A Conversation With Scott Pemberton 9.22.17


Interview by Eric Willacker

I got to sit down with Scott Pemberton of the Scott Pemberton Band before he made the trip up to Olympia, WA for his show on September 22, 2017, and ask him some questions about music, music festivals and how he got to where he is now...

EW: So anyone who has seen you perform knows you have a very distinctive playing style, for example not using a guitar strap or laying the guitar down on a stool and tapping strings like you are playing a piano. Can you tell me how you developed this style of playing?

SP: Sure, so I came from a jazz background you know, like before I was doing this more rock and funk and dance thing, I was playing a lot of jazz and jazz as a side job with a lot of other Portland musicians, but often I would have a stool and be sitting. So when I started touring I would have a stool, well you know even playing in Portland I would have a stool with me, but then I found that I wasn't ever sitting on it. Maybe I would sit on it for like one song or something as the music was developing. So I just had this stool there. I was using stools from the bars actually at that time, wherever I was playing. I started using my strap where I would ride the strap really low, sorta like a rock guy would more than a jazz guy. But then when I was playing jazzier things, I would lift my guitar up and then the strap would fall off my back and I would struggle with it.

You've probably seen shows with a band where the guitarist has lost his strap and then finishes the song and then just continues to go. It was starting to happen like every song. I don't think the strap is a bad deal, it's just that it was starting to constantly be a hassle, and more of a hassle than not having a strap. So I was just like, 'Oh, I'm giving it up,' you know? And then I had a stool there. I found when I was singing and such, I would lay my guitar on the stool and just sing. Then I would just start, when I went back to the guitar, playing it that way. But I had never worked on playing it that way. So, it was really... crusty. You know I was just doing my best and I was attacking it and having fun. Then after, I don't know, a year maybe of just kind of dabbling with it, (it was before I think maybe the second time I went to High Sierra) where I was like, this is something I should just take the time to develop rather than constantly just sort of going for it without ever working anything out. So I started organizing that technique, which has been really fun. Um, just showing me the guitar in a different way, even when I'm playing the guitar not that way. It looks different now that I've studied it. It's like you look at it more globally when it's laying flat like that. Which is cool to bring that to the, you know, the more traditional stuff.

EW: So playing it laying it down tapping, it gave you a whole new world of inspiration is what your saying? A new way of looking at the guitar?

SP: Yeah, I think you could put it that way. It's also like I'm a life student of the guitar and I always enjoy finding areas of the guitar or things that feel foggy, or smoky,  I don't really see them or know what to do. Flipping the guitar that way... it's like looking at the valley from down in the valley to looking at it from a mountain. You see everything totally different. It caused me to remap things and such.

EW: Can you tell me about the guitar you play and the magical little red button you have installed on it?

SP: Yeah, so that guitar was like my first real guitar. I got it when I was a late teen, shortly after I started guitar. So I got it when I was like 19 and it had the red button there. Where it has the red button, there was a toggle switch that would turn the pick ups into more like Stratocaster pickups. It flipped from Humbuckers to single coils, but they sounded horrible that way. It just sounded like a really crappy, bad Stratocaster. It was not a good sound, so the guitar just had this suck switch built into it that's in a bad spot. When you're jamming out, you can easily just hit it and suddenly your guitar is half as loud and sounds terrible. So I just wanted to just have it disconnected and then I thought, 'I could put something in there that would be useful.' So, there's a guitar trick where you turn the volume all the way down on the neck pickup and all the way up on the bridge pickup. Then if you tap your pickup selector down to the,  bridge pick up, it will make stuttery sounds as it kind of engages and then disengages. If that makes any sense? I just basically installed a button to do that, so it engages the guitar when I push it and disengages when I let it go, so I can play the guitar percussively like a drum.

EW: Interesting. Is that your favorite guitar to play, because that's usually the one I see you using at shows?

SP: Yeah, yeah it is. I mean that's like my old friend. It's the guitar I've been playing primarily since I was a teenager, so I just know that guitar well.  Especially since I have not been using a strap, its kinda been molded to me. I've eroded away the wood in places and stuff to make it particularly comfortable for me. And it's my guitar.

