Bassist Krauss returning to familiar territory

Bassist Krauss returning to familiar territory

CHAMPAIGN — While touring with Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, bassist Viktor Krauss likes to take his folding bicycle so he can explore.

When he comes to Champaign next week for the band's gig at the Virginia Theatre, Krauss won't have to take a map or GPS with him when he tools around.

He knows the twin cities well.

"I think it's such a great place to grow up," said the 1987 Champaign Central High alum who has lived in Nashville since 1992.

"If I could do everything I do here in Nashville, I would live in Champaign. It's such a manageable city.

"It seems to me you could always do something interesting there at any point in time, whether through the university or something happening in town or at Krannert Center.

"And there's such an appreciation for the arts. There are real music fans there. I would love for my kids to be able to have that kind of experience."

But as cliche as it might sound, he said, Nashville is the mecca for songwriters. In addition to being a much in-demand bassist, Krauss composes and produces too.

He and his wife, an adjunct professor at Belmont University, and their three kids live in an area between Belmont and Vanderbilt universities.

"It feels like Urbana but with hills," Krauss said. His sister, famed fiddler-singer Alison Krauss, also lives in Music City and so do their parents, who moved there in 2000 from Champaign.

Their son began playing for Lyle Lovett just two years after moving to Nashville.

Their 7:30 p.m. concert Saturday at the Virginia Theatre will be their third here. The Large Band performed at the Virginia in 1998 and at Krannert Center in 2006.

"It's always such a classy show," Viktor said. "I remember back before I moved to Nashville hearing the Large Band record come out. I kind of had a little bit of a mission to see if I could work with Lyle somehow."

Fortunately, Krauss ended up in the right place at the right time but admitted he "kind of bothered" Lovett's managers periodically.

"One time I got lucky and called at the right time," he recalled. "They said Lyle might need a bass player for the next tour. There were no auditions. It was based on recommendations."

Viktor met with Lovett and has toured with him and his Large Band ever since, as well as Lovett's smaller acoustic group.

"It's been a great run, in terms of working with him," Krauss said. "In fact, I'm kind of spoiled. He gets such great players. He demands a certain amount of professionalism.

"Anytime when I get in a situation less than that I'm like, 'OK, this is the real world.' I try to smile as much as I can if it's not running as smoothly as it would be with Lyle."

Besides creating a professional atmosphere, Lovett treats his band members well, Krauss said.

Not to mention he keeps them busy.

"This has been a crazy year," Krauss said. "I think this year, I was counting up, we've done close to 100 dates, which is kind of a heavier year than it has been."

During this phone interview, Krauss was with the Large Band in Vermont. The current tour kicked off out West and then "hovered" in the Midwest for 10 days or so and then went East and then South — including Lovett's home state of Texas.

And then back to the Midwest again.

Besides Lovett, Krauss tours regularly with the great jazz guitarist Bill Frisell.

"He's a real joy to play with," Krauss said. "He played on both of my solo records" — "II" released in 2007 on Back Porch Records and "Far From Enough," released by Nonesuch in 2004.

Krauss also tours regularly with the renowned dobro player Jerry Douglas, who has won 13 Grammy Awards, is a three-time Country Music Association Musician of the Year and plays with Viktor's sister, Alison Krauss and Union Station.

Viktor Krauss also has played as a sideman for many others and appears on numerous recordings. He's played bass for television shows, movies and documentaries.

One TV series for which Krauss plays regularly is the ABC music drama "Nashville." But he's been on camera for that only once.

"We did a show at the end of this season that was actually a live performance featuring all the actors; I was in that, in the house band," Krauss said. "That was fun, just to meet all the actors and find out if they can really sing."

As for film scores, Krauss would love to do more of them but said he would have to move to Los Angeles to really break into that business.

Among his film credits: three compositions for Ken Burns' documentary "Baseball: The Tenth Inning"; "Twister"; Robert Altman's "Dr. T. and the Women" — Krauss worked with Matt Rollings and Lovett on that; and the independent film "Dodge City." Also, cues and songs from his records are featured in the documentaries "I Hear Thunder" and "The Oasis Project."

Krauss was a music composition major at the University of Illinois, where he became interested in electronic music and studied with Scott Wyatt, among others.

For the most part, Krauss is known as an upright bass player, though he also plays electric bass. Krauss is OK with being pegged as an upright specialist because it leads him to less mainstream, more eclectic, more interesting music projects, he said.

As a kid, he played guitar and trumpet and then, as a middle school student, noticed the bass prominently sticking out of a string orchestra. He realized the instrument had a presence and rumbled lower than the other instruments.

"It seemed like there was this depth and power that the instrument brought," he remembered. "I think that's why I continued liking it. The bass is one of the most powerful arrangers in terms of being able to change the mood of a piece based on what octave you play. A little of it will go a long way — even the duration of the note or an octave can really alter the whole piece of music or a particular moment in a song or instrumental piece of music."

And Krauss continues to like touring even though he misses his kids, now 11, 9 and 6 years old. Whenever he finds a break in his schedule, he flies home to see them and his wife.

Touring, though, is a great way to see the country, he said.

"The group of people who are out here on tour now with Lyle is just great. They become some of your best friends. A lot of the people have been involved with Lyle as long as I have or longer. I'm still the new guy."

If you go

What: Lyle Lovett and His Large Band including bassist/Champaign native Viktor Krauss.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Virginia Theatre, 223 Park Ave., C.

Tickets: $58.50, $49.50 and $39.50

Information: 356-9063 or

Topics (2):Music, People