Reno Gazette-Journal (NV) - Boz Scaggs Interview
The music's the reward
Recording new CD challenged Boz Scaggs
[By: Neil Baron - July 11, 2002]
The goals are different, but the feelings behind the music remain the same for singer/songwriter Boz Scaggs. Last year, the San Francisco resident released his first CD of all-original music in seven years. The album, "Dig," on Virgin Records, is a welcome addition to Scaggs' vast repertoire of music.
"It's really nice to have some new stuff to chew over and play, particularly in performance," Scaggs said from by phone from home. "It's fresh and very open material. I've got a great band that really brings it to life in different ways."
Why a seven-year wait between original albums (his last was 1994's "Some Change")?
"Why seven years?" he asked. "I guess my question is why not? In the 1970s, I made an album about every 18 months. But I'm on a different schedule now. I don't go to work every day and write songs. Sometimes I have no schedule at all."
However, Scaggs still has fans. Lots of them. A peek at the active message board on his Web site reveals that. There's a group of at least 25 people from several different states who are planning to come to his shows at the Silver Legacy.
"Really?" Scaggs said. "I'm not much of a Web surfer. I didn't know. But that's really nice. It's great to know people out there still care about you and your music."
Scaggs, too, is a fan of "Dig," which was released in 2001. The two keys to the record, he said, were co-producers and longtime friends Danny Kortchmar and David Paich.
"This probably was the most enjoyable project I have ever done," Scaggs said. "I really felt in working with my two collaborators I was working with kindred spirits. Every day in the studio was a challenge, and musically it was very rewarding."
On "Dig," Scaggs maintains the R&B sound that propelled him to star status in the 1970s. That came in 1976 when "Silk Degrees" reached No. 2 on the album charts on the strength of hits such as "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle."
That success was a long time coming though. Scaggs first got the music bug as a young teenager.
Born William Royce Scaggs on June 8, 1944, in Ohio, Scaggs eventually lived in Dallas, where he attended high school with fellow musician Steve Miller. The two played together in the Marksmen in 1959 and went together to the University of Wisconsin.
They eventually went their separate ways. After returning to Dallas, Scaggs went to Europe, where he drifted for several years, even playing his music on street corners.
"I was a traveller back then," he said. "In the summertime in Paris, if you have a guitar and friends, it (singing on the street) is something to do. But I also worked in little clubs, washed dishes, did whatever I had to do. It didn't take much. I was living pretty simply, hitchhiking around. I'd stay in a town for a while, get a gig, watch people, listen and move on to the next place."
After three years, Scaggs moved to San Francisco and re-joined Miller in the Steve Miller Band. They recorded the first two albums of Miller's band, "Children of the Future" and "Sailor."
In 1968, Scaggs left to pursue a solo career.
"With Steve, that was my first extensive work in the studio. I started writing my own songs and learning recording techniques and developing my own style. Steve wanted to do a guitar trio, which he did, and I went on to write my own songs. In six months, I had my own record contract."
His first album, "Boz Scaggs," was released in 1968 on Atlantic. He then signed with Columbia where he cut a series of albums of rock blended with R&B. The records were acclaimed by critics but achieved only modest success with fans.
"My first three or four albums sold maybe 200,000 to 300,000 records," he said. "So I had an audience. I just didn't have any hit singles or gold records. But I was traveling with a band and playing colleges all over the country. But I didn't have my breakthrough until "Silk Degrees."
That was a special time for Scaggs.
"I was all ready and geared up," he said. "It was a great experience. I had worked all those years to expand my audience. Then that record came along and was the key to playing more places and for larger audiences and to do things musically that I wasn't able to afford to do or didn't have the opportunity to do. It was a great time. I wish every artist that sort of success in their career at least once."
Scaggs had more success with the 1977 release of "Down Two Then Left" and 1980's "Middle Man."
However, Scaggs essentially retired from the music scene in the 1980s. Why?
"I can't answer that simply," he said.
Scaggs did open a restaurant and a music nightclub, Slim's, in San Francisco. Slim's remains open today.
He returned to recording in 1988 with "Other Roads" and slowly began to get back into touring. He released a couple of albums before the seven-year gap of original music.
Now, however, Scaggs said he's having the time of his life.
"I love being able to sustain myself as a musician. I enjoy every bit of what I do now for many of the same reasons I enjoyed it when I was 14 or 15 years old. I get much of the same emotional and creative satisfaction that I got then. And now I'm able to choose the times I go out, how I go out and with whom I go out. I still have aspirations and goals. I really just love what I'm doing. I wouldn't do anything any differently."
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