|Interview SCOTT MCCLATCHY
June 2003 (by E-mail) www.scottm.com and www.myspace.com/scottmcclatchy
This is an interesting experiment. Usually I know the singer-songwriter in person, usually I have seen him play live... Not this time. When I first started writing for a music website, I received a very nice welcome-mail from Scott McClatchy and his manager Kristy. Of course that caught my attention and then I remembered the name too. Scott's album "Redemption" had been Number One on Theo Oldenburg's Alt.Country Cooking yearlist and he apparently is also a favorite of DJ Jan Donkers. As my musical taste is often simular, I couldn't wait to listen to the CD and it had indeed exactly what I like: a voice with the right emotions, a diversity in musical arrangements and great lyrics. I was impressed! It turned out to be Scott's second album, before his solo-career he was frontman in The Stand, then he moved from Philadelphia to New York City. I suppose I need an excuse to interview Scott, can I just say I'm curious about him?
Johanna: Scott, my favorite song on your album "Redemption" is "My Family's Land". The subject of struggling farmers is usually picked up by singers from the MidWest and you're from the urban Eastcoast. What is your connection with these serious problems of the farmers?
Scott: Thanks. I'm happy that you like the song. As a songwriter, I write about things that appeal to me. It could be about things that I have personally experienced, or things that I feel are important. The struggles that modern day farmers have to deal with is still a very important issue. I had read "The Grapes Of Wrath" and "My Family's Land" was written after I finished the book.
J: How important is it for you to write about social issues? Do you think you can make a difference, by getting people's attention for something?
S: On this, I'm influenced by many of the great writers that have come before me. When you take on a social issue, it's very important not to trivialize that issue. Like the way that Springsteen handled "The Rising". When I cover social topics, it's because I feel that there are a lot of other folks just like me. People who feel the need to have a connection with other people about issues that are important to them. Do I feel that by writing "My Family's Land" that I can save the family farms? No. But I do know that it's a topic that we can't forget about. And, it's an issue that will get worse if we don't try to keep it in the forefront of society's thoughts.
J: Another fascinating song is "The Legend", what kind of image do you see when you sing this song? Is it about a real person maybe?
S: The image that I have, and it's one I've seen a lot of, is that there are a lot of really talented people in this world. And, for whatever reason, a lot of those people will never get the recognition they deserve. When I wrote "The Legend", it was based on a true experience. I was on the road, and we played a show with a guy who, if you heard his music, you'd liked it. But, he never got enough people to hear it. So, there he was, working hard just to pay the rent.
J: You also recorded "The Weight", giving the somewhat chewed-out song a surprising twist by sharing lead vocals with the famous Dion DiMucci, Willie Nile and Scott Kempner. You also played guitar for Dion, I'm curious: how did you first meet and what happened after that?
S: When I make my records, I want all my friends to join in, and I really have a lot of fun doing it. I've known Willie Nile & Scott Kempner for years, they are both great guys, whose work I've always loved. So getting them to sing on the track was an easy call.
I first met Dion after Dion had called Scott Kempner and asked him to put a band together. They were getting ready to do a tour, and after a rehearsal, Scott brought Dion to see my band play. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, Dion asked me if I wanted to play in the band!!! It was AMAZING!
All through the experience, Dion was always really great towards me. So, when Scott Kempner was in the studio doing his guitar and vocal parts on the CD, I thought it would be a blast to have Dion sing a verse or two on "The Weight". We called him, he said "yes" and then he delivered one of the coolest moments of my musical career!! ;-)
J: You also played with Tommy Womack from Nashville, the name sounds familiar, but... Please, tell us more about your work with him? Should we check him out?
S: Tommy Womack is a wonderfully talented songwriter / guitar player / harmonica player / live performer. The guy can do it all. I've been friends with Tommy for years, but I've only had the good fortune to work with him on a few occasions. At the time, we were sharing the same bass player (Scott Yoder), and Yoder had booked some shows that collided with Tommy's schedule. So, I learned all of Tommy's songs on both guitar & bass. We played in Philadelphia, I was playing guitar. The next night, we were in Cleveland, I was playing bass. It was a blast. Should you check him out? YES!! Pick up his CDs, and he's written one of the funniest books ever about the life of being a musician, it's called "The Cheese Chronicles".
J: Is there a concert you did, which was so good (or so weird!) that you always like to tell people about it?
S: I've been blessed in this department. I've really been able to live out a lot of my dreams. Playing with Dion, some nights we got to play in front of 17,000 people. That was unbelievable. :-)
Most recently my band was playing a festival in France. A good friend & DJ, Jacques Spiry, asked me if we were going to play "The Weight", well, what made that song so much fun on the CD was having Willie, Kempner & Dion. So I didn't know if we could deliver a strong version of the song live. Then I realized, we're at a festival, there's lots of singers here. So I asked around. We ended up having Lee Roy Parnell, Verlon Thompson & Guy Clark sing with us!!!!! That was pretty special. :-)
J: You managed to get the attention of our oldest, most respected DJ Jan Donkers. He rarely dedicates so much time for session and interview to just one artist. How did that all happen?
