Going Somewhere back -Scott Albert Johnson“The business is in so much flux right now because of the digital revolution and the idea that recorded music should be free.” – @scottalbertj

November 11 1:40 pm

Episode #273 : A.V.A Live Radio Behind The Music with Jacqueline Jax

by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio

I’m definitely not into music because of any love for the business side of music…
but it’s a necessary evil. The business is in so much flux right now because of the digital revolution, and the idea that recorded music should be free… that’s repugnant to me. I don’t think streaming is necessarily bad — I use it myself — but there has to be a better model than the current one. I just keep my head down… keep gigging (anywhere from 75-125 gigs per year, depending on the year), and keep making music, because it’s the music that I love and not the trappings of “being in the music business,” whatever that means nowadays.

Social media has most definitely been a net positive for my music…
It makes it much easier to reach a wider audience. From a “life” perspective, social media can be a little intrusive sometimes, so occasionally I need to unplug a little.

Albums vs singles…
This time, it made more sense for me to release an album because I had been working toward this unified-theme project for several years. Going forward, I may release singles because it’s a much quicker to get one’s music in front of people on a more regular basis.

I’ve liked to sing ever since I was a little kid…
I took Suzuki violin lessons at age 9; that instrument didn’t really “take” but it got me started. I sang in choirs and a cappella groups, and then at the end of ninth grade, someone gave me an old bass guitar that came from the famous Malaco Recording Studio here in Jackson. That was the spark I needed to play and sing in bands throughout high school and college.

I was out of music between college and the end of my 20s… eventually I found my way back, and during that time I discovered my love for (and talent for) the harmonica. I also started writing my own songs, and before I knew it I was gigging all the time.

If I Only Knew the Words….
In late February of 2003, I was sitting in a bar in DC. It was a few days before I was to move back home to Mississippi after having lived all over the country for 15 years. I had an idea for a song about a relationship that was falling apart due to poor communication. I jotted down the lyrics on a napkin and put in my wallet. The napkin survived the trip to Mississippi, but eventually I lost it. I tried to remember what I had written, but all I could recall was the title: “If I Only Knew the Words.”

I put the song down, picked it back up, put it down again and over and over for several years. As the time passed, a melody and chord progression emerged, and eventually I realized the song was also about how hard songwriting – like communication and relationships – can be. The song finally took ten years to write… “Ten years, and I’ve still got the same affliction… I’ve started and I’ve stopped one thousand times…”

I also am sending you a song called “Fragments.”
Walker Percy once wrote in The Moviegoer, “Not for five minutes will I be distracted from the wonder.” That’s pretty much the way I feel all the time: in awe of Creation and Infinity and very much unsure of what it all means (but grateful for the chance to be here to consider it at all). I wanted to try to capture this feeling in a song about the fundamentals of who we are and where we are going, based around my love (since childhood) of looking up at the stars.

I had a vague lyrical idea – influenced by the simulation theory of Nick Bostrom at Oxford University, as well as Frank Tipler, Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, St. Augustine and Buddhism, among others – when Chalmers Davis came to me with a beautiful chord sequence. Once I heard that, the melody and lyrics wrote themselves, and it was an honor to be able to co-write this with him. We recorded this in the beautiful-sounding Center for Performing Arts at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School (my alma mater).

The songs on the album are meant to stand alone…
as individual songs, yet there also is a common theme as reflected in the title “Going Somewhere.” I think a lot about destiny and motion towards a goal, as an individual but also as a member of a common human community. I hope this album evokes the complexity of what it means to “progress.”

Musically, it’s a blend of what I hope are thoughtful lyrics and strong musicianship and vocals across the board. I am a harmonica player, and my instrument is often thought to be a “blues instrument,” but this is a rock album. I hope to play a small role in showing that the harmonica can be used to play anything. I am one of a small group of players who can play the diatonic harmonica as a fully chromatic instrument (using all twelve notes of the chromatic scale), and this is in evidence throughout the album. On some of the songs, I also use effects to alter the timbre of the harmonica’s sound.

I am also fortunate to have many incredible musicians playing on the album, including many of Mississippi’s finest (particularly Chalmers Davis on keyboards — member of Little Richard’s band for many years and a longtime Muscle Shoals and Nashville session pro) as well as Robert Mercurio and Jeff Raines from NOLA’s great funk-rock band Galactic on the title track.

Scott Albert Johnson coverI live in Jackson, Mississippi…
a city with a rich and vibrant music history. The musical talent here is excellent. The economics of live music are not as strong as they used to be, but there are still some good venues here in town… particularly Fenian’s and the Iron Horse. I’m also close to New Orleans, an incredible music town, and I play there often. As for non-musical things I like to do? Anything with my family… my wife (Susan Margaret Barrett) and my kids: Charlie (10), Benjamin (8), and Lily Margaret (6).

I would love to have five minutes alone with…
Peter Gabriel. His combination of talent (singing, songwriting, performing), empathy, and activism make him one of my heroes. I covered his song “I Don’t Remember” on my album, largely as a tribute to him.

I don’t really think much about what is current or trendy…
I make the music that I want to make.

I am most afraid of…
wasting my life.

My personal definition of success is…
staying true to oneself, one’s beliefs, and one’s art. My biggest artistic success story is the completion of this album, not because of its quality (that is for others to judge), but because I finished it at all while raising a family, dealing with the financial challenges of the business etc.

My overall goal for my life is…
to be a good father and husband.

My overall goal for my music career is…
to continue to make original music that speaks from my heart and is musically adventurous and of high quality.

Three ways that I challenge myself…
a: I keep trying to learn more difficult phrases and songs to play on the harmonica.

b: I keep trying to write new songs that don’t imitate things that have been done before.

c) I keep trying to work with more and more musicians, as I have something to learn from everyone.

“If I Only Knew the Words” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biJ5Kzf8TKQ