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Billy Sherwood of Yes at Streetlight Records

In Music
FRET NOT: Prog rock legend Sherwood (of Yes) spills the beans on the music biz at Streelight Records in San Jose.

FRET NOT: Prog rock legend Sherwood (of Yes) spills the beans on the music biz at Streelight Records in San Jose.

It sounds incongruous at first, to check out a prog-rock legend at 10 in the morning. That’s the hour of the day when, we’ve come to believe, that most rock stars are just crawling into bed for a few hours of half-sleep before soundcheck.

But for Billy Sherwood’s appearance in San Jose next week, that hour makes sense. Because this is less of a performance and more like school.

Sherwood—who plays bass in the legendary progressive rock band Yes, and is a respected audio engineer and producer—will come to Streetlight Records in San Jose on Wednesday morning June 20 to share a bit about what’s he learned from decades in the music business.

For Yes superfans, the appeal is obvious enough. But for any musician serious about getting better, Sherwood is ready to offer up his brain to be picked.

“The idea is that I’m going to discuss engineering, producing, the music business, what do you do with your songs when you have them finished, how to get things going in your career, all of that,” said Sherwood, 53, by phone from a bus on which he is touring with Yes. “I’ll have my basses and guitars there, and if there is anyone looking for tips or techniques, we’ll do that, too. I’ll just let it flow where it goes, depending on who’s there.

Sherwood first joined Yes back in 1997 after striking up a fruitful partnership with original Yes bass player Chris Squire. Back then, Sherwood played guitars and keyboards. He left the band in 2000 but was asked back in 2015 to replace Squire, who had fallen ill. Before he died later that year, Squire gave Sherwood his blessing to be his permanent replacement. Two years later, Sherwood took on a similar role with Asia, another prog-rock supergroup.

Outside of Yes, Sherwood has recorded a number of solo albums and has worked as a session player and producer for a countless list of projects with, among many others, Quiet Riot, Ratt, Toto, Air Supply and (you can look it up) Star Trek parody-of-himself William Shatner. Sherwood was producer of Shatner’s 2013 album Ponder the Mystery.

Sharing his experience in a clinic setting is a new venture for Sherwood. “I was offered to do a clinic in Italy,” he said, “but I was touring with Yes at the time. But then I thought, maybe I could do it in the States, at the cities that are on the tour. We started asking various venues like record stores and music stores if they’d host. We have nine of them booked so far.” Yes is slated to perform the evening of June 20 at the City National Civic in San Jose.

“It’s not something we had thought about before,” said Streetlight’s store manager Paige Brodsky, who has hosted live musical performances at Streetlight in both San Jose and Santa Cruz. “But this opportunity fell into our laps and it sounded so interesting, we wanted to find a way to make it work. So we’ll call it an experiment.” The Billy Sherwood clinic is Streetlight’s first ticketed event. The fee for the two-hour session is $100. “If it’s successful, we could certainly see doing it again,” said Brodsky.

“Part of the thing about my career,” said Sherwood, “is that I’ve always taken bold steps into new areas that I’ve never been involved in before. This clinic itself is a metaphor for that. You just have to go for it.”

Sherwood was just a toddler when Yes first came together in Britain in 1968. “I was way into Yes from when I was about 12 years old,” he remembered. He first met Squire in the late 1980s and began writing music with him. “The relationship evolved with all the Yes guys after that. Yes has been a centerpiece for all the other things I’ve done in my career.”

Sherwood grew up in a family of entertainers. His father, Bobby Sherwood, was a well-known bandleader and actor; he actually has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His mother was also a singer.

“I don’t want to talk too much about it,” he said, “but I want to explain a bit about my heritage and what I’ve learned from my own experience and my parents’: You have to follow your road, but you can’t just haphazardly go for it. You have to have a target, have a plan.”

Billy Sherwood of Yes
Jun 20, 10am, $100
Streetlight Records, San Jose

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