People of WaterBear – Sam Bell

Welcome to our new People of WaterBear series. A chance for you to get to know more about the industry veterans you’ll learn from at WaterBear. Asking everything from how they got started, their inspirations, lessons from working in music and much more.

First in our series is Head of Guitar, Sam Bell, a leading UK session guitarist and educator.

  • What was the moment you knew you wanted a career in music?

When I was 5/6 years old, I was obsessed with early Rock’n’Roll and I saw the West End Production of the Buddy Holly story. I love the show, but I was more pre-occupied by the musicians recreating the sound of the music I’d listened to on my parents’ vinyl player at home. It was magic! I wanted to do that. I started writing cheesy little songs, playing for family & friends. I’m still doing that now!

  • What are your main sources of inspiration?

Life in general! I love being in nature, I love 90’s video games, I love abstract art and comedy. Musically, I’m really into what top session players get up to, how they can be creative under pressure. I keep going back to Hendrix, Paul Gilbert, Vai, Tame Impala and Talking Heads. It’s cheesy to say that I love all music, but I can find something I enjoy in most genres as long as it’s got heart.

  • What are some key projects have you worked on?

I write tunes for progressive metal band Mask of Judas – we have an album called ‘The Mesmerist’ which I’m proud of. It’s very over-the-top 8-string guitar stuff. I’ve also released my own singles/EP’s of progressive instrumental guitar music. A few years ago, I made a low-fi synthwave-inspired EP called ‘The Earth Completes Another Rotation’. I’ve also been involved in creating lesson courses for LickLibrary. This is always fun; last year I taught a course on Rush’s ‘Moving Pictures’ album. Previously I’ve made courses  featuring Paul Gilbert, Paganini’s 16th Caprice on Guitar, 7-String Guitar Secrets, Tapping Arpeggios and much more. I’m currently creating a course on David Lee Roth’s ‘Eat ‘Em and Smile’. I’ve played many guest solos on various people’s albums, mostly in the Instrumental Metal/Rock genre. And I’ve done many sessions from home for all kinds of things – from Rock Operas to Singer Songwriters. I love it. I also helped structure the Guitar Techniques course for WaterBear!

  • What was your proudest moment in music?

I’ve been fortunate to have had some wonderful times in music. To be honest, I’m always proud of the people I get to play with, hearing how it all comes together. I feel lucky to play and work with some wonderful people. That’s what I’m proud of. One moment personally that took me back a bit was getting the job at LickLibrary. Andy James got me in to do some 8-string stuff for the magazine. From that moment my career changed a lot. He was very kind to give me that opportunity.

  • What brought you to WaterBear?

One of my tutors in my early 20’s was a fantastic player and all-round super gentleman Paul Bielatowicz. He put me forward to Bruce in the very early days of the creation of WaterBear. Meeting Bruce and learning about his vision for WaterBear was very refreshing; I’ve learnt a lot from Bruce. I love the vibe of the whole thing and I love being part of this amazing team. It’s a huge honour. The students are wicked, they keep me on my toes. They always introduce me to new music and ask really insightful questions. The standard of player these days is fantastic. It’s an honour to play a small role in helping students on their musical journeys.

  • Do you have any funny stories that come to mind from your time in the music industry?

There was a time that I had drunk so much Matcha Tea before a show (I had previously done a 500-mile round trip as designated driver) that when I went on stage, after the curtains opened, I couldn’t move my feet or legs! I couldn’t feel my heart beating and everything was super slow. I thought I was passing out! Don’t overdo the caffeine!

  • What are your thoughts on the future of the music industry? How is it shifting?

Deep down I feel as though there is going to be a huge return of live music after this pandemic has passed. People are thirsty for it. The shows might be in smaller venues, there may still be restrictions. But I think everyone is going to appreciate it much more. It’s going to mean more to a lot of people here in the UK.

  • Name an album/artist you think is criminally underrated?

Michael Sembello – ‘Bossa Nova Hotel’. He wrote ‘Maniac’ (which is on that album). He learnt guitar from Pat Martino, who wrote a bunch of stuff for Michael Jackson, George Benson and many others. He played guitar on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Songs in the Key of Life’.

Big thanks to Sam Bell! Check out our unique departments and other amazing tutors here.

By Josh Jones


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Why WaterBear?

Tardigrade (AKA Water Bear)

  • Micro-animal that is found everywhere, in all extreme climates
  • The most resilient creature known to humanity. Survives and adapts to its surroundings
  • This resilience and ability to adapt and survive inspires us in everything we do