At first glance, you see a 6’7” man that has to be a basketball player. You rack your brain trying to remember what team he played on. Then you notice he picks up a bass guitar. Maybe it was football he played, you reason. He begins to play his hit song “On Your Feet”. The song that was on Billboard charts for three straight weeks at #1. This is musician and lead bass guitarist Julian Vaughn, who ironically did play basketball. I had the privilege of interviewing him after one of his shows.
Don: How did you get started into music?
Julian: I was always involved in music with the church. I got into Jazz when I heard my first Jazz CD by a guy by the name of Najee. It was “Tokyo Blues”, and ever since then I’ve been hooked.
Don: What instrument did you start playing?
Julian: Every kid growing up wanted to play drums. But it got boring so I picked up a bass guitar and the rest was history. I never had a lesson, so I self-taught myself from 15 till now.
Don: That was in high school.
Julian: Yes. That was in Kansas City where I’m from. I played High School basketball where I was 1st Team All-State. I played the four, the five, and in the summer I played the two and the three. So I played four positions. I played at a Junior College where I averaged a double double. I was good. I should have stayed with it.
Don: Sounds like a little bit of regret.
Julian: It’s a big regret, but it’s a good thing I went pro at something. Ha Ha Ha. But I wouldn’t go back to basketball. I’m 36, that’s it.
Don: Who do you like watching now?
Julian: Golden State and Cleveland and San Antonio. I like teams that play team ball. I don’t like James Harden type teams, the one-on-one playing teams. I’d like to see a healthy Golden State verse a healthy Cleveland. It will go seven games. But if I had to pick right now, it’s tough, but I would go with Golden State in seven. They would have home court and I think Steph still has something to prove. He won the trophy unanimously but it was still controversy with that. So I think he got a chip on his shoulder. I use to play with a little bit of a chip. I was a lot meaner when I was younger, especially playing AAU ball. The jazz has mellowed me out. AAU is different now. They have a room full of shoes and uniforms, and the fly all across the country.
Don: How did you transition from sports to music?
Julian: I always intertwined the two. They were always together. When I wasn’t practicing bass, I was playing basketball. That’s how it is right now. I have a basketball league I’m playing in that starts up next week actually.
Don: What do you listen to before you play, is it your own music?
Julian: Actually I don’t. I listen to Rap or Hip-Hop. I listen to Big Sean and Drake.
Don: You have three albums out.
Julian: Yes. The fourth one comes out March 2017, it will be better than all the three previous ones put together. The first one was “The Purpose Project”. The second was “Breakthrough”. The third was “Limitless”. The fourth one I don’t have a title for yet. You will see a progression in the production and the quality of the song writing. It gets more diverse. I have three #1 songs. The first time I was #1 I felt nothing because I didn’t write the song or produce it. I wrote 20% of it so I didn’t feel like it was my song. The second #1 I wrote half of it, so a little more fulfilling. The same for the third #1. The fourth one that could go #1 that is out right now, I wrote it and produced it. If it goes #1 then that’s a different story. It’s called “You’re Mine”. We going to celebrate if it goes #1.
Don: Who has been the biggest influence on your music career?
Julian: Wayman Tisdale. I actually knew of him as a basketball player before he was bass player. Our lives kind of paralleled. We both grew up in the church playing music. Same height, he was just a little bigger. Boney James and Euge Groove too. Boney James is the truth.
I think it’s safe to say that Julian Vaughn is the truth as well. What other self-taught lead bass guitarist commands the stage, albeit at 6’7”, and also commands the Billboard charts?