2013 - Sound Bites Interview with Boz

Sound Bites - Q & A With Boz Scaggs – by Courtney Devores

Boz Scaggs’ biggest hits epitomize the idea of career crooner. From the `70s smashes “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle” to his `80s singles “JoJo” and “Look What You’ve Done To Me,” Scaggs can equally work a soul-rock groove or a romantic ballad. On his latest album “Memphis,” the 69-year-old digs into his favorite classic blues and R&B tunes with an assist from producer Steve Jordan and a cast of seasoned session players that were attached to Royal Studio in Memphis. Scaggs spoke to The Observer about making the album, his evolution as a vocalist, and the current popularity of singing on television.He plays a sold out show at Knight Theater Wednesday (july17).

How did you “Memphis” in three days?

Everything was just sort of right. The studio sounded right, but more important the musicians we assembled - it was just a perfect mix. Once we had a couple songs under our belt we realized it was sounding good. Three days later we were done. It’s not uncommon in that kind of situation. My first solo record was in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and the musicians (that are associated with these studios) are used to these kind of schedules where you’ve got an allotted amount of time and you’ve got to be finished because another artist is coming in.

How long did you have?

We gave ourselves 10 days.

Have you ever made a record that quickly?

I don’t think so. I’d done a couple projects with jazz musicians where I’m doing standards and those sessions are the same. It really is more talk than actual playing - how you’re going to do it, how you’re going to approach it, where solos are. You run through it so everyone knows the road map and usually get it in one take or two, maybe three.

How did you decide which songs to use?

Working with Michael McDonald and Donald Fagen (in the trio Dukes of September) we look at hundreds of classic R&B material. I had a handful of things I’d demoed for myself and looked at with arrangements and approaches and found my key. There were several songs that Steve said, “Let’s try.” We just pitched them out to the room - “Anybody remember this one?” We didn’t accept everything, but when we felt we had a spark we’d go ahead.

How did your own voice develop?

It came out of playing live. It wasn’t a serious career decision. I sang and played some guitar and a little bass. Then later on people of my generation started forming bands and getting recording contracts. Some people develop their voice and their style is defined early on. Mine has been a very gradual process. I work really hard to find my phrasing and sing in tune and all that stuff. In time you begin to recognize your style and use your style as well as continue to grow.

What do you think about the popularity of singing competitions on television?

It’s kind of a novelty to me. I think people who watch those shows are probably somewhat fascinated by seeing the process. To me it’s very much a sign of the times. They really encourage the people on the shows to overdo it, to dramatize their lives. That’s cool. I don’t care. There’s another part of singing where the character and the emotion of a song evolves with the character and emotion of a singer and how they connect. It’s one thing to be able to connect in front of a TV camera, but to be able to connect on a club level or on a human level and be able to play and sharpen your skills…I’m not knocking them. It just doesn’t interest me. There are good musicians and singers out there playing clubs all over the place. That has a lot more value. If (TV shows) make people want to go see live music, I think that’s where it’s at.

Do you find people are still going to see live music?

People in their twenties and thirties - they get it. They go out to live concerts and are going to the clubs again. Live music is where it’s at. (Laughs) I’m sort of being a pitch man for my profession.

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