Robert Trusko is a ubiquitous bass player, lending his talents nightly to projects like Skinny Cooks, Thaddeus Ford Project, Bree & the Fellas, SCAL, Melody Memory and Jamil Byrom and the Grown Folks, but the project closest to his heart is his solo project, TRUSKO.
“I graduated (with a master of arts in music composition from the University of North Texas) in 2014, and I started doing working gigs, playing in cover bands and doing weddings and churches and stuff like that,” the musician remembers. “After a few years, I was starting to develop more interest in Ableton software. It's a digital music software you can use to make beats, and it's great for live performance and live looping.”
It's only been a couple of years since Trusko first took his solo project out on its first stage performance, but he says he's found the process to be incredibly rewarding.
“Over the past two years, I've been playing my music out, which has been cool,” he says. “I've been seeing some of these things that I've been working on forever or just messing around with at home finally coming into fruition and making sense and being executed onstage.”
At its core, TRUSKO is jazz music, but the fusion with modern technology in its composition and performance pushes jazz music into the 21st century.
“To someone who doesn't know it, Ableton software just looks like 64 buttons,” Trusko explains. “But, for a bass player, you can set it up in a mode where it's like playing an eight-fret bass. All the scales and all the chords and all the things I know from my instrument, I can play it on there with a Rhodes patch or some sort of other sound.”
Like jazz, TRUSKO’s music has an improvisational aspect to it that can change depending on the feelings of the composer and the mood of the audience on any particular evening.
“Depending on the environment, when I’m really just doing my songs, it's very dynamic,” Trusko says. “There are some songs that are a little more upbeat and make people maybe want to dance.”
Of course, this kind of approach to composition and performance makes committing songs to a recording more difficult at both the single and album level, but Trusko’s musical influences keep him focused on making the best record possible.
"I'm always inspired by people that can play a whole bunch of instruments on a really high level and just make an album by themselves,” Trusko says, naming artists such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, Thundercat, James Blake and his favorite, D’Angelo.
Earlier this summer, TRUSKO released its first single “Miles” from the upcoming release First Light. An orchestral and spacey track that also makes poignant use of negative space, “Miles” feels like an easy start to an early morning filled with fresh coffee and conversation.
“When I finally released the single, it took me a month to get the arrangement right,” Trusko says. “I redid all the vocal parts and all of the string interludes. I was just really trying to, like, make something lush and something different than what it's like onstage.”
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Taking so much time to release just one track has, in turn, put the release date of First Light in the "to be determined" column, but if it's going to be set in a static recording, Trusko wants to make sure that he gets every element of the performance right.
“I'm hoping to have something by the end of the year for sure – whether that's the album or at least an EP – but it's been a slow process for me,” he says. “I've been pretty conflicted about how to present it, because there's two sides to the way the music works. Some things are very open and improvisatory, and other things that ask a lot in the way that they operate harmonically.”
For all the sounds and instruments Trusko digitally manipulates to bring his solo project together, he takes his voice and his lyrics most seriously.
“Singing is the most musical human instrument,” he says. “It literally comes out of you, you know, it's very personal. I talk a lot and talk to a lot of friends, but even if I'm talking to people, I don't get across what I want. Singing is a way to explain something that I can’t with my words.”