Exclusive Interview: Billy Sheehan From Mr. Big


What are you up to right now?

Writing, recording, rehearsing, unpacking, and de-jet lagging!

Are there any new bands out today that you dig?

Queens of the Stone Age. Beck. Kings X

What would you consider the pinnacle of success?

Satisfaction with what you are & what you have.

When was the first time you told yourself “I’ve made it!”?

Haven’t ever! I don’t look at things that way. Once you achieve something–you go on to the next thing.

What was your worst gig ever? Why?

Hard to say. Not too many bad experiences on stage. It’s before & after that’s the tough part!

What’s the most significant thing you’ve learned lately?

Too many to list! I’m on a constant quest for improvement, knowledge, and truth. It’s been a good year!

Any ‘confidential’ music biz gossip for Rock Confidential?

I keep secrets. I can say that things are rarely what they seem. I have an MP3 of Enrique Iglesias that will blow your mind. He can’t sing a note! It’s hilarious! He’s a millionaire! What’s wrong with the music biz, eh?

How many times has David Lee Roth asked you to rejoin his band?


Dave seems to be out in space these days, mumbling nonsense and a HUGE ego to boot. Has he always been this way? What are your thoughts on Dave?

He was my hero. I love Dave. It’s sad to see. He was once the undisputed King. I won’t forget that.

A couple of years ago Dave jumped the gun and announced he was doing an “Eat ‘Em and Smile” reunion tour with yourself and Steve Vai. If that had been planned properly do you think it would have happened?

Yes! I got in all kinds of trouble because I had a band, signed to a major label and somebody makes an announcement without telling me first—lots of explaining to do! There are CONTRACTS and LAWYERS. I wish it would have been handled differently. It could have happened.

You’ve worked with Steve Vai on numerous occasions. What’s next?

More of the same, I hope! We had a great time on tour. Playing together is a joy!

You started Mr. Big. I’m sure you thought of that band as ‘your baby’. What went down when you left? What are your thoughts on that band?

No thoughts left—it’s over now. We had 12 great years. The success was great anyway! It sure would have been nice to continue, but I can’t do that to myself. I loved the band & the music we made, but it was tough on me to be insulted, ridiculed, mocked, and undermined at every turn. I couldn’t take it anymore. I love Pat & Richie—we got along great and are still good friends.

I picked up your “Compression” CD last year, your first ever solo CD. Any cool stories that went along with the recording of that album?

It was an adventure! I really loved the challenge. It got great reviews and I’ve gotten tons of positive feedback. I had a number one single off it in a major magazine in Japan this summer. I’ll definitely do it again!

You dated Shannon Wilsey aka Savannah for a while. How would you describe the relationship you had with her?

She & I were like two kids together. I never knew “Savannah”—that happened after we split up. I literally begged her on my knees (literally) to not get involved in porn. I watched a sweet, beautiful girl, transformed into a lost soul—very sad.

Did you learn anything from the relationship with Shannon?

Not that I already didn’t know, but shattered homes lead to shattered lives. Kids need both parents. They grow up damaged in most cases without. Run the numbers. That poor kid deserved better.

I didn’t drive till I was 25! Then, it was a Ford LTD.

Kind of car you drove:

What were your ambitions:
To be successful as a musician.

Favorite food:
Anything spicy & exotic!

Whom did you admire:
Joe Hesse—bass player and neighbor who started me playing.

Favorite movie:
2001: A space Oddysey

Worst thing about being 18:
One more year till I got laid the first time!

Best thing:
Youthful exuberence! Drinking age was 18 then!

What kind of guitar did you have:
My Fender Precision Bass—still got it!

You worked where:
I was in a band playing clubs. A year later it turned into Talas.

Gibson Les Paul TV Model / Fender Deluxe Reverb

Guitar and amp:

Album you bought:
Yardbirds–Having a Rave-up

Touring band:
Talas. Opened for Van Halen in 1980

Ford LTD—then a Pinto, then I moved to LA.

Playing in a band.

Queens of the Stone Age

CD you bought:

Movie you saw:
Minority Report

Band you saw live:
Joe Satriani—in Tokyo. I got up & jammed too. Joe was awesome!

Time you heard “To Be With You”:
Can’t remember

Last time a guitarist impressed you:
Last night in Hollywood–I forgot his name though! Sorry.

My Baritone 12 string electric. Custom from Yamaha.


Record you played on:
Eat em & Smile or Lean Into It

Song to play live:
Niacin “Montuno”–it’s blazing!

Food to eat on the road:
Mexican, Thai, Indian—anything spicy.

Guitar tuning:
On the Baritone it’s B to B—Way low!

Since I’m a guitar nut, I rank you up there in the ‘legendary’ guitarists category. I know your accomplishments and own almost all of your recordings. Whom do you consider ‘legendary’? What artist/group do you own every CD in their catalog?

I own every CD of (including many bootlegs): Hendrix, The Beatles, Rory Gallagher, Bowie, Grand Funk, Paco DeLucia, Judas Priest, Sinatra, Humble Pie, Spooky Tooth, Joni Mitchell, Too many to list!! I’m WAY into Rory Gallagher.

Any final words for the fans/readers? Anything you’d like to promote?

I’d like to promote the concept of “Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it sucks”–and the corollary– “Just because you like it, doesn’t mean it’s great”. I’m a lucky guy to make a living doing what I love best. Thank you to everyone who ever bought a record, shirt, or a ticket to my shows. I’ll always do my best for you.