Will Scott: worth a bit of searching for
Broken Arrow – Will Scott. From the album Keystone Crossing.
It’s not that Will Scott dislikes his name, but he’s rather wishing that he shared it with fewer people. What’s more, if you search for him online, it’s not only names that you come up with.
“It’s a little bit complicated to have a first name that’s also a verb,” he says. “In retrospect, if I’d spelled my name with one “L” I’d be much happier, for search engine optimisation.”
Though it's a light-hearted complaint, it's a real enough issue. The fact is, the internet is vital nowadays for independent artists like Scott looking to make a name for themselves. And most of the time, Scott’s life is surprisingly similar to the life the rest of us lead.
“You get that moment of celebration when the album’s done and, oh man, it was so much work, and then the real work starts," Scott says. “Mostly I wake up and sit at a computer and stare at thousands of websites and send out all kind of merged mailings, and do that for the better part of my life, right now."
The New York-based singer-songwriter with an extraordinarily rich voice and some unique songs – one of them is based on a concordance of the Bible and a box of laundry detergent – is promoting his new album, Keystone Crossing. The title refers to a rite of passage of his childhood in Indianapolis.
“The street where I grew up was bordered by two major streets, Keystone and Thompson. We weren’t allowed to cross Keystone till we got to a certain age.”
The album was recorded in Hollywood and produced by Scrote, a longtime friend of Scott’s. It has a more personal feel and a different sound to the previous album, Gnawbone, he says.
“I wanted a little bit more of a stripped-down production than the previous album was. The first one I wanted something huge-sounding and big and impressive just to make my splash in a way, I wanted this one to feel a little more like the live shows.”
Nevertheless, Scott has called on an impressive group of session players, including Scrote on electric guitar, as well as keyboard player Dave Palmer (Solomon Burke and Chris Isaak), and Ben Peeler (Lucinda Williams and Shelby Lynne) on a range of stringed instruments.
Scott grew up in a musical family and began as an electric guitarist, mostly playing in Chicago-style blues bands. He began singing after forming a band with a drummer friend.
“He was kind of the leader of the group and said ‘you’re the singer’. I sang at home a little bit but never considered myself as having a voice. I just kind of worked on my voice over a couple of years, realised that I almost felt more talented as a singer than I did as a guitar player.”
Scott found himself increasingly working solo, and doing a lot of songwriting. He moved to Los Angeles to see what opportunities were on offer there, but didn’t find a place for himself. “That time there wasn’t as much of a roots scene.”
He moved on to New York almost a decade ago, and immediately felt much more at home.
“I realised it’s kind of the coolest place in the world to be a hick. I got there in blue jeans and cowboy boots and everybody just went ‘yeah, all right’."
Scott finally knew it was right after going to see the release show for Dayna Kurtz’s first full album, at the New York venue Joe’s Pub.
“She’s got an amazing voice, she had a string quartet called ETHEL, and then about three-quarters of the way through the set Richie Havens walks out on stage and starts singing backing for Dayna. I thought I must be in the right place.” Kurtz makes a guest appearance on Keystone Crossing, as does blues organist Deacon Jones.
Scott lists many helpers on his album, but says he wrote the lyrics for all the songs except the covers.
“I do a lot of co-writing with friends. Part of it is genuine 50/50 collaboration; some is I’ll bring a song in and they’ll bring an arrangement. I’m fairly generous at sharing out the songwriting credits, I call it my 'you break it, you bought it' policy," he laughs.
Scott and his partner, singer-songwriter Jan Bell, are now splitting their time between New York and Philadelphia, which he says is cheaper and allows them more space to work.
Even though Bell is British, it was Scott who made the decision to start touring in Britain, and it has now become an annual event for them. “We summer in England!” Scott jokes.
This year’s summer trip included a performance at the Glastonbury Festival.
“It was actually my second time there. It’s huge and impressive and exhausting and wonderful,” Scott says.
Although Scott was pushing Keystone Crossing on his tour, it doesn’t officially come out until next month, and he’ll be back in October and November to promote it further. Dates are already confirmed in Farncombe and Gillingham.
For Scott, after months tied to a computer, it’s that touring that makes it all worthwhile.
“At the moment it’s just doing a lot of press. But if you get everything done nicely you get to go on tour and you get to have a lot of fun.”
If your search engine can't find Will Scott, don't worry, click here.