For their latest album, "Modern Blues," Mike Scott and the Scotland-based band The Waterboys hopped across the Atlantic to America to capture "an American sound and feel ... a classic, southern feel."
It only makes sense that now, a little less than a month after the record's release on April 7, Scott and company have come back to the States to tour in support of the America-soaked album – including a stop at Milwaukee's Turner Hall on Tuesday, May 5.
OnMilwaukee.com recently chatted with Mike Scott before he and the rest of The Waterboys swing through Milwaukee about the latest album "Modern Blues," the time spent recording in Nashville and what keeps him going.
OnMilwaukee.com: How’s the tour going so far?
Mike Scott: Good. We just got back from Australia and Japan. Terrific shows out there. Japan’s wild and crazy. We were in Tokyo. We didn’t see any of the country. It was like being in a marvelous video game.
OMC: So, from album to album, your sound has evolved. For "Modern Blues" in particular, you added some southern blues to the mix. What was the inspiration behind that?
MS: I wanted to make a record that had an American sound and feel. I’ve been playing with a lot of American musicians over the last few years. In fact, in 2013, The Waterboys did a tour and played in Milwaukee at Turner Hall with a band that was two-thirds American, and I really liked the way that they played so I decided to make the record in the States.
I went to Nashville because there are great studios there and also two of the musicians live in Nashville. It was an easy decision to make. I went for a bass player, David Hood, knowing that he would bring a classic, southern soul feel to it.
OMC: With this album, you recorded with regulars like Steve Wickham and Ralph Salmins. As you just mentioned, you also recorded with American musicians like Hood, Paul Brown and Zach Ernst. How did you get those guys on board?
MS: With David, we just asked him to come play on a session. It was our manager, Lisa Best, who knew David already, and she made the call and he said yes. He turned up for rehearsals and played like the master he is. The other fellas … Brother Paul as we call him, he was introduced to us when we played a radio show a couple of years ago, and we did some songs with him and immediately became tight musical buddies. Zach.
I told our manager that I wanted to work with a guitar player who can do that vintage, southern soul sound. She suggested Zach, and I checked him out by the miracle of YouTube and lo and behold, he did play in that style.
OMC: What was the experience like recording the album in Nashville?
MS: I enjoyed working in a city where I know there are a myriad of musical projects going on. It was a good, creative environment. You know when you’re doing a job, and you know there are a lot of people in the same environment as you’re doing the same job? I think it’s an inspiring thing. The studios are so great. We worked in a place called Sound Emporium. Fabulous room; fabulous engineers and assistants.
OMC: Did recording in Nashville have an impact on how the album turned out?
MS: Of course it did because the room was great, and it was big enough for all of us to play together at the same time with good eye contact. Being in Nashville meant when I need an unexpected sound like a trumpet on a song or a female backing voice, there were world class people just a phone call away, and that’s a wonderful resource to have.
OMC: I noticed while listening to the album that there are a few American references like Elvis in "I Can See Elvis," of course, and author Jack Kerouac in "Long Strange Golden Road." Since you write the majority of your songs, what was it about Elvis and Kerouac that you wanted to reference in the album?
MS: For the Elvis song, it was something that somebody said. Someone came up with that phrase "I Can See Elvis" as in he knew he was in Heaven because he could see Elvis. It was a punch line of a joke, really, and I thought it would make a great song title; an exploration of what Elvis might be doing in a rock and roll afterlife. It’s not that I’m particularly attached to Elvis. Of course I loved Elvis’ music, but it was just a good subject for a song that grasped my imagination.
Kerouac … I’ve always loved the book "On The Road," which I read as a young man. I’ve re-read it several times. I’m not so sold on the rest of his books. I think "On The Road" is the one if you know what I mean. I re-read it for the fifth time just before I wrote some of the songs for this record. It was definitely swirling around in my imagination when I was writing.
OMC: I understand that you didn’t entirely base "Modern Blues" on Kerouac’s "On The Road," of course, so what is the main concept behind the album?
MS: Like for most Waterboys albums, it was just a collection of songs that were the best of the songs that I wrote over the last six or seven years. We had an album out a couple years ago called "An Appointment With Mr. Yeats," which was the poems of W.B. Yeats, the Irish poet, which I’ve set to music. I’ve spent three to four years working on that record either making it or developing it as a stage show. That bought me time because behind the scenes I’d be writing my own regular songs with my own lyrics as well. I had a long catchment period for "Modern Blues" of about eight years. I don’t usually have that luxury. Usually a new album is written in about 18 months but with this one I had a long time. I don’t think it has one theme or one concept. I think it’s just a collection of songs.
OMC: I’ve read elsewhere that your mother was a literary teacher. I’m assuming you grew up reading a lot of books, and that’s why your lyrics seem so literary and poetic.
MS: She still is. I was always reading books as a kid. When I was six or seven years old, I started reading books. I always got several books on the go. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of books about music actually. I’m reading a book about The Kinks at the moment. I just read a couple of books about The Who … just filling in a few gaps in my knowledge. I don’t know how reading books influences my music or my lyrics, I really don’t know. What I do know is that everything goes into the blender. Everything goes in and comes out somehow.
OMC: You’ve been doing this for a little over thirty years now. What keeps you going? What do you continue to draw inspiration from?
MS: I’m still hungry. I still love going out on stage. I’m competitive. I want to write better songs than my peers. I still want to be the best. I love music and I love living in music. I love the thrill of walking out on stage and hearing what the band’s going to do tonight. I love leading a band as well. I love directing a band, even though I’m a very gentle director, I tend to let people play what they want to play. I see my job more as creating a space where they can do that.
OMC: After this tour is over, what’s next for you and the band?
MS: We’re going to be touring all year. We’re going right through to the end of the year. After that … gosh, I don’t know what we’ll do after that. I imagine I’ll think about a new record. But I think I’ll sit down and take stock.
Colton Dunham's passion for movies began back as far as he can remember. Before he reached double digits in age, he stayed up on Saturday nights and watched numerous classic horror movies with his grandfather. Eventually, he branched out to other genres and the passion grew to what it is today.
Only this time, he's writing about his response to each movie he sees, whether it's a review for a website, or a short, 140-character review on Twitter. When he's not inside of a movie theater, at home binge watching a television show, or bragging that he's a published author, he's pursuing to keep movies a huge part of his life, whether it's as a journalist/critic or, ahem, a screenwriter.