Interview: Boz Scaggs
Scaggs Talks Recent Albums, Working with Lucinda Williams, in Light of Granada Show
When Boz Scaggs plays at the Granada Theatre on Tuesday, August 2, at 8 p.m., he will arrive carrying quite a legacy. Beginning his music career with the Steve Miller Band and going strong ever since, Scaggs has been a recurring rocker on the charts, scoring international acclaim with his silky-smooth voice, especially since the release of his soft rock sensation, Silk Degrees. Recently, Scaggs took a blusier turn with albums 2013’s Memphis and 2015’s A Fool To Care. Scaggs spoke with me about his new tour, the start of his fame, and working with Lucinda Williams.
How is your year going so far? How does this tour feel compared to ones you’ve done in the past? This is a good tour. I’ve been working with this band a lot the last few years. We took a good deal of time off during the winter before we started up a rather short spring tour. This is really the first substantial tour of the year, starting out early July and it will take us through the end of August. It feels really good to be in the midst of a tour like this, because you can become really focused on the a lot of the finer points of the music, and it’s a time when the band takes another step because even tighter than it’s been in the past. It’s really fun to be completely immersed in the music like these.
Your last two albums have had their heart in Memphis, with a lot of musical homages to the South. What is it about Memphis, Nashville, and the rest of Tennessee and that region of that continues to draw you in? I was heavily influenced by early rock ’n’ roll, and a lot of early rock ’n’ roll — or that which appealed to me the most — was music that came out of Memphis and Nashville… those being places that drew upon the musical conventions of Appalachia and certainly the music of the Mississippi Delta, and the music that came out of New Orleans, and came up the Mississippi River. That’s very raw and primal stuff to me.
You’ve been playing music for so long, it’s amazing — congratulations on the enduring success. Looking back, is there a decade in your career that stands out as the most significant? Or is it all a continuity? The most important decade in my career was the ’70s. I made my first solo record in 1969 or 1970, and I formed my own first band and started to play clubs and other gigs in S.F. in 1970. I got my second recording contract with Columbia Records, which was beginning of a string of records over the next decade, which took me from playing clubs to having the huge success of the Silk Degrees album, which made me an international star. It had me traveling all over America and Europe and Japan and Australia, and so forth, with multi-platinum record sales. So it was that period of ten years from 1969 to 1979 that was the most important decade. Another of records leading to the one that I had, Silk Degrees and two albums that followed that were very big, multi-platinum, big time records.
I really love your cover with Lucinda Williams, “Whispering Pines” — beautiful steel guitar. Can you tell me a bit about the recording process of that one? It was really interesting working with Lucinda. We set up two microphones, one for her and one for me, facing each other, and the rhythm section played outside the room, and we sang live to the section playing, and in that situation you’re sort of playing off each other’s emotions in a way — I mean, she’s literally standing six feet in front of me — I can see her and she can see me and I was singing, as it were, to each other. There was no rehearsing, really, we just both loved the song and started feeling our way through it. Given the high respect that I have for Lucinda as a person and a musician, I have to say it was one of the most electrifying musical experiences I’ve ever had. The section was also really inspired by her being on the session. It was a very high moment, one of the most memorable of my career.