Rocky Mountain News Colorado Boz Scaggs Dig Interview

Rocky Mountain News (CO) - Boz Scaggs Interview


[By Mark Brown - Music Critic - September 11, 2001]

After more than two decades of obscurity, the multifaceted Boz Scaggs has released a promising new recording, which Virgin Records is backing heavily.

It doesn't take a genius to decode the title of Boz Scaggs' new album. Dig refers to looking inside yourself and seeing what's there.

"I think you've hit on some of the nuances of the title,'' Scaggs says.
This set of all-original songs is classic Scaggs in some ways; it's deeply rooted in R&B, his guitar and voice are right up front, and he's feeling all the words. But it's also a healing experience after the death of his 21-year-old son, Oscar, from a drug overdose - something that shook the singer to his core and something that he still refers to as just "that event.''

"Certainly my life has been changed completely,'' he says somberly. "It's been quite a ride this past two or three years for me. Emotionally, it's been quite a rebuilding process. Certainly that event has been the single most important event in my life. And in making this record, I draw from a lot of experience. And it is all weighed through the weight of that event.''

He hides it well; it's hard to pick out lyrics that pertain to "that event.'' But throughout the album there's a fusion of weariness and hope, of lessons learned and things survived.

Artists of Scaggs' era often find themselves ignored; even artists as revered as John Hiatt and Van Morrison find their new albums ignored by their label. Virgin Records, on the other hand, is so excited by the album that they've commissioned a 5.1 surround-sound mix and are putting their marketing muscle behind it. It's poised to be Scaggs' biggest record since his classic 1976 release, Silk Degrees.

"I'm really pleased, of course. I like this record a lot. I'm proud of it and eager to see what happens with it,'' Scaggs says.

Working with old friends as co-producers - drummer David Paich and guitarist Danny Kortchmar - Scaggs found himself with more than enough material to pull together a strong R&B album.

He'd put down "sketches'' of the songs in his home studio in San Francisco, accompanying himself on guitar and piano.

"I knew enough about the songs to know how they'd need to be finished, and I sort of immerse myself in them. I clear everything else out of my life. I've been doing it long enough to know myself.''

With Paich and Kortchmar, "we realized we had all the elements we needed to go in and go to work. Everyone checked their schedules and cleared the way.''

"Old dogs that we are, we just went to work on the things we wanted. The first 11 songs we started are the ones we finished with,'' he says.

The first song, Payday, set the tone for the album.

"It has some classic rhythmic elements, and the horns give it a jazzy edge. My voice is very comfortable in it, and the lyrics have several dimensions. It was probably the first thing we started, and it set the pace in some ways for everything that followed.

"It features some of my guitar, which is what David and Danny wanted to provide a platform for. Each piece ... has a little bit of all the elements that Payday has, one way or another.''

With Kortchmar based in Connecticut, Paich in Los Angeles and Scaggs in San Francisco, geography was a challenge.

"We wanted to be sort of democratic about it and let everyone have a chance to work in their own home studio,'' Scaggs says. "We have families and lives. The idea was that we'd go to each other's house and play for a while, not to put undue strain on andybody's family commitments. It started out at Paich's house, then we went to Danny's, then we came to my place. It was a very comfortable way to work.''

It's not a verse-chorus-verse style of songwriting; Scaggs comes up with the basic tune, then everyone gets in on the process.

"Writing is a deceiving term to use in this case; they just came together,'' he says. "I had some sketches on tape that I showed Paich a year and a half or two years ago. We can read each other's shorthand enough to know what kind of energy they're going to have, what kind of attitude they're going to have, what they're going to be eventually.''

Even though they called in a lot of friends and session players, they kept the music spare.

"We tend to strip down,'' he says. "If you look at the list of players on there, track by track, a number of those key people just did a single thing on the record. Ninety percent of the music on there was done by the three of us. We didn't go to great lengths to perfect solos. We like imperfection. So we left it the way it was.''

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