Scott McDougall is really getting around over the next few months, touring and sharing his new music. Focusing on the Northwest, where this music was birthed, McDougall hits Portland to release his album Reaching For Some Light – a slightly new sound for him, and a great message! Please enjoy this interview in McDougall’s own words, a link to his video “Something to Take With You”, and join us at the all-ages (til 9) release party at Mississippi Pizza this Thursday, May 19. Rarely has an email interview brought me to tears, but McDougall has been inspired by genuine revelations about his place in the world, and that is pretty overwhelming!
So, Scott – you are definitely descriptive.Was storytelling part of your childhood? Did you play music with your family as a child?
I don’t remember a lot of story-telling at home when I was a kid That’s not to say there wasn’t any, definitely some in Sunday school. I played music with my mom in church when I was young, and I still do. I love the descriptiveness of hymns, and that may be where some of my descriptiveness comes from. Until my nephews and nieces came along, my family wasn’t overly musical either. These days it’s a bigger part of our family. We tend to sing and share songs and more at family gatherings.
You give credit to the Word of God and people you’ve met along the way as inspirations for your music. Can you remember the moment that you first knew you were called to speak through music? Were there any musical mentors in your life?
The desire to create something musical was in me from early on. Before my folks got me my first small drum set, I “made my own” out of boxes and pans and so on. I started making overdub recordings on my Dad’s tape deck at 13. My mom was a big influence on me musically. She plays piano and accordion, and I’ve probably played more music with her through my life than any other person. Some of the things I do on guitar I got from her piano playing. Around 13, I used to ride my bike to this record store called Roundhouse Records, in the San Fernando Valley where we lived. The owner, Gideon, would let me hang around and he’d introduce me to new music. He got me into punk rock, which definitely changed everything for me. That’s when I saw that anybody could create music and could make it their own. That’s when I started playing in bands with friends, and things just kept going from there. Later on there were other influences too, like my bass teacher-turned-bandmate Kirk MacLane and the Irish singer Ken O’Malley who lives and plays in L.A. There were others, too. Lyrically, the Bible has always been an influence on my music, even before it became something that really changed me personally, as I’ve always found a message of hope in it and wanted to share that with others, even before I really experienced what it meant. Now days even more so.
I noticed that some people in the past have classified you as a country musician, In this new album, I’m hearing you introduce more alternative rock instrumentals while maintaining your habit of presenting carefully conceived folk-style lyrics. I also hear the influence of gospel music throughout your discography. Who would you say were the musicians who inspired you to begin writing your own songs?
As far as who influenced me to write my own songs, I’m not totally sure. Around 7th and 8th grade I started playing music with a high school buddy, Matt, as well as making recordings – but most of it didn’t have singing. We eventually started dabbling with singing, and the next logical step was to start writing lyrics. My first was a punk song, called “Red Tape Conformist.” Funny stuff, but I thought it was pretty serious at the time. Around 9th or 10th grade I met my friend, Max, who was already in punk bands that wrote their own songs and playing music with him took me to the next level. I’ve been writing songs ever since.
Can you talk about what inspired the new sound that you have created for Reaching for Some Light?
I previously tried to create recordings that more directly represented what I do live. And since I mostly play solo, in a sort of one-man-band set-up, that really limited where my recordings went. I recently decided to just go for it and create the songs the way I hear them sounding and not be confined by what I do live. I didn’t try to create any specific sound, I just dove in and let myself go, trying whatever sounded good to me. Whatever sound this record has came out of that.
You’re doing a very locally based tour right now- was there a reason that you decided to focus on such a specific area?
Sure. I do more extensive touring once or twice a year, but for these release shows I felt it made more sense to just keep it local. The main reason is I’m playing these few shows with a full band that I put together to play the album live, and I don’t think that doing a full tour with the band is really possible at this moment. Plus, I like to stick around the northwest this time of year, if I can.
You’re releasing a new CD this month at Mississippi Pizza 5/19. What’s the message behind this album? If there isn’t one, what’s the message behind your personal musical journey? Your sound has evolved into something new, but has your purpose changed at all since you began writing?
The message of this album is that there is real hope that endures, even in the dark times where there seems like there isn’t any. I’ve been on a roller-coaster of mental and physical health since I stopped drinking a few years ago. My mind has since been in and out of dark places that I never could have imagined – places I thought I wouldn’t make it out of, which caused me to question everything I previously believed. I started from scratch, looking into the oldest religions, newest psychologies and anything else I could get my hands on. I thought I was done with Christianity, especially with all the self-serving agendas out there (my own included) in the name of Jesus, but it turned out the one thing that actually started to pull me out of that darkness were the words of Jesus Christ Himself. He changed me, and from there the rest of the Bible made more sense than it ever had before and became very practically relevant to everyday life. Not that I don’t struggle with it daily and fail often, but this is where I have found real change and hope. So now I want to celebrate a hope that I have really experienced, and not just dreamed of (like on previous albums), with anybody else who finds life a difficult mess sometimes. The light is out there, we must keep reaching for it.
In your journey so far as a musician, what do you think is the most valuable thing you’ve learned about yourself?
I need others.
Tickets to the release party and complete tour information are available now on McDougall’s website..