S: We were working with promoter Robbie Klanderman at Sonic RendezVous. And he got Jan a copy of the record. Jan asked if we could do an interview with him at SXSW. We were happy to do it.
And I know this sounds like a cliche but he was really nice. The interview went really well and Chris Erikson (my guitar player) and I played an acoustic session for his show as well. It was one of those great days where everyone got on well and had a really great time.
J: You also produced CD's for Meghan Cary, Hillary Epstein and Simone Reyes. Who are they? What do you like in producing?
S: I have stumbled into a side career of producing CDs for singer-songwriters. Most of these folks do not have bands. So I help them take their solo projects, put together full band arrangements, a lot of times using my band, and then get the best recordings of the songs we can. It's a whole lot of fun. So far I've only worked with local NYC artists. And, who knows where it will all lead, but I sure am enjoying it!
|J: New York is a very fast city, people yell at you when you're crossing the
street or when you're in the line at the post office and you're apparently
too slow. Life is also very expensive there... Doesn't it bother you, to
live is such a tough city? ;-))
S: Boy!! What a loaded question!! ;-) I always tell folks that NYC is just like any other place: there are good parts and bad parts, there are good folks & jerks! Hey, it's because of the jerks that us nice guys appear so nice! ;-)
And yes, it is expensive. And sometimes it's a little too fast paced. But where else in the world can you experience so much art, culture, and great food?
And, had you been here the week after September 11th, you would have seen such an amazing outpouring of human kindness that you would never want to live anywhere else.
J: You dedicated your album to victims of September 11th. Did you know people in person, who died on that horrible day?
S: Everyone lost someone. The dedication on my CD was written at a time I was searching for understanding. And, the comment I wrote about our Fire Departments, well, I just wish that people would treat our Police Departments & Fire Departments with the same awe and respect every day as we treated and respected them right after the disaster.
J: Were you in the city then?
S: Yes. My wife & I watched it all happen from our apartment.
J: Everybody said that life would never be the same, how did the disaster change your life?
S: Life is different. And it's different in ways that are really hard to explain. Everyone who was here has their own story to tell. For me, as with most people, there is a personal side to this. But, if it's OK with you, I'll keep it. Someday, when we meet, I'll tell it to you over a drink or two.
J: Please, tell us something about the music-scene in New York?
S: It's amazingly diverse. I can go out every night in a month and see great acts without ever repeating myself. And, with the great group of players that we have in our "Americana" circle, there's always really great musicians to work with.
Also, in NYC, you get an amazing cross-pollination of all kinds of musical genres. Sometimes you can walk into a club and really be surprised by the entertainment that's on stage.
J: Are you working on new material? What are your plans for the near future?
S: Yes. I've got about 16 songs that I just started to record. With any luck, I will have them recorded by the end of the summer.
As for my future plans, that's all a little unsure right now. As you might know, my first two CDs came out on LIB Recordings. I started this label with Bud Sons, a friend from my hometown. We were struck with a huge loss last year when Bud passed away. So, I'm not sure if I'll keep LIB going, or look for another way to get my music out.
J: You have your very own sound, but it's still tempting to compare you with other singers, maybe because you bring together several influences. What names do you hear most often?
S: I always take it as a huge compliment when folks compare my music to others. The three I hear most often are Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty & Steve Earle.
J: Who are your own favorites?
S: Boy, this could take a while! ;-) I grew up on a steady stream of Rod Stewart. And if you ask me, he was one of the great "Americana" artists. His first few solo albums have all the right instruments: acoustic guitars, fiddles, mandolins. Man, that stuff still sounds great today.
Of course Fogerty, Springsteen & Earle are faves. But I've also got to tip my hat to guys like John Prine & Richard Thompson.
As far as bands go, there was a lot of spins by the classics: The Beatles, The Stones. But as I started playing music I discovered newer bands like Uncle Tupelo & The BoDeans.
Currently, I'm really enjoying Reckless Kelly - this band out of Austin, Texas.
J: Everybody dreams to have a song in a movie. You had three on the soundtrack of "God, Sex & Apple Pie", which even won the Award for Best Picture at the Parallel Film Festival. Please, tell us the secret: how do you get songs in a movie?
S: Honestly? It was pure luck!! ;-) I knew someone who knew someone who knew that the producer was looking for music like mine. A few e-mails were traded. And the next thing I know -- the check's in the mail! ;-)
J: By the way, what is the movie about?
S: Sticking by your friends, even when they screw up.
J: What makes you feel cheerful?
S: Wow, how long do we have? ;-) I still love music. Both playing live & recording. There's something about this process that still has not grown old for me.
I'm still thrilled at seeing live performances. Music, theatre, whatever, I love to go out and experiencing things.
And, as old fashioned as this sounds, my friends & family. I'm blessed with a great wife, great family, and some of the best friends on the planet. With a line up like that, how can I not be cheerful? ;-)
J: Good luck!!!
S: And my best to you. I hope my answers made sense.
I hope we get to meet somewhere down the road.