Contra Costa Times - Boz Scaggs Interview

[Paul Freeman - Contra Costa Times - November 13, 2001]

Boz Scaggs went seven years without a new album of original material. So for his latest effort, "Dig," Scaggs dug into his past and hooked up with an old friend and collaborator.

The Napa resident chose as his producers Danny Kortchmar (Don Henley, Jackson Browne, James Taylor) and keyboardist David Paich, a founding member of Toto who played on the smash 1976 Scaggs album "Silk Degrees" and co-wrote the hits "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle."

The resulting album incorporates rock, hip-hop, electronic, Latin and jazz elements into an R&B foundation. Highlights include the funk-filled "Payday," the infectiously nasty "Get On the Natch," the earthy "King of El Paso" and the poignant "I Just Go."

Scaggs says, "It occurred to me that I was still playing some of the songs that Paich and I wrote together back then, and they seem to be a good fit for where I'm at musically. The two of us seem to gravitate toward a certain realm of music. David and I get into these medium-tempo, rhythmic groove things, and the chord changes and melodic structure is a little more lyrical."

As for Kortchmar, Scaggs felt the guitarist could add another dimension.  "What he brings to his projects is a little more guitar-oriented and has a certain edgy energy. Danny does things that have a heavier beat groove. His guitar textures and interpretations are quite unique and amazing. Also, I'd been listening to his solo projects, and he was doing some electronic stuff that was very interesting to me."

Paich and Kortchmar gave Scaggs room to showcase his guitar licks, which complement his soul-drenched vocals. Unlike so many guitar whizzes who feel that speed and volume determine ability, Scaggs expresses himself through subtlety and nuance. "I don't have a style that would allow me to be upfront and very forward. I am not a great technician," he says modestly. "My style is just more reserved."

Scaggs estimates that he, Paich and Kortchmar did more than 90  percent of the playing. For special contributions, they called in such trusted musical friends as Roy Hargrove Jr., Ray Parker Jr. and Steve Lukather.

Raised in Oklahoma and Texas, Scaggs began recording in the '60s. He gained attention when he moved to the Bay Area and joined the Steve Miller Band. He left in '68 to carve out his niche as a solo artist. He received critical acclaim immediately, though his mainstream breakthrough didn't come until the '76 release "Silk Degrees."

Throughout the '70s, Scaggs focused on career. "My interests then were keeping a band together, trying to make my way in the world of music, being a bandleader, a songwriter, a singer, a recording artist and a performer - all those things. That was what I did nonstop. Then there was a period where I needed to get away from that, take care of other affairs. So I stopped that process."

In the '80s, Scaggs pulled back, taking time to enjoy life. That included operating the successful San Francisco nightclub Slim's.

Scaggs is ready to concentrate on making music again. "This record came together so well, I'm eager to start it up again. Hopefully there won't be such a hiatus between projects for me. The satisfaction I got the first time I started playing an instrument, that learning, growing process, was one of the most exciting times that I've had with my music. I'd say what I'm doing now compares to that. The middle period was a lot of working out other interests and egos and hormonal stuff. There was a lot of chasing things around. There were so many distractions that kept me from enjoying the pure musical aspects of it."

With the launch of "Dig," Scaggs plans to be more visible. He was seen on the season premiere of "Ally McBeal." The show used several of his songs in past seasons. "It was a nice surprise that they asked me to do it. I don't have a lot of experience in the television world. It can be dreadful. Standing around waiting for production things to happen is a drag. But this program was different. They have a real sense about how musicians work best. We walked in and they were ready for us. They were most cordial and professional. It made it fun and easy."

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