Jim Scott – Heart In Another Land Interview
With a deep soul, authenticity, and sage wisdom he invites all to get involved with the issues he raises. He communicates this love in lyrical melodies, memorable verses, and even humorous surprises. His songs amplify voices and allow everyone to join in. We are talking here of course about Boston-based Singer-Songwriter and Composer, Jim Scott. We sat down with Jim for an interview to discuss his upbringing as a musician as well as his new Album, “Heart In Another Land” which dropped on all streaming platforms November 30th.
When did you start to get interested in music?
My parents were musicians, teachers actually by the time I came along. Small schools – I had my Mom for music in Elementary School and my Dad for Math in High School. My mother was an accomplished clarinetist and taught piano lessons to all the kids while I was growing up. My father played viola but also some guitar and showed me the first chords. I got a banjo uke, it was old when I got it and I still have it. I strummed chords with my Dad. Though I studied guitar too, I concentrated on percussion through high school and played in the Boston Youth Symphony. I didn’t have a concept of making music any other way than being a literate good player and being able to participate in anything from classical to any style. I got out of Eastman School of Music and went into the Army Band Jazz Ambassadors. I played electric guitar in the Army. We toured the country. So after that I was seasoned in Jazz and I worked my way through a lot more school playing in bars, every kind of music. Only then did I begin to develop my voice as a songwriter. I’d written songs but when I really got a focus of what I wanted to say, that brought me to a transition from player in other people’s bands to my own thing.
If you were an advertisement what would your slogan be?
Saving the Earth One Song At A Time – maybe.
My website has the headline Music for Earth, Justice and Peace. – All those good Granola subjects.
I’m not big on the,“I love you baby, I’m gonna do something self-destructive unless you come back,” songs.
Which is the part you enjoy the most about music?
I love the interaction with the audience. I’m sure that practicing creativity is sort of for myself, but I always expected someone would be there to listen to what I’ve created. When you’ve moved people, touched people, had an experience with people, and they let you know how they like it, there’s no better feeling. They say the artist gets to “presume intimacy” beyond what goes in normal behavior. That’s a real privilege, I try to honor it.
Most artists say that through their art they learn more about themselves, heal injuries… In which aspects has music helped you?
The things I philosophize about in songs sneak around back and kick me from behind. There’s been many songs I started with some anger and frustration, but I usually feel like there needs to be a positive result of my going to the trouble, so I like having some resolution in there. This I think has taught me to treat people that way too.
What does music mean to you?
I could talk about that all day. For one the harmonic sounds fix us up. They take our jangled masses of protoplasm and line them up, in the key of two sharps or something, and we feel better. Rhythm is life. But more than that, in song the music is the vehicle for words, for a message. Shaping and supporting that message with the right rhythm and harmony makes a more powerful, focused statement than just shouting.
I’m old enough to remember the protests where people sang. Sing slowly, and kneel, so as not to be threatening to the police. Now I’m excited by the activists out there in the last few months, but it’s people leading chants with a bull horn. Maybe that’s a sign of how far we’ve come, that such anger can be expressed without getting yourself killed, but I long for the music. Maybe my music is old fashioned for the movement now, Hip Hop is where the strongest statements are coming from. I’m still going to hold down the quieter, more thoughtful end of the spectrum, but there’s times I need to shout it and rock the house.
Who are your idols?
The first time someone asked me that in an interview I said Albert Schweitzer, the young woman interviewer was at a loss, who was that? He was a concert pianist, a Doctor and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in Africa. I like jazz artists, some classical musicians I’ve been privileged to know are so far beyond anything I’ll accomplish I leave it to them. I’ve become more interested in improvisatory music. Keith Jarrett is a favorite. Song writers are another world, I like them all. I knew Pete Seeger for many years, and he’s maybe the biggest reason I have become primarily a songwriter.
If you didn’t like music what would you like to do?
I can’t imagine not liking music, but if I couldn’t play music I would write. If I didn’t do that, I would enjoy teaching. I’ve done a good deal of teaching in a lot of different ways. I like explaining things, if I know about something that someone’s interested in. I loved being an athlete and I might have tried to pursue that more in my younger days. My goal now is to win some old guys’ tennis tournament.
Do you consider that nowadays there are more or less opportunities for new artists? Why?
I’m sure there are more opportunities now, and I’m trying to keep up with the technology. The look of the music business is so different. I’m interested in giving deserving young artists the tools and the means to express themselves. That’s what the world needs.
What would your idyllic life as an artist be like?
Now my goal as an artist is to make the time to be creative, and compose more. I love to travel but maybe when this virus has passed I’ll travel less and more efficiently. Composing with the idea of actually playing it, or hearing it being played, is my favorite thing. New music is necessary to our lives.
What should the 2020 artist be doing?
I’m trying to figure that out. I think we should be expressing what’s real for us in this changing world. There are so many ways to do that I am trying to find the balance. I don’t record albums in my bedroom, but I am doing regular concerts on Facebook and YouTube. The market for plastic CDs might not be doing that much, but music is available in so many packages the challenge is just how we can make that just for the artist. We’re not there yet, but we will I’m sure.
I don’t expect the giant corporation is going to give me a contract, so I hope to use the internet for all its worth. But there will always be a place for live music. I’m feeling the lack of that this year. We have to get community back, singing together, dancing, theater productions, choirs, bands. I’m sure it’s all swirling right under the surface right now and will burst out with a whole new thing this coming year. When in the 1940s (I wasn’t there) the war and the recording strike stifled music for a while, suddenly there was a whole leap in the culture when we got back to business. This time the virtual world is bailing us out, but when we’re doing live music again on the scale we want to I’ll be happy.