EW: And what kind of guitar is it?

SP: It's a Gibson 335, the year 1972 and it's a pretty tough guitar. I'm pretty physical when I'm playing, so far it can withstand most of what I do.

EW: Yeah, that's definitely good seeing how you play live.

SP: Yes, it's not a collector piece. Most everything in there has been either replaced because I wanted something different or broken and replaced multiple times. It's kind of like an old classic car or something. You just keep it going and gradually change the things out, like a Ford mustang or something. You get some new tires, get some wheels, every once in a while you gotta put a new engine in it. That type of thing. Actually I have two, but I really only play one.

EW: Are they both set up the same way?

SP: As close as you can, yeah. It's interesting how they're the same guitar from the same year, from the same company and they're substantially different.

EW: Well, I'm assuming there's differences in the wood... minute differences.

SP: The other one's practically brand new. It really wasn't played very much so it doesn't have any of my erosion, and it just doesn't fit me as well. It's less comfortable to play, but that being said it's also really crisp, sort of like a new skateboard deck. So it's really fun to play. The idea was, we were starting to play some bigger festival stages and just showing up with only one guitar is just too risky. If something were to happen and it were to break or whatever, the show would be shot. That's why I got another one and set it up. And then if I have to have a guitar in the shop or something, I have one that I can still play. But I'm not one of those guys so far, that tours with eight different guitars with different styles and sounds and things like that. I don't even have much of a guitar collection at home. I pretty much have those two and a few other loose ends, but nothing else professional really.

EW: Yeah, so you're not the big time guitar collector, where you have to have one of everything?

SP: No. I'm more like that with other instruments. Like I have quite a collection at home, but it's not guitars. I have a piano and pedal steel and a Hammond organ, clarinet and a saxophone. And pretty much everything that I know how to play.

EW: Do you ever play any of the other instruments in shows, like the pedal steel or anything like that?

SP: Well, I used to play pedal steel a lot. It was a passion, the pedal steel particularly, and that instrument was just like crack or something. I couldn't think about anything else. It's all I wanted to think about, it was almost overbearing how much I liked it. I just decided at some point I could be pretty good at that, and pretty good at Hammond organ, which was another obsession I had, but playing it with the keyboard bass, organ trio style Hammond. I spent quite a bit of time with that too. Then I just decided maybe I should focus on guitar, for a while at least. I could be an exceptional guitarist, or pretty good at all those things.

EW: Well, you're definitely an exceptional guitarist.

SP: Well, thank you. And I think those other things, like some of the chord voicings that I use or chord movements have come from what the soul and church organists would do. And a lot of the peddle steel had a lot to do with why I play the guitar flat. I like the way that it looks and it sort of plugs into that receptor that I love so much about peddle steel. Its like the other instruments I've learned I definitely bring to the guitar.

EW: That's always good.

SP: I play keys sometimes, especially when we've had various musicians in the band and somebody has a bigger keyboard rig. I'll go over to play the keys, or I play drums sometimes during shows. Some tours I bring the saxophone.

EW: Now, do you play the saxophone?

SP: I do, yeah. I'm actually pretty reasonable. I'm thinking I might bring it this weekend.

EW: That would be interesting, I'd like to see that.

SP: Yes, it's pretty fun. The beginning of my level of music was the saxophone and when I was a kid I played it through high school.

EW: Was that your first instrument?

SP: Piano was my first instrument, but I was forced to do it by my parents and I hated it. I was like 5 or 6 and I absolutely did not want to play piano. Or be forced to practice. I quit piano when I was 7 or 8 or something like that and I found the saxophone in like elementary school and was like 'Ok, this is cool.' Then I put it down entirely when I was like 18 and I never played it again until recently.

EW: Interesting.

SP: Can still play it, so like, it's there.

EW: Yeah, was your family musical too, or was it just you?

SP: Well, my mother, nah. My dad is very much. When I was little, my folks were kinda Footloose style. They were conservative Christians and there was no music... like music was the devil's tool type of thing. If you played a Beatles record backwards, they're giving you Satan messages. That type of thing. And so there wasn't much music in our house, but my dad is very musical and really is a very natural musician. He would play the banjo sometimes and those were special glimpses. And I think that they were always very supportive of my music. They never tried to encourage me to not do it in any way. And I think that when I was taking sax lessons, it helped me to get some more exposure to music that wasn't church music. Because of jazz, I could go to the library and check out jazz records and stuff as a kid.

