Article & Photos by David Shehi
Scott Metzger is a free agent. He is a lyricist. But overall, Scott is a musician in such a classical sense that it is hard to define him otherwise. He is a guy who has traveled the path of a working musician. Any who have been fortunate enough to see him play live with any of the numerous projects he has joined/founded have been treated to some of the sweetest sound that a guitar can possibly make. Scott can make a guitar weep with such crisp beauty that one is unclear as to whether or not they should cry, clap, or just stand in chills. His diversity shows with the many projects that he has been or currently is involved that are too many to name but include: RANA, Particle, American Babies, Chris Harford and the Band of Changes, Bustle In Your Hedgerow, The Gene Ween Band, and Amfibian. He was once even offered to play in James Browns band! Scott is not “jam.” He is not a “face-melter.” He is not domineering in his style of play. Scott gets in where he best fits and takes the music to an entirely new level through a blend of subtleness that can only be defined as artistic humility. When he takes the stage, one knows that they are in for a treat. And he has taken the stage with a pretty impressive list of musicians including Trey Anastasio, Joe Satriani, Mickey Hart, Joss Stone, Galactic, John Medeski, Robbie Kreiger, John Popper, Umphrey’s McGee, Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule, Mike Gordon, Disco Biscuits, and Phish lyricist, Tom Marshall, of Amfibian. If you see live music you either have seen Scott or will soon. Be assured that the time will not come. Scott has graced crowds with sweet sounds at nearly every major festival on the circuit including Bonnaroo, Camp Bisco, Moe Down, Langerado, SXSW, Newport Folk, High Sierra and Jam Cruise. He meets praising peers and applauding gatherers at every turn. We were fortunate enough to snag Scott between shows and able to garner some insight from him as he travels the road to happy destiny…here is the abridged version:
SM: I’ve taken stuff from a thousand guys from Debashish Bhattacharya to Chet Atkins to Eddie Hazel and try to make it into my own “Metzger-y” kinda thing. Hopefully someone hears some of Nels Cline and Richard Thompson in what I do. They are my two favorite guitarists walking the planet.
SM: Making music with other people, composing on the spot. When there are a group of people that are all playing together on the same page and everything is clicking, it’s the greatest, realest thing I’ve ever felt. It’s completely addictive and I’m hooked.
As a scene the jam thing is very unique. A bunch of guys that support each other, jam together, and are genuinely interested in what each other are up to? Are you kidding me? I don’t think you can have any idea as to how different that attitude is from the rest of the music industry unless you’ve seen it with your own eyes. My old band RANA and I tried to play the corporate game for a second but we didn’t stand a chance. We had a guy telling us what we were gonna wear, who was gonna be the band spokesman, who was gonna be the the guy that the chicks would all swoon for… We were all looking at each other like “Is this guy for real? We’re outta here.”
SM: A live gig is like going on a date. You’re not sure how it’s gonna turn out. Could turn out great. Maybe not so great. You might like some of what you see and not like other parts of it. But you play through to see how it all turns out.
The studio is like proposing. You have an opportunity to create a moment exactly how you want it to be. You can mull it over and over to decide exactly how you want it to go.
They are both fun and I like them both in their own way.
JBO: That very well may be one of the best ways that I have ever heard the two described. Throughout your career, you have been involved in some interesting collaborations w/ some phenomenal musicians. Is there anything else on the near horizon that you can disclose without top secret clearance?
SM: Enthusiasm and a good hang. I don’t care if somebody is writing the next ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’, if the hang isn’t good or if there’s no enthusiasm for what’s happening, then I don’t want to have anything to do with it.
SM: We’ve done tons of shows together in lots of different projects. We’ve played all over the world together. I’ve spent hundreds of hours on stage with Joe. And we get along really well off stage, too. That’s really important. We’ve been through a lot together. I know Joey’s playing real well and I’m sure the opposite is true. I’m lucky that some of my best friends are some of the most raging musicians around today and Joey is at the top of that list. Oh, here’s Joe now. What do you think, Joe?
A man of few words. Thanks, dude. Joe Russo, everybody
JBO: Yes, much obliged Senor Russo. So, you have been praised by many in the industry from Warren Haynes to Marc Brownstein, how do you measure your success in regards to your career? Do you base it more on fan or peer response?
SM: Definitely on peer response. I’d have quit a long time ago if I based by my success on fan numbers/response. I’m a guy that walks backstage at a show and I’m friends with everyone in the band, but all the cute girls and hangers-on are like “who’s that?”
JBO: Maybe so, but when you take the stage, if they didn’t know before, they ask. Even better, what is inspiring as a fan is to see you interact with your fans as peers. Why do you think that this attribute has been lost by so many in the industry?
SM: I am a fan of musicians, comedians, athletes, etc., and still get excited when I get to meet a hero. There’s nothing better than meeting somebody you look up to and they give you a minute or two and bro out with you. There’s also nothing worse than when you meet someone you idolize and they give you the big blow off. These are the things in life that come back to us.
SM: There’s that word, career, again. There have been a few. James Brown telling me I “play so much guitar, it’s frightening” is going to be tough to beat. I mean, it’s James Brown telling you he likes the way you play. Jeez…