Victor Wooten is a giver.
At 48, the Virginia-bred, Nashville-based Wooten has become one of the music industry’s most beloved and revered bass players, winning awards (including five Grammys) and accolades (he’s won Bass Player Magazine’s “Bass Player of the Year” award more than once) throughout his long, storied career. He’s the residing, longtime bassist for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, as well as a member of the bass-playing supergroup SMV, with fellow bass legends Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller. So, at this point in the game, the man is spending most of his time giving back – to fans, to aspiring musicians, even to comic-book fans.
That last one is a funny story.
Wooten has some friends in Chesapeake, Va. who run a comics store, Amazing Fantasy Comics, and Marvel Comics gave them the opportunity last year to sell a limited-edition issue of “The Amazing Spider-Man” with whoever the owners wanted on the cover. They wanted their pal (and “Spider-Man” fan) Victor to be on the cover, swinging into action with ol’ Spidey.
Needless to say, Wooten was thrilled to be a part of it. “I was able to send a photo in, you know, and they were able to copy the photo,” he says, on the phone while driving through Nashville. “It was really, really nice.” Unfortunately, that didn’t lead to him contributing any music to the summer blockbuster “The Amazing Spider-Man.” “Man, that would’ve been nice,” he says. “I would’ve loved to have done that. Maybe they’ll call me up for the next one.”
Considering how much Wooten records and tours these days (he’ll be performing with Jimmy Herring this Sunday at the Carolina Theatre in Durham), it would be doubtful that he’d have time to see a movie, much less score one. Over the summer, he was putting the finishing touches on not one, but two albums that were released last month: “Words and Tones” and “Sword and Stone,” which is just “Words and Tones” without any vocal accompaniment.
According to Wooten, he wasn’t trying to drop two versions of the same album. “I knew I wanted the CD to feature vocalists, but I was getting all the music done myself at home,” he says. “And I was playing the melodies that I wanted the vocalists to sing, so I could send it to them with a melody. But, it sounded good. I liked it instrumental like that. So, I just decided, hey, I’ll do both. And I had never heard anyone doing that before. And, you know, I just figured it would be a good idea, and I think it is. I mean, I’m really, really enjoying the instrumental versions as much as the vocal versions.”
It helps that Wooten is often surrounded by musicians, performers and a loyal fanbase who are always ready for any project he starts. “Most of the time, I’m able to find the people to help me,” he says. “As soon as I have an idea, somebody shows up and says, ‘Yeah, I can do that.’ And I love the fact that I have fans, you know – for lack of a better name to call them. There are people that like my music and like what I do, and so I want to give them a lot of it. And anytime I can do it in a way that says thank you to them, it’s what I like to do.”
Of course, Wooten wasn’t just composing music during the summer. He was also teaching it at his music/nature camps, located on his own Wooten Woods retreat near Nashville. Wooten holds these camps throughout the year to teach kids (and adults) that music and nature can go quite well together. “It’s just a way of being able to share, with as many people as possible, different ideas about music and life,” he says. “And to try to share music and teach music in a more complete way than what I see being done elsewhere. In other words, how you live your life and how you think and who you are as a person on the inside has a whole lot to do with your musical career and the music that you play.”
It’s all about Wooten giving back. “My mom always said, ‘Treat life right and life will always treat you right.’ And that’s what I’m doing… I’m living my dreams – all of them. And I want people to be inspired to do the same.”