EW: You mentioned festivals when we were talking a minute ago, and you've been playing a lot of them in the last few years. Is there one particular festival that stands out for you?

SP: I think I if I had to pick one festival, they're almost like people. They all have their own personalities and every single of them is so unique, but I'd say High Sierra. It's the organization. It's so well organized that you can go and have a really fun time and you're not spending too much with details of when it's time to show up or where you're camping, or how you feed your band. And then the artists that they bring are always really fun. They specifically build into the festival collaborations. I'll find myself playing with people I've never met, like me and Fareed Haque and Stanley Jordan on stage together or something. Where we didn't even know that we were gonna do that until like an hour before. I just think that's really fun and cool. It's set up in a way where it doesn't feel like, 'Oh gosh I've got this show tomorrow with Stanley Jordan, I better get ready.' Because, I didn't even really know I was doing it and you're just like, 'Hey Stanley, you wanna come do this thing?' I don't know, I just think that's really cool.

EW: I'm sure that takes a lot of the stress out of it, if it's just a spur of the moment thing where you're just like, 'Oh, I'm just gonna play.'

SP: Yeah, that's fun. It's not like performances are a stress, but it doesn't even feel like work when you didn't know you were gonna do it. It's just like if a friend came over to your house and you decide to jam. The festival is just really set up well to create those situations. And then if you're camping at the festival, which I usually do, all the artists are camped right next to each other. The last couple of years, we've been camped next to California Honeydrops, so it ends up with late night jams, just us and them. It's just set up for some good fun community building and jamming. Also, if I could mention another festival; The Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland.

EW: Yeah?

SP: The thing that's so cool about that is it's huge. The biggest crowds that we've played for. Like 15,000 people at our stage. Then at the end of the day, they raised more than a million dollars for our local food bank. I think that's pretty neat that the bands can get paid, the production is good, everything is good and they're donating a huge amount of money to a local charity that I care about. I think that's cool.

EW: Yeah, and its close to home, so that's gotta make it really nice for you.

SP: Absolutely, absolutely.

EW: Are there any festivals that you haven't played yet, that you really want to play?

SP: Well, I'm sure there are. I feel like Bumbershoot would be fun, we haven't done that. There's I think Pickathon, they have bands kind of more our style, but not really. I've just heard that festival is really fun and I've never been or played. So festivals, like I was saying, to me are kind of like people. Sometimes the tiny little festival in central Pennsylvania is going to be the one that really stands out. So I don't even know which ones I want to play. I'm going to get there and be like, 'Wow this is amazing!'

EW: You recently released a new live CD called, Game Tapes Vol. 1, can you tell me a little about the CD, where was it recorded and why you chose to do a live CD?

SP: Yeah, I... I don't really know. It just felt like, kind of like my intuition, it felt like the right thing to do. It was what I wanted to do and I feel like a lot of the music we play different at every show. We're doing some different forms and different mash-ups of various songs and things like that and I thought it would be cool to document some of it. And then there's things that we've been doing regularly that I'm ready to not do anymore, to kind of document them and kind of be like, 'Ok let's move on with that, that is really cool, but let's do something different now.'

EW: Do you feel like live recordings capture the energy of your music better?

SP: I'm not sure if "better" is the term I would use. I think its just different. It's a different way to capture it, because like a live performance, of course, you have an audience. Now I say for a music goer, a lot of times we go to shows for reasons more than just the music, like hanging out with your friends. Maybe you're checking out a new venue. There's a lot of reasons you go to shows as well as the music and so like a show has all of that with it, there's some of that you just can't capture. It can't be recorded. You can't stand there and see the light show in your headphones you know. But that being said, all of those things push the music various ways and it inspires me just to take different directions and elevate in different ways that I think are really cool and special. But in the studio you can create things in a more controlled way. Like when you hear it back, you're like, 'Ok, this is what the listener is going to hear exactly,' and 'What kind of mood is that going to create?' Then the live situation, you're just playing to the crowd and playing with the crowd. I always think when a crowd or and audience gets moving....

