Exclusive Interview With Emmy Winner Tony Saunders

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Tony Saunders is a two-time Emmy winning bassist! His world famous keyboardist father, Merl Saunders, got him started in the music industry at an early age with Herbie Hancock and Sly Stalone.

Tony received one of his first piano lessons from Herbie Hancock. He received an Emmy at 14 years old with his father for the children’s special Soul Is, a PBS documentary featuring Black poetry accompanied by Tony on the bass.

At age 17 he began playing with his father and Jerry Garcia, and was a featured musician in Merl Saunders & Aunt Monk. Later Tony played in the original Rainforest Band, and recorded on all other projects of his father’s. Legendary bassists Chuck Rainey, Jack Casady and John Kahn all took interest in Saunders’s ability.

Saunders has scored movies, corporate videos, TV shows and commercials, and produced many CDs, primarily out of his own studio, Studio 1281. Tony has produced over 400 tracks with his core musicians Dante Taz Roberson on Drums, Bill Hampton on Guitar, and Sylvester Burks on Keyboards.

Tony’s first solo CD “Bigger than Outside” was released in October 2011. It remained on the charts for 70 weeks.

I had a chance to sit with Tony and chat a bit about his music.

Do you remember the first time you heard your music on television or film? 

I heard my bass playing on a PBS special Soul IS, which was recorded in 1969; that show won an Emmy.

Tell me about your Emmy Awards…

The first was for a PBS Special titled Soul IS when I was 14, which I won with My Dad. This was I playing bass playing along with Black children saying poetry.

The second was for the Sun Microsytem sponsored series Digital Journey. I wrote the music for this entire series and one of the episodes won and Emmy. The episode featured me writing Chinese Music.

Who are your heroes?

Willie Mays, Michael Jordan, and my Dad, Merl Saunders; they all had a desire to do great things and were great at their craft.

What do you like best about your profession?

I love that I get to do what I really love in life. I love all aspects of making music. The production, the recording, working with great musicians and singers all make me smile. The reaction of people hearing the music touches my soul deeply. I work long hours, up at 6 am most days and put in 12 to 15 hours a day on my craft. I truly Romance the Bass as I Romance life.

What would you do differently in your career?

I would have concentrated on my music more and waited to have a family until in my 30’s.

How has the industry’s technology changed in your thirty-year music career?

It has changed so much. I remember lights being on the wall to designate every 30 seconds at the old Fantasy Records Studio. I remember learning as a teen how to cut tape to do edits. Now everything is computerized and we are able to record globally with people we never see. Technology has improved everything but the sound of tape and the sonic sound of an album. The only thing that hasn’t changed is that a good song is a good song. And a great musician or singer is still the best thing you will ever hear.

Watch “My First Love” with Tony Saunders and Howard Hewett:

You can find Tony at:



Alysia Stern is the demiurgic CEO of The Rendezvous Show Inc., a musical PR company. She is also a gifted, multi-published children's book author, a television talk show host and radio personality, an actress, and a celebrity journalist. Alysia began writing at the age of nine and has been highly received in the media since 2000. Her first innovative book, My Nanny Georgeann, was written in 1999. Since then, she has created, written, and published nine more children’s books with her team, Constance Lehry and Anthony DeSantis. Her books are available at Barnes & Noble, the NY public library, Amazon, iBooks, in hard and soft copy, and for the Kindle and Nook. Alysia schedules an annual book tour through New York State, where she entertains children and reads her books to them in schools, charities, day care centers, and summer camps. Since the early 2000s, Alysia has utilized her ingenious writing style and captured the hearts of many as a writer, a world-known poet, and a journalist; she has written for numerous columns, papers, and magazines. Bringing her versatility and zest for creativity from paper and pen to life, her creations have ranged from parenting advice, spiritual awareness, relationships, and politicians to restaurant reviews and celebrity interviews. She has spent time with artists such as Gloria Estefan, Stevie Nicks, and Snooki and pro ball players Tiki Barber, Dwight Gooden, and Sean Landeta. In 2012, Alysia began the journey with Madhouse TV as a talk show host. Her famed show, Rendezvous with Alysia, was seen in 78 countries and by thousands of people weekly. After years of helping artists succeed and pursue their dreams through the life lessons she has learned herself, Alysia officially started her own incorporated PR Company in 2012 with Cristino Melendez. Their love for music has kept them on a journey to help numerous indie artists with their music careers. They built their own radio station in N.Y.C. and started their own station TRS 247, which has taken off beyond their wildest dreams. They have interviewed various guests, including Debbie Gibson, Eddie Money, The Bangles, Chubb Rock, Dres Black Sheep, Melissa Etheridge, Lisa Loeb, Bobby Caldwell, Air Supply, and so many more incredible musical sensations. Acting is also something that has captured Alysia's interest, and she has enjoyed dabbling in it. In 2012 she began filming her first segment for Investigation Discovery’s Dirty Little Secrets. In 2014, Alysia played the role of Lita in the film Money Talks, Bullshit Walks, and in February of 2014, she filmed her first show with A TASTE OF NY, which airs on Channel 79 Time Warner Cable. Her new Web Series for Spoton Magazine, “On The Spot with Alysia Stern,” focuses on showcasing local tri-state area businesses. Outside of work, Alysia is the mother of twins. She enjoys speed walking, cross training, music, sushi, and feeding the homeless.

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