Philadelphia musician and songwriter Scot Sax has come a long way since he wrote his first song at the age of 13 in 1983. He’s been in bands signed to record labels, co-wrote a Grammy-winning song, toured the world as opener for the Who, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, and written as many as 200 songs a year.
Now he teaches songwriting at the University of the Arts, and is about to release a new solo album with a release party at the Ardmore Music Hall on November 9. He’s also making a documentary called “Platinum Rush; a film by a songwriter.“
His life as an entertainer began at a very young age as he puts it, “I was born out of a tragedy.” His older brother at the age of 5 was hit by a car and spent several years bedridden before losing his life. Scot was about two years old when his brother died. What he remembers is that his parents, in their shock and depression, would brighten up whenever Scot acted silly and made them laugh. He learned early on the positive effect entertainment has on others.
He took up the drums before he was a teen, and his playing alleviated the heavy emotions around the house. People were amused and impressed to see a young boy pounding away so proficiently on the drums.
Then when he picked up a guitar for the first time, he didn’t play someone else’s song, he wrote his own songs. That has been his anchor, he realizes now. As an adult, songwriting, and entertaining his family saved his life.
In 2006, he co-wrote “Like We Never Loved At All“ that became a hit for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and won a Grammy. With his band Wanderlust in 1995, his song “I Walked” went to number one on rock stations nationally. “I am the Summertime” in 1999 was a hit on the film soundtrack to American Pie.
The songwriter spent some time with me recently talking about his career.
CD: Who is the most important person you’ve met that’s had the biggest impact on your career?
SS: David Andreone. He was my publisher for ten years when we were both at Warner Chapell. I was signed to WC as an artist with my band, Wanderlust, and then after that band had its moment in the sun, I was probably heading for the hills but he believed in me and re-signed me as a songwriter to WC specifically and kept me on and helped me really build my career.
He believed in me. Because of him, opportunities came about like having my song in the American Pie soundtrack; I wrote with Paul Williams; going to Nashville and winding up having Faith Hill and Tim McGraw cover a song I co-wrote, things like that. Now anytime I’m not sure what my next career move should be, I call him and he’ll say, call this guy, I think he’s really good.
The best advice I could give anyone is, surround yourself with good people. It makes a really big difference. It feeds itself to the next round of good people. I’ve been signed with Downtown Music Publishing in New York for the past two years, and David suggested getting in touch with them. It’s been a good experience.
CD: Would you say that you’ve had enough success in the past that you don’t need a manager or a record company to put you out there now? You’ve gotten to the point that your name is strong enough by itself?
SS: Well, as a songwriter it is. The doors are pretty open to write with certain people. I can get my songs heard pretty much by anyone I would like to which is great. As an artist, my name is not known as much because I’ve changed band names – it was Wanderlust, and then it was Bachelor Number One which we were on the American Pie Soundtrack that was supposed to be a one-off but it wound up getting a deal in England and I lived over there for a little while and toured. Then when that ran its course, I wanted a real band whatever that meant at the time and so I formed Feel. We had a deal with Curb Records. That was 3 or 4 years. When I moved back to Philly I worked with Sharon Little. I had a side project called Queen Electric. I’ve changed my name so often but I have not gone under my name Scot Sax since the early nineties. I wasn’t able to build on my name, which I think you take for granted. I figured, people will piece it together but they won’t. There is so much content out there and so many names.
CD: You’re not a household word yet.
SS: Right, and that’s why instead of being frustrated by that I’m setting the clock back to zero and officially starting my career as Scot Sax. That’s why I made this CD “500 Gigs and a Hard Drive” which is – I took all my best known songs from the different bands I’ve had over the years, and I sung them all acoustically which I’ve been doing on stage for the past two years and now I think it’s starting to be cohesive.
CD: How important is it to you to be known to the public as Scot Sax?
SS: I don’t know. It changes from day to day. I think when I was a kid starting out, I wanted to be as big as my heroes – David Bowie and Bob Dylan. Obviously the Beatles were a big influence. A funny thing happened on the way to fame. When I had my record deal on RCA with Wanderlust, at the peak of that, I really couldn’t stand it. I hated everything about it. My nervous system was shot. After awhile, I didn’t want to travel as much. It was very intense with interpersonal relationships. I was young, too. I don’t know if I was fully prepared for it. It was four guys who had no money. Then it was four guys who had some money. Then it was one guy who had more money, which was me because I was the songwriter. Then the three guys are running out of money and I still had some money so I looked like a jerk (laughs). I got very, very distraught. I also don’t think I expected what it would feel like when the big machine falls. I wasn’t ready for it. If you’ve never experienced it - what it feels like is somebody is running the roller coaster and you can’t make it slow down or stop. And you want it to keep running because it’s your career but you really have to be made of a certain thing to handle that. At this point, I would just be thrilled to be able to play anywhere around the country and have 300 people show up. That would be the perfect career. Like Jill Sobule, or Marshall Crenshaw. Steve Forbert I think has a great career.
Scot Sax I’m in the Mood Record Release Party
Saturday, November 9
Ardmore Music Hall
23 East Lancaster Avenue
Ardmore, Pa 19003
Doors open 7 pm; Show 8 pm