At this point, Scott's phone died, literally. He called me back from his home phone, and we continued.

EW: Yeah, we were just talking about your live CD, and I think I missed some good stuff there, because you probably kept talking after the phone disconnected, huh?

SP: No, it beeped at me when it disconnected. We were talking about why a live album and the audience, as they get into it and are participating, give us feedback on how this music should go. Different things affect the music, in effect the audience plays with us, you know?

EW: Yeah, so you play off the audience a little bit.

SP: Yeah, oh absolutely. Or just even what songs we're going to play. People request songs, or certain songs may be resonating with the audience more. I don't write set lists, so it is the audience that really establishes the set. If things are moving a certain direction, I'll call certain songs. I thought that's why a live album would be cool. My first album was live and I consider us to be a live band, almost primarily maybe I should say, but I feel like live albums are natural. I think I will continue, that's why I called it Game Tapes Vol. 1. I'm planning to continue to do live albums. So far I have two live albums and two studio albums. Even if you listen to the two live albums, they sound a lot different. And I think that's cool. Two or three years from now, hopefully, it will sound a lot different still. And then we'll have another live album.

EW: So was this album all recorded in one spot, or did you use different recordings from different locations?

SP: I used recordings from different locations. I initially did it so that I wouldn't necessarily know what locations or what show, recording and storing all the data in a hard drive that would keep all the shows together, but I wouldn't always know which show's from where. Then I'd go back with some vibes of the numbers of what show I thought were super sick. We did it on one west coast tour, including Olympia. It was the tour that that poster is the same as the album art. I think we did it in spring, this spring. Then, I went home and selected the tracks I thought were the best and then sent them to a local engineer to mix. We were touring with the recording equipment.

EW: Do you do that still, record all of your shows?

SP: We do. Not all of our shows, we record most of our shows. So it's not always time appropriate or location appropriate to set up our recording stuff, but if it is, we do it., even just for our own personal reference so we can check out what we do. We'll bring it, we're planning to record Olympia tonight. Then next, maybe we can set up some type of thing where we can get people the show that they just heard, right then.

EW: Yeah?

SP: We're not geared up for that right now. We have all the equipment to do it, we just have to organize it that way.

EW: So earlier you mentioned something about brain damage and I know you were involved in a pretty serious accident that almost ended your musical career. Can you tell me what happened and how you managed to come back from that?

SP: Sure. I was hit by a car while I was riding my bicycle. I wasn't wearing a helmet, which is super stupid. You should always wear a helmet, and I do now., but that caused what would have been a trip to the emergency room with a couple of broken bones to a near death because I actually cracked my skull and gave me a traumatic brain injury. I was in the ICU in a coma for like a week or something. In the MRIs, my brain looked like it was in really bad shape, like they were preparing my family for the worst. If I were to come out of my coma, I most likely would not be able to speak or walk or anything. And then one day, in my mind... well this is what happened, I just kinda woke up from my coma and I could talk and I was just there. My brain rewired itself somehow and there I was. And then from there, I still was like, my brain was pretty damaged and it wasn't a super long recovery, but months, maybe six months or something like that. It was a year before my brain was back to its normal size from the swelling. They really did not understand why I was in as good of a condition as I was. And apparently sometimes people have that, but then they will suddenly revert to more of where their brain should be. So they thought that at any moment I might just suddenly start having seizures and potentially just die or revert to a vegetable state. So I had to have 24 hour care like all the time, it was just really hard for my family, because I didn't have people to watch me if that were to happen.

I couldn't play the guitar or anything for quite a while. It was like the whole thing for me wasn't really all that traumatic, it was like being reverted to a child-like state. I didn't really care that much, it was sort of like I had a child-like naivety or something. So it was fine for me, really, mostly. I mean it had it's moments that were very hard, but then when I could play the guitar again, when they allowed me to play the guitar again, I couldn't hold more than like three or four pounds. My brain swelling was to a certain point that they were worried it would start hemorrhaging and bleeding again. Then when I could play the guitar again, I had almost forgotten that I even played the guitar. But it was all there, like all the skill that I had developed over the years was just there and I could just play the shit out of a guitar. I think the good thing about it is that I could really appreciate, maybe for the first time, how much hard work I put in and how good I was actually. Because before I would always hear what I wanted to improve and where I could get better and not just be like, 'Wow that's amazing!' It's like if you suddenly woke up and you knew kung fu or something and didn't realize you knew it. And forgetting the path I had to take to get there and do all the work.

