Darrell Scott performs July 6 as part of Vail Summer Bluegrass concert series
VAIL — The Vail Summer Bluegrass concert series continues today with Grammy nominee Darrell Scott performing a solo set. We caught up with Scott to learn more about his passion for bluegrass, his latest record and why music born in Kentucky is the perfect fit for the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
VAIL DAILY: What’s your musical background, and how did you get into bluegrass?
DARRELL SCOTT: My family is from Kentucky for the last 150 years plus, and playing music was our pastime. Growing up in a family band and being from Kentucky, bluegrass was part of the fabric of music, right along with country music and church music all rolled into one music, really.
VD: What do you love about bluegrass, compared to other genres of music?
SCOTT: When it is at its best, bluegrass is amazing musicianship and honest storytelling and heartfelt singing and harmony. I especially love second-generation bluegrass — the new-grass, the John Hartford, the Peter Rowan threads — those who took bluegrass to the next place. Bluegrass is not to be a museum piece.
VD: How does bluegrass fit your lifestyle or mindset? How do you connect with the storytelling or instrumentation?
SCOTT: I like rural stuff. I like simple living. We grow food, have some animals and have 40 solar panels. It is the attempt at being ever more sustainable. The storytelling of bluegrass or old-time or mountain music feels ancient — it is ancestral to me and timeless.
VD: Break down one of the songs we might hear in Vail: How did it come to be, and what inspired it?
SCOTT: “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” is a song that arrived from me researching what happened to a great-grandfather of mine from Harlan County, Kentucky, and how they moved from coal mining to poor tobacco farming over 100 years ago. My research in this missing great-grandfather turned into this song.
When I went to Harlan County in the holler my family left long ago, the first thing I noticed was how little direct sunlight would be seen based on mountains to the east and west (“and the sun comes up about 10 in the morning/and the sun goes down about 3 in the day”). They just simply got less direct sunlight every day of their lives; that is going to have some effect.
VD: How does it make you feel when you perform that song?
SCOTT: I feel like I am bearing witness to my ancestors but also telling a story that transcends my family story and becomes a more universal story.
VD: Tell me about one of your recent projects that you’re particularly proud of. How did it come to fruition, and what makes it unique?
SCOTT: My latest record, “Couchville Sessions,” was recorded over 14 years ago and just released this May 2016. I am happy that it stands up to the 14 years and that I could pick it up and it still held true and together. What brought me back to this record was meeting keyboardist Bill Payne and realizing he was the missing piece to that record from yesteryear. I am especially proud of having friends Peter Rowan, John Cowan and Guy Clark on this record, as well.
VD: Bluegrass music and mountains just seem to go together. What do you like about playing in the Colorado Rockies, and what are you looking forward to about the show in Vail?
SCOTT: To me, the Rockies are a perfect place for roots music. Music that stemmed from mountains in Kentucky sits perfectly with the Rockies — the beauty, the space, the folks closer to the earth — it all works together. It always has.