He’s one of the most thoughtful men in rock.
Mike Scott doesn’t bat off questions with off-pat answers. He listens, cogitates, considers and responds.
And, I suppose, you’d expect no less. Scott’s career as the frontman of Scottish soul-folk collective The Waterboys has been characterised by innovation and a refusal to play the game. Since the band’s formation in 1983, Scott has kicked over the traces. He’s refused to compromise, he’s stayed true to his own, starry vision.
And that’s reaped dividends. For while most bands look back on a career in the hope that they made one or two decent records, Scott has got a cupboard full. There was the Big Music of their 1985 masterpiece, This Is The Sea; the folk-rock classicism of the 1988 follow-up Fisherman’s Blues while their 1990 and 1993 opuses, Room to Roam and Dream Harder, broke through into the mainstream. Scott’s new record, Modern Blues, sees him tread new ground in impressive style.
Modern Blues was recorded in Nashville. Scott and Steve Wickham were joined by American musicians, including Muscle Shoals legend David Hood on bass, to create an an electric, eclectic, soulful, bold and gloriously freewheeling rock’n’roll record. It is passionate and rewarding, evoking the very best of The Waterboys’ past work while forging forth to explore new ground.
Scott is pleased with the work. “Half of the songs were written about six years ago. I’d just finished a tour and I still had plenty of musical energy running through me. I stockpiled those and then went back to them.”
Scott loved recording in Nashville. “It’s music city. It’s one of the few places in the world where the music industry is still healthy. There are dozens upon dozens of world class studios. The American engineers are trained to deal with live ensembles, they aren’t phased in the way that engineers in England or Ireland might be.
“We did the album in seven days. We captured that live sound that people get when they see us on stage. Recording in Nashville had a big effect. I like working in a place where thousands of other musicians are in the studio at any one time. It creates an environment conducive to creativity.”
Though Scott has lived a remarkable musical life, he seldom looks back. The singer/songwriter is too busy making the most of every present day to wallow in nostalgia. There have been many happy periods, not that he dwells too frequently on them.
“You know, I don’t think about it too much. I like all the different stages of what I do. After a year on the road, it’s really sweet to be home. But after a year at home, I can’t wait to get out there. I’m divinely dissatisfied most of the time, I’m always wanting to do better.”
“I still love music. I guess people like Leonard Cohen inspire me these days. To see him live, you see the excellence of his show and the graciousness of the man.”
The same applies to Scott.
The Waterboys launch their tour at Warwick Arts Centre on Monday before playing in London and then heading off round the world. They return to Birmingham’s Symphony Hall towards the end of the year on November 30. Modern Blues is available now.
By Andy Richardson