EW: So it gave you a whole new appreciation for your guitar skills?

SP: Yes and music in general. Yeah, a new appreciation for many things. It's almost like being reborn or something. I was happy to write, like some of my songs are pretty simple, a couple chords or one bass line... and I liked that. That was fine with me, I was like, 'Oh, this is a song.' It's taken some of the complexity out of the music I was writing or wanting to play. Which I think was a benefit. And it is what it is, you know?

EW: How long ago was the accident?

SP: I think it was just before I started this touring outfit. Like, that was the next thing that I did, so it was like 2010.

EW: 2010, so it wasn't too long ago.

SP: No. Although I feel pretty much healed, at this point. I don't feel any real repercussions.

EW: That's good.

SP: Yeah, we all have our deck of cards we're dealt. Whatever I have now I learned to just accept who I am and I don't feel diminished, I just feel changed. I really don't think I would be leading a touring band without that. I was a professional musician, but I was playing those instruments, I was doing sessions, I was also teaching a bunch of lessons and I was in four bands, or more. I was running a project recording studio, doing sessions for singer/songwriters and such. I had a really full, diverse musical plate. I think that's like a lot of the modern professional musicians, a lot of what they do is what I just described. Teaching lessons, doing sessions, playing in a lot of bands, but it makes it really hard to focus your efforts on one thing. They develop, get a band out on the road, to where you actually can survive with a touring band. I guess some people have referred to it as 'the golden handcuffs.' You just need too much money to be able to do that. So having my whole work just be erased and having to gradually start working again gave me the ability to just sort of restructure the way that I work entirely, from having not worked for so long.

EW: So was that kind of an inspiration for you? Near death experience, you're like 'I'm gonna go out and do it my way and you know, my band and...'

SP: No, I never... Yeah. I think it was more like erasing my schedule and my work responsibilities entirely, then rebuilding my work career the way I would want it to be. Now I never had the intention to, well I shouldn't say 'never'... Like when I first started playing a bar in Portland called the Goodfoot and we had other bands and I was a well established Portland musician when the accident happened. They heard that I was starting to kind of play a little bit, like when I started and I played bass in an Afro-beat band and I was being a guest musician. I was starting to do some stuff and they offered me a residency playing Tuesdays at their bar, which was closed previously on Tuesdays. I actually called them and worked some stuff out to get things going and I had a band name and a band. Conanza was our band name. But they didn't want me to use some band name no one had heard of. They wanted me to use my name, because people would know what that was in Portland and it would be easier to draw a crowd on Tuesdays. I never liked being in the 'Some Guy' band. I didn't really want to lead the 'Some Guy' band, but that's how it works out. Now ironically, for the last six years, I'v been leading the 'Some Guy' band. I think the result is good. Where in the band, people can be in the band while it feels fun and natural to them, and then when they want to do something else, they can do something else. It's not like you have to be married to the band to be in the band. I think that's one nice thing with it, as long as I'm there it's Scott Pemberton Band.

EW: Yes.

SP: Then that gives it the ability for people to be able to do, you know as other musicians have. It had to be a fun positive thing for them while they're in the band and when the need to do something else, they can do something else. I think that's ok. Then sometimes they come back to the band and that's ok too.

EW: I know you've had a few songs used in movies and commercials. Can you tell me a little bit about how that process works?

