CNN - Boz Scaggs Dig Interview
Los Angeles, California: Boz Scaggs has been called the musical definition of smooth.
The 57-year-old Grammy winner was born William Royce Scaggs in Canton, Ohio, and grew up in Oklahoma and Texas.
He acquired the nickname "Boz" while attending St. Mark's Prep School in Dallas, Texas, where he met fellow musician Steve Miller. Scaggs joined Miller's band, The Marksmen, as lead singer before the two headed off the University of Wisconsin where they continued to perform in various blues and rock bands.
A couple of years later, following some time in Europe, Scaggs returned to the United States and appeared on the first two Steve Miller albums, "Children of the Future" and "Sailor," both released in 1968.
His first solo album, "Boz Scaggs," came out that same year, followed by several subsequent albums. But it was "Silk Degrees" (1976) that put Scaggs on the musical map.
The songs "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle" helped propel the album to No. 2 on the charts, with sales of more than 5 million. Scaggs and collaborator David Paich won an Emmy that year for best rhythm-and-blues song.
Scaggs took a self-imposed break from the music business for a while, returning in 1988 with "Other Roads" before releasing "Some Change" in 1994.
Now, after more than three decades of making music, Scaggs has a new release, "Dig." He recently sat down with CNN to talk about his life and his music.
Boz: I think that applies, yeah. There are number of ways to turn that word around. ... They all seem to apply in one way or another to this record. It's a hipster term, "dig," and I think on the most basic level that's what the title is meaning to say, like, "Get into it, enjoy it," you know, and maybe look a little
CNN: It's the first album of original songs that you've done in seven years. Is there a reason for that large gap of time?
Boz: There's no reason. I tell myself each time I get into a heat of the battle in the studio that I'm probably happier doing this than anything else. As soon I finish (a) project I'm going to start the next one, but something happens and I go out and start doing things.
I'm really making an effort to sort of stop these big waves, these big periods of on-and-off, and I'm not idle too much of the time. I had a record out about three years ago that was a collection of old rhythm-and-blues songs, so I was in the studio for some time doing that. And, you know, there are other things going on, but yeah, this break between writing songs and putting it all together and recording is a little too long.
CNN: What about the process of writing the songs for the CD? How do you get inspired and put it together?
Boz: I think that the process really begins for me when I have an idea of what the scope of the music is that I want to do, and I have some idea of what the feel of it is going to be. Then I look for collaborators, and in this case, I worked with an old friend and cohort, David Paich, who I've worked with in the past on the "Silk Degrees" album. He and I've been friends for a long time.
We've been talking to each other recently and so I showed him some of my ideas. It really starts with my showing him an idea, and his... feeling it's something we can run with. He'll add something to it and uh, he's very much that role of producer, arranger, and co-musician. From then on it's just building the pieces.
CNN: Is there a theme that ties together the songs on "Dig?"
Boz: You know, I found a few things really after the fact. The record doesn't really have any preconceptions. There was no theme -- there was nothing that I was working for -- but after all was said and done ... I'm beginning to see some themes.
I'm beginning to see that a lot of the characters in these songs are in some ways escape artists. In some ways they're in denial of circumstances. I think the song that really sets the pace is the first song on the record. It's called "Payday" and I think that ... one has a certain conception of what "payday" might mean to everybody. The lyrics go on to tell a little different story about what "payday" might be -- how it might resonate in quite another way. I think that theme pretty much operates throughout this record.
CNN: How about the song "Vanishing Point?"
Boz: "Vanishing Point" is the other end of the spectrum, probably the most difficult song I've ever written -- certainly the most difficult song on this album. ... It's not really one that's necessarily close to my musical experience. It requires a voice and an attitude that I just couldn't find.
I had written pages and pages, literally 40 or 50 pages of sketches and notes and lyrics, and just couldn't crack the code on that one until the 11th hour -- when it was really time for me to finish this song and other things couldn't move on until I did.
CNN: It's been 25 years since "Silk Degree" came out and you're on tour now. What's that like?
Boz: A song comes alive every night in a completely different way... it can go through some pretty remarkable transformations. And these old songs are really not old, they're brand new in a way -- many of them really stand up well as songs, so I don't feel like I'm really repeating anything in there. It's sort of like old friends coming around every once in while. We get to dance again!