A while back we introduced the ESO Bass Strap, and Billy Lebua was one of the earliest adopters. Fast forward to today, and Billy is one of ESO Strap's strongest supporters. Recently we had the chance to talk to Billy and find out what he's currently working on, what (and who) inspires him to play, and even his favorite cities to pass through. Check it out!
ESO: Where are you from originally? Where did your love for Soul, Funk, and R&B come from?
Billy: I’m originally from Bangkok, Thailand and moved to California when I was a teenager. I grew up listening to jazz and R&B records that my older brother had laying around my house. I started playing Bossa Nova guitar at first, then gradually moved on to soul, fusion jazz and R&B, learning the bass lines from these styles as well.
Is there anyone in particular whose style of bass or guitar playing you tend to emulate most?
I don’t tend to emulate any one person in particular. I more likely tend to be influenced by a little bit of each of the many great musicians I've come across. To name a few... Joe Dart, Victor Wooten, Benny Greb, Dave Weckl, Mike Stern, John Mayer, Pino Palladino, Sharay Reed, Isaiah Sharkey, John Patituci, Pat Metheny, and many more.
You’ve collaborated with a lot of musicians. Have any of these collaborations made a major impact on your direction as an artist? Who is on your short list of current musicians you’d like to work with?
I’d say almost all my collaborations have made a major impact to my career as an artist, but I've had to say one of the most important has been with Bianca Richardson (drummer, Marcus Miller). We've become best friends too.
To make a short list of artists I’d like to collaborate with... VulfPeck, Pitbull, Tom Misch, Thaddeus Dixon, Ruben Wan, Robert Glasper and Knower.
What brought BnB Grooves together as a group?
Me and Bianca... We always do gigs - shows and recording sessions - together, but as hired guns. We thought that it would be really interesting if we were to come out with our own original music, since we both have very similar taste. We like gospel, R&B, futuristic funk. Basically everything that grooves, LOL!
You play a lot of live shows. In your experience, what city has the most soul?!!
I'd have to say Los Angeles has the most soul. I think because so many people who live in LA have a career in the entertainment business. The crowd has always been supportive.
What’s the last great record you bought?
The last great record I bought would be Ozone Squeeze by a blues/jazz guitarist Oz Noy. But I also stream Spotify a lot as well (LOL).
And what guitars or basses are in your arsenal at the moment?
Ha, I’m currently using G&L guitars AND basses!
ESO Strap came out with a bass strap a little over a year ago, and you were one of the first to adopt it. How’s it been working out for you?!!
I was using wide leather straps for years. They were somewhat comfortable, but they were very heavy and they added more weight to my guitars. I saw ESO Strap's ads on Bass Players Magazine so i ordered one. To me, they look really cool and yet still have that wide padding to support my shoulder without adding additional weight. It’s been working fantastically ever since. I’ve done shows, recording, rehearsals with no more annoyance or shoulder fatigue.
What’s next for your solo work? BnBGrooves?
My next plan is finishing up an EP with BnB grooves, and we plan to start a US tour sometime in the middle of 2018. We also aim to hit the road with some top billboard artists. Whichever opportunity comes first.
My solo work is planned to come out this year as well. I’m setting a goal to create a small, intimate new pop culture for my audiences. Hopefully this attracts more hipsters. (LOL).
Billy Lebua is an official #ESOambassador. To find out how you can apply to become an ambassador find us here.
Find out more about Billy Lebua, and the many artists he's had the pleasure to collaborate with on his site.