SP: Yeah, so far in my experience with it, it's like a lot of things in art and music where there isn't necessarily a process. There's a lot of different ways that it can happen. Some of the bigger ads like Coke, Nike, Jaguar, Jeep, The Gap, that type of thing, would be with another songwriter that I would work with and he would get the job and then call me and I'd go over and help with stuff. We were writing stuff specifically for ads. Before touring I could do that a lot because in that industry it all happens really fast. There is no, 'Ok, in two months we need this.' It's almost always like, 'Tomorrow we need this,' or 'the next day.' So when I was not on tour it could be the kind of thing where I could get a call and be like, 'Hey we gotta go in the studio like now and write this thing.' You just kind of stop what you're doing, you go and you write, record and then, like I said previously, just go to somebody's studio and bang it out. It was really super fun. Then you see it on TV and that's pretty cool.

EW: So these weren't Scott Pemberton Band songs, these were just things you wrote?

SP: No, no. We were writing stuff specifically for those ads. Which is really fun and anonymous. You could write in all sorts of different styles. You don't have to think, 'Does this fit what we're doing?' Just like, 'does it fit the ad?' We could write something that was ukulele and accordion or something and then there's also some movie companies or ad companies that will just call me and ask for permission to use something. We would work out an arrangement and that would be a Scott Pemberton thing.

EW: So have you had stuff like that happen, where they called up and were just like, 'Hey, we really want to use... whatever song?'

SP: Yeah, absolutely. That would be the other way that it happens for me. Where they'll just contact me and they want to use, you know an instrumental original or they want to use an instrumental version of a vocal tune. Those are usually not the huge business stuff. That will be like a local butcher shop wants to use a song, or a documentary movie, or sometimes movies. The Gap's not calling me for a song. We did have Vasque shoes use “Let's Play House” last summer, that was maybe a bigger one for that. And I don't know, it's cool. Just more recently, I actually made an agreement with a licensing company, then their job is they actually go out and do that, theoretically. So that will be a new chapter for all that neat stuff.

EW: And that's going to be licensing your Scott Pemberton music, or just anything you do in general?

SP: Well, I guess the agreement right now is the Scott Pemberton music. Which I guess would be anything I do in general, because that's mostly all I do right now is I write music for this. I think its actually a pretty important aspect of being able to make a living. Like I was talking about the diversified musicians, with teaching lessons and playing in a lot of bands and studio sessions. If you're a band leader or a songwriter, this is one of the important aspects of being able to make some money to help you piece together a living.

EW: Yeah.

SP: These are like other aspects where your music can help make money. Because unfortunately, to be a professional musician, there's a professional part, where you actually do have to make money.

EW: Yes.

SP: So it's finding the ways that you can actually do that, that suit your art.

EW: Especially if you're a touring musician, because there's a lot of other requirements for money. Traveling, fixing your van and that kind of stuff.

SP: Yeah, that's so true. The expenses are not for the faint of heart, or if money is a big part of your motivation, you're probably not going to do good in this line of work. I think if life is a game, people play for different types of points and on different point systems to see who's winning. Not a musician, touring musician or a professional artist. There's money and commercials, or like, belongings and material things are usually not the point systems artists and musicians are generally playing for. So I really enjoy the adventure. I like making music with my friends. If I can make enough money to live and feel like things are growing, I'm stoked.

EW: Well, we're stoked to have you out there touring.

SP: Hey thanks.

EW: What are you most looking forward to upcoming for the Scott Pemberton Band?

SP: I would say the sustainability of just being out and doing stuff. I'm in for the long game, you know? I feel like I'm really looking forward to the future. Almost, continuing to do this and what will we be. The sustainability and the long game is what I'm into.

EW: So you're thinking, like 10 years down the line or 20 years down the line kind of thing?

SP: Yeah and I have no idea what's going to be going on at that point, really. But I'm excited about that, and seeing how this life is quite an adventure and I'm really looking forward to it. I feel like I'm relatively motivated and I try to be organized and keep things growing and moving. And things are growing and moving, so we'll just see what comes. In the shorter term, I've got a new studio album that I'm writing. I'm looking forward to that, getting that thing up and expressing new thoughts and ideas surrounding a new album. Got Hangtown Halloween Ball coming up in just a few weeks, so that's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to that!

EW: You play that one quite often don't you?

SP: We've played that twice before. This will be our third time, so I guess so, yeah. I think that we only maybe missed one year. I think we did it twice, then we didn't do it once, now we're doing it again. But that will be fun, we're doing a late night set with the Polyrhythmics.

