come back to the roots of the music with reggae and kirby and mento and ska and calypso and all that stuff that kind of shape the way in which I view music.
Lars: We've got to a little bit promote, to anybody who doesn't know, it's just about to be released: A collaboration of Fusion Artists Fusion Bag owners. We did the Bill Withers 'Lovely day' song. We can still hear it in our heads but it's great, it chops around what this artist, that artist. We all had a small part in it and Donald being annoyingly good on the drums and the bass laid down the foundations.
Donald: Someone from Fusion mentioned that they wanted to do a collaboration with all the Fusion Artists. I was like man, that sounds really complicated but hey we have the time right it's lockdown season, it's fantastic. I think we should do another one.
Lars: Yeah, why not and it was produced by Jordan Scannella, a bass player.
I'm just quite interested where you've got to say all the drums the bass all the things you can play. Do you get hired as a session guy for just drums, just bass or for the multi-instruments that you can play?
Donald: When people call me and they say: 'Donald I need you to do backing vocals or I need you to do a session here.' The next question is like which instrument is it? Because people either hire me to play the banjo, play with the bass, play the drums. Right now I'm working on another band and I'm on drums this time. Sometimes I get hired to play the piano, the ukulele. So, that's been the story of my life. But I just look at myself as a musician.
Lars: Sorry, I missed the banjo, ukulele and keyboard but let's just stay on the multi-instrumental thing on which I'm quite interested in. What came first and did you think, I've learned that now, what should I learn next? It better be this, it better be that or did you just learn what you wanted to learn?
Donald: I grew up in a musical household, my dad played bass and keyboards in church and my mom sang in church and just seeing music all around me I wanted to play something I asked my dad if I could play the drums but there was always a piano, so he kind of steered me towards the piano and said why don't you just play the piano? So I would just sit around the piano but the drums just seemed so cool you know I said the drummer at church I just watch him every single Sunday and my dad eventually got a drum set, a used one and my cousin would come over and pretty much just hug it. I literally probably played it once and but my mom did send me to piano lessons so I started playing classical music and that's what kind of triggered that musical journey in a sense.
Lars: Have we come in, in the middle of a bass session? Every time I see you've got other guitars but you're always wrapped up in a monster bass. What's that one there?
Donald: So this bass guitar is a Cunningham RLJS7 it is my very first signature instrument. Created by Dwight Cunningham from Australia and it's a seven-string instrument and everything is delano in terms of the preamp and the pickup system and a hipshot bridge tuning machine it's a myrtle and maple and alda and of course the fingerboard and other elements of the neck is wenge from a nice tone.
Lars: Excellent, I'm glad you did that. I was about to ask you to play to show us you've got a little bit of a unique fingerpicking technique.Tell us about that.
Donald: Okay, that kind of evolved out of me starting to play the banjo. I've started touring in 2010 I believe with a group called The Jolly Boys. They hired me to play the banjo. I've never played the banjo in my life but they said, ah you learn quick enough, you should be able to pick it up. So they had a banjo there. I googled what a banjo was and how to tune it and so I just had to figure it out and we toured mostly Europe. We were in England, we lived actually near Hyde Park for about a couple of months, we toured Germany and France and we went to Dubai and did some places in the U.S. like New York.
I got home and I didn't touch my bass for a year so I went back and I started playing usual two-finger and I found my hands just wasn't really operating to do it because you know, I was just out of shape so I tried to figure out a way to play with my wrist completely straight. I started using my thumb and I realised, I could use three, so I started using three then incorporated four and eventually start using all five fingers to play notes. So that's how that whole technique just developed into something.
Lars: Excellent it sounds really good. I can see another bass there. Give a quick look at that one.
Donald: So this is an NS Design five-string. I'm also an NS Design artist, so I also have a four-string and a wave radius as well. This instrument is quite nice for just, when you're writing and you want something different. A different feel, different sound it's fantastic, it's great for travel.
Lars: So, you've hit the keyword 'travel'. Travelling with a Fusion Bag.
Donald: Fusion Bags they're the deal. The fact that it went through hell and this instrument is still alive and well, perfectly fine, is a testament. Get yourself a Fusion Bag, trust me.
Lars: Donald, so nice to talk to you thanks for coming on this Fusion program before you leave us, can you play out with some of these finger-picking bass riffs you do?
About Lars Mullen
With over 30 years in the music business, Lars Mullen does indeed wear many hats, as a writer, journalist, photographer, press person for his own company Music Media Announcements. As an extensive traveller, he's a familiar figure reporting from music trade shows around the world. Spending many years touring as a professional guitarist, Lars has also interviewed a host of top bands and artists, continues to write articles for magazines globally and still finds time to track down Fusion artists for our Artist Spotlight column and Fusion Virtual World Tour Interview Series.