TMI: Desiree Bassett, guitarist for Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour

Name: Desirée Bassett
Age: 19
Occupation: Lead Guitarist in Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour
Found at: Max's Oyster Bar (West Hartford)

What was it about the guitar that attracted you to start playing?

The first time I saw my dad play I was two years old and watched him in amazement and it was the first instrument to which I gravitated. It was really hard to hold the guitar. My dad bought me a kid's sized guitar and taught me the chords and scales and single notes. I was changing strings and learned how to tune it and over time I learned how to tune it by ear.

Is the title Child Prodigy a difficult one to shoulder and live up to?

I don't think I know how to answer that question. For me I don't put a status on myself. For me I just like to go out there and do what I love. People have different opinions of me. They might like me they might now. Irregardless I just keep going and doing my best.

What was it like to perform with artists like Living Color, members of the Allman Brothers and Sammy Hagar at such a young age?

It's truly an honor to play even one song much less to meet them, for sure. They have a lot of wisdom and knowledge and they've each shared and shown me different things about performing. Everything they've taught me I've applied to my performance and to being a better artist.

Who's influenced you as a guitarist?

Joe Satriani and Jimi Hendrix are big ones. Boston was a huge band that was very influential to me.

What is your most interesting quality?

I'm a very outdoorsy person. I love dirt-biking and fishing and riding ATV's. I'm into the arts so I love drawing and painting.

What is so important to you that without it, life would not be worth living?

Definitely family.

How hard is it being away from your family whilst touring?

It's really hard for me and especially with my dad as he and I have a very close bond, we share everything together, the good and bad experiences. I try to keep in touch as best I can and try to keep them in the loop. The Cirque du Soleil tour is so great because everyone is really close. I'm the youngest person in the troupe.

What's your proudest moment in life so far?

I have to say being able to stick with doing something I love. Being able to inspire people, especially kids, is a big one. I've always wanted to help kids. I like to be able to give to the people.

What's your guilty pleasure?

I like to shop. Anything really. On our days off I try to visit the cities we're visiting on tour and buy something evocative of that city.

How did you come to be the lead guitarist on tour with Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour?

Well the musical director Greg Phillinganes found my stuff on YouTube and called my dad and told my dad he wanted me in the band. I had no idea what was going on but I happened to be in my room listening to Michael's music. I came downstairs to breakfast with a Michael Jackson song stuck in my head and my dad told me, "You're never going to believe the opportunity you've just been offered." I couldn't believe it. I was awestruck. Based on what Greg saw of me he knew I was the person he wanted for this tour.

How is it performing with veteran musicians who performed with Michael Jackson?

It’s been a really great experience and I’ve learned a ton from them. It’s real fun!

What was their reaction to meeting you?

I didn’t know anyone before I got [to creation], so it was a little bit strange at first but after the first few days we were all getting along really great!

Were you a fan of Michael Jackson's music before this tour?

I was. The first time I heard it I was in first grade and every year our music teacher would play the "Thriller" video for us. Michael was genius of bringing the worlds of pop and rock together. It's been great learning the material as I'd never played pop before so it's a lot of fun.

Since you're from CT, how will it feel to perform for all the friends and family who are sure to come out to the show?

It’s going to be the absolute best and is going to drive me! I’m really really looking forward to it. A lot of my friends haven’t seen the show yet so I’m just excited for them to see a show as incredible as this.

What do you love and hate most about touring?

Since this is my first tour seeing all these new places and I love the show itself. The only downfall is it can get exhausting, but it's definitely worth it.

How many places does this tour visit?

The tour takes three years to complete and visits the entire world.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Definitely after the tour is over pursuing stuff with my own music and my own band.

What drives you on?

How much the crowd loves the music. People are expecting certain music and the people are there to hear Michael's music which they love so much. The reaction of the crowd drives me on so much. This is what I love best. Playing the guitar just gets me going.

How is it for you as a musician to refrain from going off on a solo in such a choreographed show?

It's not too restricted. Each of the musicians is given a solo opportunity where they can have fun with the music. Too me it's not just going out to play but the theatrical aspect of the performance which is all new to me. I wear a leather outfit with platform shoes and a huge mohawk. It's fun.

What ambitions do you still have?

I want to play with Joe Satriani. He's my all-time idol ever since I was little. That's my big one.

Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour plays at the XL Center in downtown Hartford on May 2-3, 2012. Tickets available at XLCenter.com.

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