A CONVERSATION WITH DARRELL SCOTT
Puremusic: Thanks for taking the time, I know you're busy.
Darrell Scott: Well, we've been talking about doing this for a long time.
PM: That's true, we first talked about doing this a year ago, at the Jammin' to Beat the Blues benefit, right?
DS: That's right.
PM: And I'm happy to hear that you're making a new record, is that right?
DS: I've definitely laid the groundwork. I started over a year ago, recording with Danny Thompson.
PM: Oh, one of my favorites [Thompson is a fantastic English upright bassist, many know him from his work with Pentangle, one of many sources]. He was playing with you that night we met at the benefit. How did you hook up with him?
DS: Through Tim O'Brien. Tim's project The Crossing, Bluegrass meets Irish music. We had a couple of gigs in Ireland and one in Glasgow, Scotland. We fantasized about Danny being a part of that project, because neither of us exactly had his phone number. Must have been Tim's agent over there that put us in contact. 'Cause Tim just called him up out of the blue and told him about The Crossing project, and Danny was interested in doing it, and Tim sent him some tapes.
PM: Was he familiar with Tim's body of work?
DS: Not that I know of. I believe he was just intrigued by the gathering, basically.
PM: And, while so many people could have attempted a cross-pollination of Irish and American music, this one was particularly successful because of the unique experience that the principals brought to the table.
DS: Danny didn't even record with us, but he was one of those principal elements that enabled this to work. But he was a part of the shows we did over there, and prepared meticulously for it. He listened to the material, and showed up with everything written out. I don't mean chord charts, they were like big band charts, hand written manuscripts. He'd really done his homework.
PM: Do you read like that, standard notation?
DS: No, absolutely not.
PM: Does Tim?
DS: I think Tim can kind of get through reading like that. But not like Danny, that was his medium of learning. Somewhere, he'd gotten classically trained. So that's how he prepared, and that's what he showed up with. It was a great group. A couple of players from Altan, Kenny Malone [one of Nashville's great drummers, allegedly the first to play on a bluegrass recording], Paul Brady, Maura O'Connell, I'm sure to forget some great people.
PM: I've been listening a lot to your Family Tree, and also picked up Real Time, your CD with Tim O'Brien. Tell us about the family from which you came, and the one you're raising. In the song "Hummingbird," for instance, there's a reference to brothers that aren't pickin anymore in the printed lyrics, but it's sung "not talkin anymore" on the record. Was that Hummingbird [a Gibson guitar model] your brother's or your dad's?
DS: It was my dad's. It's essentially a true story, though I embellished on the model, it wasn't actually a Hummingbird.
PM: But it's a very cool name.
DS: It's a cool name, and I've tried to figure out what it was from the photo with people that know such things. It was a lower priced Gibson, though my dad always wanted a Hummingbird. If you had a Hummingbird, well, then, you were happening. I had forgotten this when I wrote the song, but one of my brothers reminded me later that my
Dad tried to spray paint a Hummingbird pattern on this cheaper Gibson. But anyhow, it's a true story. It was his guitar, and we took it back to the swamp in Northern Indiana to float it, it was wood, we were really young.
PM: What about that reference to brothers that aren't pickin or aren't talkin anymore? Did you grow up with a tough band of brothers?
DS: Well, the brothers lyric refers actually to my dad's brothers, my uncles. It was just a reference in passing to something that happens a lot in families, where people stop talking for a time. I did write it as "pickin" and sang it as "talkin," that's true. I cut my vocals live as I'm cutting the guitar, and that's how it came out. Then you've got to live with it, or doctor it, as the case may be.
PM: And do you have brothers and sisters of your own?
DS: Oh yeah, I have four brothers.
DS: Oh yeah, every one of them. I was in a family band, I was in a brother band.
PM: Yeah, me too.
DS: Then you know. We started in church, and my dad had been playing since he was fifteen.
PM: Having a songwriter for a dad, I can't imagine what that must have been like.
DS: And a songwriter who wrote songs even though he had no outlet for them, just to write. Here in Nashville, you write songs and take them to your publisher, try to get them cut. But this was just writing songs because you wanted to, or had to. For the sake of writing a song. So, absolutely, music was central to my growing up. Period.
A lot of families play baseball together, or go fishing. We played music.
PM: Do any of your brothers play professionally?
DS: Yeah, all of them at different times. Making their living, or supplementing their living. It ebbs and flows, depending on family and other circumstances. One of my brothers teaches music in public school, for instance. Another has an original band in CA, a jam band.
PM: Really? Whereabouts?
DS: Let's see, Novato.
PM: That's my old stompin ground, Marin county. What's the name of his band?
DS: Taos Hum. David Scott, he's a keyboard player. He's nine years younger than I am, he's 33.
PM: I gotta get his email from you later. Let's patch in the story of how and when you came to Nashville. continue