This is the latest installment in an ongoing series profiling local musicians.
Chris Puckett’s EP, Bass Olympics 2020, puts the low notes high on the podium. While the bass often plays a supporting role in a band, Puckett’s recording features the heartbeat instrument front and center and, surprisingly, solo.
Currently in the graduate program at East Carolina University earning his CAPS (certificate of advanced performance studies), Puckett explained that discovering his life’s direction was a circuitous route.
He was introduced to music by his dad from an early age. “I remember listening to Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ whenever he would pick me up from day care. When I was a teenager my dad showed me the band Alice in Chains, and that was when I decided to start teaching myself guitar and bass.”
Originally from New Hampshire, his family moved to Pender County when he was in the fifth grade. In high school he began playing bass for church and in the school jazz band. He enjoys playing guitar, bass guitar, upright bass, drums and piano, and has his eye on another instrument. “The albums ‘Ascension’ and ‘Meditations’ by John Coltrane inspired me to want to learn the saxophone,” he said.
When it came time to make a decision about college, Puckett said he “lucked up going to ECU.”
In Puckett’s senior year of high school a friend who was going to go to ECU suggested Puckett apply as well. At the same time, a mentor discouraged majoring in music because it became a chore rather than a pleasure when he was in music school.
“What you say to people that look up to you makes a difference,” Puckett said. “So three semesters in at ECU and I felt like I had no purpose. I then decided to audition for the School of Music and got in somehow. I remember Dr. Bair, the saxophone professor at ECU, followed me into the elevator after my audition telling me that I had a lot of potential to be a really good bass player. That stuck out to me and so I did just that.”
After earning his undergraduate degree, Puckett enrolled in the one year certificate program at ECU, and has plans to pursue his master’s degree at the University of Miami.
“When I went to ECU I really fell in love with jazz music,” Puckett said. “Whenever I listen to the album ‘Speak No Evil’ by Wayne Shorter I get a surge of energy. Sometimes I even cry when listening to music I really love. It’s emotional for me, and pursuing music gives me a sense of purpose. I would say that jazz is my favorite music to play. When you start falling in love with the music you start to get hungry, such as wanting to really learn the language. Jazz is always evolving.”
In addition to many jazz and classical musicians, Puckett cites his high school band director, Keil McMurray, and his music professor at ECU, Carroll Dashiell Jr., as inspirations.
“Mr. Dashiell pushes me to not only become the best musician that I can be, but the best version of myself as well.”
Puckett remembers when his mother passed, Dashiell was very comforting to him. “I will never forget his kindness to me. It’s moments off the band stand like that that remind me of why I long to be a professional musician so that I can be my true self.”
His album of original instrumental music, “Bass Olympics 2020,” was completed during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. “My friend Max Mallett helped me to record, mix and master the tracks. We used Ableton Live recording software. The album took us a few months to mix until we felt that it was ready to be released.”
The tracks are aptly named Gold, Silver and Bronze.
“The music is soothing and is emotional,” Puckett said. “It takes you on a sweet musical journey and is easy to listen to. I began writing instrumental music because I wanted to simplify. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything because the music will speak for itself.”
Concerning his future, in addition to playing to others for therapeutic purposes, he said, “I love being in a school setting and I love people. I have always wanted to be a teacher. I think going to get my master’s would set me up for that. Going to ECU taught me the importance of getting focused. There’s a lot of sacrifice involved, but the most important thing that we can do is to take care of our bodies. The music comes from within.”
Puckett offers private music lessons, and is currently writing a lot of instrumental music he is categorizing as “colors” for a simple visual. The next album he is releasing is called “Prism.”