Today’s Feature – January 14-15: Scotty Wakefield

January 15, 2008 at 1:33 am (Today's Feature)

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As a matter of natural progression, many solo artists launch their musical careers playing with others in a band. That makes sense enough. And that’s exactly how Scotty Wakefield opened his profession, taking on a fake Mississippi accent as the guitarist in a southern rock act. The reasons behind a musician’s transformation into a one man band vary, but are generally due to the fact an artist feels he’s outgrown his band mates, or maybe because he or she is moving in another stylistic direction. That’s the story behind Wakefield’s jump into a one-man band – he was simply moving north while everyone else was heading south. Sounds like nothing unusual, but it’s the details that you gotta hear:

– Everything was sailing along smoothly with that southern rock band for Wakefield… but after recommending covering a tune by his guilty pleasure, ABBA, the down south honeymoon came to a screeching halt.

– Later strumming the guitar with an R&B outfit, the slow jams also came to an end for Wakefield when he thought covering a little Springsteen would be a good idea.

Thus, due to some artistic disagreement, Wakefield’s current solo career began. Now his songs “chronicle his love life over the years, which has been extremely unbalanced.” His shows don’t only include his own work, but some cover material as well, thus providing him an even larger repertoire of songs that he can pull out at any moment depending on where the crowd is moving. You never know what to expect at a Scotty Wakefield show… but as long as he continues to play for that “buzz” he gets from an appreciative audience, you know he’ll never disappoint. Live shows weren’t always easy for him, but since he’s been “old enough to drink,” they’ve gotten a lot easier. Check out a show for some true entertainment and keep an eye out for a CD this year. Now, dive into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Scotty Wakefield

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did you first get involved in music?

Scotty Wakefield: My father and older brothers were musicians and formed a band in the early 70s. They were my inspiration and occasionally I would get up on stage and play maracas, tambourine, and sing with them. Eventually my Dad bought me a small drum kit and I joined the band when the original drummer quit. I taught myself guitar through my teens and had my first experience playing guitar for a Southern Rock cover band. I wore a ripped tee on stage, talked with a fake Southern accent, and thought I was killing! Ultimately, that experience came crashing to a halt when during a practice session I casually suggested we cover an ABBA tune (see “response to question three”). In my musical reawakening when I moved to Maryland, I was hired as lead guitarist for an R&B outfit which worked out great until I suggested covering a Springsteen tune. Hence, a life lesson learned in keeping my musical inspirations internal and the beginning of my solo acoustic career.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you told yourself that music was more than a hobby?

SW: I guess it was the first time my Dad handed me my share of the cache for gigging with my brothers’ band; up to that point I thought it was all just fun and games. When I found out there was money involved I was all like, sweet.

PEV: Growing up, what kind of music were you listening to? Do you remember the first album you ever purchased?

SW: I grew up listening to Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Buck Williams, Johnny Cash, the Ray Conniff singers, big band music, you know, the stuff Dad and Mom would play around the house. Then I started sneaking into my older brothers’ rooms and discovered their Hendrix, Doors, and Beatles albums. I was a huge ELO fan back in the day (anything pre-80), Fleetwood Mac in the Buckingham/Nicks era, and Heart before they kicked their lead guitarist out of the band. I also dug ABBA, but growing up in the aura of a small town I kept that as one of life’s little hidden pleasures.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you performed live. What was going through your head?

SW: I’m too old to remember the first time for anything, but I do recall a gig singing with my brothers’ band when I was about 9 years old at some raceway in Upstate New York while playing the state fair circuit. There was a ton of people and I didn’t dare look up once because I was scared to death. I also remember singing on local TV around the same time and freezing up in front of the camera with only about 10 people in the studio. I’m petrified to play in front of people and still get nervous before I perform but I’m old enough to drink now, enough said.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Scotty Wakefield performance?

SW: Plenty of audience participation and energy. I pride myself on playing straight through my four hours without breaking, and getting the crowd involved by taking requests, getting people up to sing, and talking to folks as they pass by the stage. I have a fairly large repertoire of songs which allows me to cover several styles, and I try to stay as true to an original as possible. Of course, I reserve the right to improvise when it’s called for, like when I feel a tune is completely bombing.

PEV: What is the best part about performing live?

