Darrell Scott is one of those music lifers whose bona fides far exceed their public stature.
Scott, a four-time Grammy Award nominee, has scored multiple top 25 hits on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart, played with both the Zac Brown Band and Robert Plant among many others and had a hand in tunes by superstars such as Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley.
In late February, Scott will perform at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center as a fundraiser for the upcoming Alaska Folk Festival. He recently took some time to talk to the Capital City Weekly about his history with Alaska, thoughts about folk fest and why Hank Williams resonates.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Have you played in Alaska or Juneau before?
Never in Juneau, but I have in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and then when I was 15, I turned 16 up in Alaska up in Delta Junction, Alaska. I had a summertime gig in my dad’s band when I was about 15. It was during the pipeline boom up there — 1975 was when it was.
What can people expect at one of your concerts?
I’m a singer-songwriter, I’m a solo artist. I’m also a lead guitar playing guy rather than just an accompanying guy. So there’s going to be extended solos. I love improvisation. I won’t have a set list, so I’ll just be making up what the next song is in real time. I always feel that’s the more honest way of doing a show. I like to find out what’s going to be unique each night. Mostly my songs but great covers of songs by other folks as it strikes me. If there’s a piano, I’ll play a piano. If not, I’ll have my guitar stuff with me.
The concert is going to serve as our Alaska Folk Festival, I don’t know what your awareness is of the event, but it’s a series of performances that for about a week more or less take over the city. It seems like something you’d be inclined to support.
The fact that there is a folk festival that’s looked out for and made money for, it makes me think that area wants the folk music and they want a festival that reflect that, and I’m all about that. Maybe I can come back to the festival some time.
They cast a pretty wide net, last year we had a conjunto band come out.
Folk is almost everything actually to me. Another way to say it could be roots. I understand the folk portion of it. At the end of the day, that might be exactly what I am, a folk musician.
You’re undertaking an effort to cover some of Hank Williams’ music. What does he mean to you and what do you admire about his songwriting?
He’s one of the greats. I grew up on Hank Williams music. My dad loved Hank Williams. Hank Williams to me is nothing I had to go study or go learn, I had already known him since I was a baby. To me, it’s really giving tribute to one of the great singer-songwriters. My bent on this particular recording is the blues of Hank Williams. To me, I think he’s a blues artist.
Is there anything in particular about his work that makes him so foundational?
He’s very economy-minded with writing and the composition. There’s not a lot of extra information in there for a Hank Williams song. He’s got an economy of language. Hank Williams is just kind of the mark really of telling the truth emotionally in a song.
I was curious about how you find the split between the songwriting and session work and when you’re performing as a solo artist?
I used to do that a lot more — being on sessions — but very little of it now because I’m working on my own stuff. That doesn’t mean that I don’t, it just means it’s pretty rare. Every once in a while, I’ll jump into like the Robert Plant thing or the Steve Earle band or I played with the Zac Brown Band for two years. I don’t see them as any different. They’re all music, and when it’s time to be a multi-instrumentalist for Robert Plant, that’s still a musicality I very much speak. Sometimes, I just can’t say no to a really good musical gathering.
Know & Go
What: Darrell Scott fundraiser concert for Alaska Folk Festival.
When: 6 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 23
Where: Juneau Arts & Culture Center, 350 Whittier St.
Admission: Tickets cost $25 for adults or $15 for children younger than 12. Tickets are available online through jahc.org.