Scott Slay Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Scott Slay Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

1. Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing
about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the
music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?

“I’m
a very laid-back person who has a definite sound in mind. I know how to
achieve that sound, but embrace new influences, ideas, and change
before completing a music project. My music is all acoustic and it
embraces the instrumentation of the original Bill Monroe and the
Bluegrass Boys and traditional bands to utilize banjo, mandolin, guitar,
string bass, fiddle, and sometimes dobro. To someone who’s never heard
my music before, I say to think of a cross between Contemporary
Bluegrass, Newgrass tendencies, original songwriting, and sort of a
smooth baritone type lead vocal. A lot of the arrangements sound simple
on the first listen, but each song has some unpredictable elements in
the arrangement. It feels like Blue Highway or The Infamous
Stringdusters at times, then other times it is akin to the Nickel Creek
sound.”

2. Do you write the songs yourself? If not, how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?

It’s
very important to me that the music I record feels natural and familiar
to me while remaining truly unique and fresh. I wrote most of the songs
on “The Rail” album, except for Green Valley which was written by a
friend of mine back on the gulf coast named Freddy Donovan. I also
Co-wrote my single Truth Came Out, with my wife Brittany Slay. I also
like to find traditionals older than bluegrass, and then arrange them to
have a kind of contemporary bluegrass sound.

3. Please tell us about the songs on your album (influences, etc.).

The
title track to this album “The Rail,” was written as sort of a
representation of the last 7 years of my life mixed with some historical
fiction based on a possible Hatfield and McCoy, Romeo and Juliet type
story. I recorded it with The Lonesome River Band’s Sammy Shelor, on
banjo, legendary bassist Mark Schatz, acclaimed fiddler Jim VanCleve,
the pure alto singing of Heather Slaughter, Mountain Heart’s Josh
Shilling singing tenor, and Aaron Ramsey on mandolin. Then there’s
Railroad Blues, an old blues and vaudeville standard that was originally
recorded by Trixie Smith in 1925. I heard it one day while searching
through old songs on YouTube and was blown away by the blues vibe and
potential to have an LRB sound upgrade. I’m thrilled to say that I
recorded this one with LRB’s Brandon Rickman singing tenor and Sammy
Shelor on banjo. The other players include Infamous Stringduster’s Andy
Hall on resonator guitar, Jim VanCleve on fiddle, Mark Schatz on bass,
and myself on guitar and mandolin, as well as singing the lead vocal.
This all-star cast helped me truly bring the music in my head to life.

4. What kind of songs do you like to record the most?

I really enjoy recording songs that have a sense of momentum, both rhythmically and or melodically.

5. You did a duet with Sierra Hull. How did that

happen to come about?

A
friend of mine Brandon Bostic kept running into Sierra off and on in
Nashville back when I was planning the album I recorded with Sammy
Shelor called “Big Virginia Sky.” I was looking for a female vocalist to
sing a duet on that album called Love Song. Brandon recommended Sierra,
and she was perfect. When I started planning for “The Rail” album, I
just knew that Sierra was the right choice for both singing and playing
mandolin on the folk-like track “Truth Came Out.” She recorded it at
Scott Vestal’s studio, Digital Underground, in Nashville.

6. Lamitschka: Who inspires you musically and how deep do your musical roots run?

I
cut my teeth on Skaggs and Rice, JD Crowe and the New South, and The
Lonesome River Band. I was highly influenced by Sam Bush with Newgrass
Revival, Alison Krauss and Union Station, James Taylor, Tim O’Brien, and
all the contemporary bluegrass bands of the 90’s. As a singer, I’m
highly influenced by Randy Travis, Ronnie Bowman, James Taylor, and John
Mayer. From a guitarist standpoint, I think Tony Rice, Clay Jones, and
Dan Tyminski are my biggest influences. Of course, Sam Bush, Chris
Thile, and Dan Tyminski are my mandolin heroes. As a songwriter and
arranger, I have a ton of respect for The Punch Brothers, Mountain
Heart, and Alison Krauss and Union Station. Those bands alongside my
life experiences and observations have molded my songwriting into what
it is. As a musician in general, my roots run back to my dad Tracy Slay
and the undeniable groove of The Lonesome River Band. When I was 6 my
dad took me to see Newgrass Revival. I begged and begged until I got a
mandolin for Christmas. By the time I was 8, my dad had me chopping the
mandolin while he played banjo in our band, HWY 99. As soon as LRB
dropped “Carrying the Tradition,” my dad and I we’re hooked. We started
playing all of those songs in our local shows.

7. What do you think about today’s music scene versus its past and where do you see it going in the future?

Today’s
scene is much more accessible with things like Facebook live, iTunes,
Spotify, YouTube, and just the internet in general. When I was growing
up, we had to buy the CD’s and listen to them over and over to learn the
songs. If we wanted to see a band perform, we had to buy a ticket and
drive to the festival and or concert. Now, I don’t think the Festival
scene is dying. I mean, living in Colorado, we have Rockygrass and
Telluride at the forefront with a ton of small bluegrass/brewery
festivals that are always packed or sold out. When I was playing
festivals as a kid on the southeast coast, the audience was always much
older than me, and mostly retired. Here in CO, I look around at the
audience members, local bluegrass “picks” (jams), and noticed I’m
normally the oldest at the event. I’m 36. I notice the bluegrass scene
in CO Is getting younger and younger.

8. What was your big break that got you into the

music business?

My
biggest break was receiving my first mandolin for Christmas at age 6.
But then, I’d say my 2nd biggest break, was when I started playing gigs
with Sammy Shelor back in Virginia. I feel like, I grew the most a
musician by just playing with him.

9. What’s unique about you that will differentiate

you from other artists?

I
have a strong contemporary and even mash-style bluegrass background
from playing on the East coast. Yet, I spent 4 years of my life studying
jazz at the University of West FL. I really love the intricate
arrangements of the Sam Bush Band, Nickel Creek, and other similar acts.
All of this is in my music equally.

10. Is there any place you haven’t played that you would like to?

LA, Texas, Red Rocks, Floyd Fest

11. What can your fans expect to see when they see you in concert?

Fans
will see a 4 to 5-piece band that goes back and forth between my
original music with detailed arrangements of bluegrass, newgrass, and
even other genres of music covers with tons of improvisation. Our show
is raw and very live. Whatever you call it… fans can rest assured it
will be honest.

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