SW: To quote an excerpt from Almost Famous…”the buzz”. Oh yeah, and the chicks are great! Actually, it’s really amazing when you’ve been playing all night to seemingly little audience response and someone comes up and thanks you and tells you they really enjoyed the evening. That kind of thing can make it all worthwhile.

PEV: What can people expect from original Scotty Wakefield music?

SW: How about “…an illuminating glimpse at an unbalanced mind.” Kidding, I just wanted to see what that would look like in print. For the most part, my songs chronicle my love life over the years, which come to think of it, has been extremely unbalanced.

PEV: What is the most requested cover song people ask you to play and does it ever get annoying?

SW: Sweet Home Alabama and it only gets annoying when I overhear someone saying “that shore don’t sound like no Lynyrd Skynrd I ever done heard”. Sweet Caroline ranks a close second and I just kill that tune, Neil is king!

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist today, who would it be and why?

SW: I’d love to have Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac produce my originals. He’s an absolute genius in the studio and a heck of a guitarist to boot.

PEV: Out of all your writing, is there that one song that still sticks out as the most special one? Why, yes or no?

SW: Yes. I penned a tune called “Lesson Learned (February Song)”, which I believe was well crafted in that I felt it spoke to its’ inspiration in a very direct and succinct manner. Evidence of my conviction in this sentiment bore out in the nasty gram I received from said inspiration soon after I played the song out and posted the lyrics in response to a request from someone on my entertainment distribution list. Said inspiration’s address has since been removed from the distribution list, and although I don’t play the song out anymore it’s still quite special to me.

PEV: Who is currently in your CD player or on your iPod right now?

SW: Elliott Smith’s “New Moon”. Phenomenal song writer, vocalist and guitar player, but tragic life story. I cite him as a major inspiration and stay far away from sharp items.

PEV: What up and coming artist do you think we should all be listening to now?

SW: Locally, Ernie Fowler from parts unknown in Baltimore County. The kid’s voice and writing ability never ceases to amaze me. I want his level of talent in my next life. Nationally, Trevor Hall who had a single on the Shrek 3 soundtrack called “Other Ways”. I thought I was listening to a 40 year old, Jamaican man and was amazed to find out he’s a teen visionary, Buddhist, surfer punk from California by way of North Carolina. He’s signed with a Disney music label, looks like a Disney prodigy, and I’m pretty sure he knocked up the younger Spears kid.

PEV: In all your travels, which city do you think offers the best appreciation for music?

SW: For the most part, Baltimore is extremely generous to its local acoustic artists. My hometown in Upstate NY, however, is still working through the MJ “Thriller” CD and marveling over Kevin Bacon’s athleticism in Footloose.

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Best and worst parts?

SW: I only perform locally and sporadically, so I don’t spend anytime on the road per se. On the days when I’m booked, it’s a daylong process getting psyched up to do the 9 to 1 thing when you’d rather be kicking back (especially in the cold winter months). The best part is when you’re actually on stage, worst part when you have to schlep your own gear at the end of the night because you’re too cheap to hire a roadie.

PEV: When you are not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

SW: Reading, watching reruns of Entourage, and kicking it with my little girl at the Mall, but not necessarily in that order.

PEV: What is your opinion on the heated debate over downloading and file sharing music off line?

SW: I really don’t weigh heavy on either side, but believe downloading and file sharing is truly slaughtering the conventional concept of the record store. In a sense that’s just alright though, because musical consumers have been at the mercy of the suits for years.

PEV: What’s one thing, people would be surprised to hear about you?

SW: That I sleep for four straight days after playing for four straight hours. I get mad energy on stage and have no idea where it emanates from or where it goes when I finish playing.

PEV: When you sit down to write music, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?

SW: Serenity, it has to be completely quiet with absolutely nothing going on around me. I tend to write in spurts and because I’m cursed with an amazingly short attention span I need peace and quiet to maintain any sense of continuity in order to finish a song.

PEV: What one word, best describes Scotty Wakefield?

SW: Laidback. Wait, is that one word?

PEV: So, what is next for Scotty Wakefield?

SW: I want to continue performing live occasionally because any positive energy received from the crowd is extremely addictive. Additionally, I don’t go out a lot when I’m not playing so performing gives me an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. As far as recording, if I can muster the energy and focus I’d love to get a CD out sometime this year.

For more information on Scotty Wakefield, check out www.MySpace.com/ScottyWakefield

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