by Frank Goodman
I once saw Darrell Scott sit down and play a song at somebody's show at the Bluebird Cafe, and it put me right on my ass. I thought I was seeing and hearing the ghost of Lowell George, for one thing. But he was even more than that. He sounded like all the things that are good about our country. You might think it's corny, but he sounded like integrity. Sometimes in Nashville, that's a quality that stands out, if you know what I mean.
That was years ago, and I didn't see him anymore, though I'd go out to hear music quite a bit. But I'd see his name on a lot of records, and I'd hear people talk about him in very special terms. People liked to talk about him, in the same way that they like to talk about Buddy Miller. The guy stood for something that made the people feel good about themselves and about the music here in Nashville. Every artistic field needs figures that reinforce the idea that what's important is to be yourself, to find out who it is that you are and what it is you have to offer, and to do that. Not to write some stupid song for an artist you think is a wimp that might get on a beer commercial. There's way too much of that around this town, knuckleheads with three writing appointments every day of the week that should be writing advertising. That are writing jingles, basically, and calling it a song.
Don't get me wrong, Darrell Scott has written and played on his share of jingles, big ones. He just doesn't confuse them with songs. His songwriting success has been a product of writing exactly the song he wanted to write, not the song that his publisher thought he wanted to hear. He was the NSAI Songwriter of the Year last year, based on "It's a Great Day to Be Alive" (one of the biggest singles of Travis Tritt's career, the second most played Country song last year, still getting 1200 spins a week a year later) and other big cuts like "Born to Fly" for Sara Evans, "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" for Patty Loveless, and "Heartbreak Town" for the Dixie Chicks. He and Tim O'Brien cowrote "When No One's Around" for Garth Brooks. (They're not all from last year, but all part of the buzz around this enigmatic yet open-faced character.)
He is that rare successful songwriter (like Tim O'Brien) that is even more highly touted as a player, and he's done a staggering amount of session work since his official arrival in Nashville ten years ago. You won't find many people on a hundred records that are also writing hit songs. But it's because Scott is not spending his time trying to write hit songs, like so many people are. He's just making music all the time, and the songs from his albums get cut by artists looking for great songs, and his soulful playing of many instruments creates a demand for him to play on their record, to get Darrell Scott's vibe on it. There are certain people you hire to put some tasty icing on the cake, and others you hire to bring a certain depth to the session, and Scott figures in the latter category.
Darrell and I didn't know each other, but we had a number of friends in common. He agreed to meet me at Bongo Java late one night. They finally kicked us out after both sides of the C-90 had run out, and we were still talking all the way to our cars. Inside of a few minutes, it really felt like I was talking to an old friend. It's kind of a long interview, but believe me, we were still scratching the surface. That's a deep well, there. continue