EW: Do you like late night sets, as opposed to regular sets?

SP: Yes, I think I do. I think that I like both, but the nice thing with the late night is you generally have a longer set. Where the way we play, you'll see us in Olympia, where if we don't have support, it's just us for like three or even four hours. Where we get to really get into some stuff and explore and that's fun. In a festival situation, it's usually like a 90 minute set would be as long as you get to play. Late night sets are generally longer than that. We might get to play two hours or even three hours, especially being the last band of a late night set.

EW: Yeah, that's kind of like, 'Play until you're done?'

SP: Sometimes yeah. Some festivals are literally like that and that is a lot of fun! We'll do some of those on the east coast, where you really just play until you don't want to play anymore. We've played from 2:00 to like 7:00 in the morning. One set.

EW: No break?

SP: No break.

EW: Do you feel like late night sets give you more leeway and more freedom to explore?

SP: In some ways yes, and in other ways, I feel like I'm getting more used to being able to feel free and being able to explore in a regular festival set. Because sometimes you might feel a little bit more pressure or excitement, or something, playing a late night set. I think bands can sometimes stick to what they know is going to work and not take the same exploration and risk that they might, say at their home town bar. Or where they feel really comfortable and at home. And that's one thing I really enjoyed learning as I'm touring, is starting to feel that if I was playing that bar I played every Tuesday, the type of exploring and jamming we would get into, to be able to feel like I can do that anywhere. So I think, in that instance, I think it depends on the festival set.

EW: Depending on how the crowd is going, and what they're thinking?

SP: Yeah and sometimes, if it's a really large festival set, it can be a little bit harder to vibe into 10,000 people, then it is 200. What are the people in the back feeling? I know that a lot of the times like that, you just vibe into the front that you can see and usually those people are pretty psyched, or they wouldn't be right up front. I don't know if I'm making sense.

EW: You're totally making sense.

SP: I think that getting the festival and the club starting to feel like you can make music just anywhere. But I do feel like the late night sets, sometimes people are there. Or like this one is ticketed outside the festival, so everybody that is there is there because they want to be there. They're not just sort of stepping over to the stage to see what's up. They bought a ticket for the event and they're ready to get down.

EW: Where a lot of times at a festival, they will just be walking by and be like, 'Oh what's going on at this stage, let me check it out.'

SP: Yeah, which is awesome and those things are priceless for helping people, know you, exist. Which at least in my music industry world, people coming to shows and buying tickets is really what keeps the wheels on the road. More than record sales and all those other things. Just playing shows and selling tickets; That helps us eat. And all that festival exposure helps people know you exist and come see your show when you're in their town. The people that go to Hangtown or High Sierra, some of the more like jamband festivals, those people go to shows. So getting them, helping them know you exist is super great, because then they want to come see you play and have fun at your shows and that's what keeps us moving. Some of those blues festivals that we play, or jazz festivals, those people are more like they go to the festivals and they're not going to be like, 'Ok what shows are we going to this week.' They'll go to the festival next year when it happens. That's what I think I appreciate more from the jamband community.

EW: Yeah, they're more willing to be like, 'Let's go out and see him again and again.'

SP: Yeah. Another thing is just the diversity of music that community supports. From what I do to something jazzy and avant garde like Mike Dillon, to proggy fusion like Snarky Puppy, to the Grateful Dead. Its like, the vastness of the styles that community enjoys and supports it's just great! It helps support new and diverse music, I think. A blues festival... it's a little more like it has to be blues kind of. There isn't a box that things have to fit into.

EW: Yeah, the jamband community seems more like, 'Just play music and we'll be into it.'

SP: It's not like they just like anything, but they can like anything if it's what meets their taste. And their tastes are so diverse, I just think that's awesome. I don't feel like, 'Ok... when I'm writing I can really just write and be like this is cool, I like this.' Not be like, 'Is this blues or does this fit into our hard rock box?' Or whatever. There is no box and I think that's part of why the jamband community has embraced the band, and I appreciate it.

EW: Well, we appreciate you and I appreciate you taking the time out today Scott!

SP: Yes, thank you Eric.

www.scottpemberton.com

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