Watching a mesmerizing guitar player and riveting lyricist like Scott Sharrard feels like a master glass in guitar driven blues and rock. Scott creates music that is deeply emotive and personal. His latest offering, Saving Grace, resonates deeply. The album, released in 2018, consists of lucky 11 songs that clocks in at 51 minutes that somehow feel much too short. Titles such as “Tell the Truth”, “Fall to Arise”, and “Everything a Good Man Needs” give you some insight into the album’s heartfelt content. The title track is an ode to the high cost of mental illness in the music business. Scott bared his soul to admit he was deeply affected by losing many of his mentors, friends, and colleagues to the ravages of mental illness and addiction that seem to go hand-in-hand with the creative and touring life. Parts of these songs feel like an homage to the fallen angels who have graced his presence and taken him under their wing.
The title track begins with a sweeping guitar opening shared with one of his band mates. He demonstrates his masterful abilities by keeping it at a slower bluesy pace. He soulfully sings, “Now the room is spinning around/ And where it stops is not to be found?And like the scars around my face / She was my saving Grace”. It’s a confessional and revelatory song that touches on the ravages of depression and anxiety that he had suffered from over the years. The skillfully directed animated video showcases director Angelo J. Guglielmo visionary muse. The short film centers on psychedelic images, the haunts of anxiety, and the foreshadowing of what is next. Scott says, “ultimately this song is about suicide”. It’s all very heavy, but the music and accompanying vid are ultimately rich and strangely inviting. Also do yourself a favor a watch his acoustic version of the song linked below. He plays a gorgeous 1936 Gibson Advanced Jumbo while bleeding the words. He is an artist that clearly feels his music, and wielding the vintage axe highlights his versatility as a guitar player.
The enigmatic guitar licks that open “Faith to Arise” are countered with the use of a slide that cuts right into the proceedings like an uninvited, drunken guest that nonetheless livens up the party. His usually raspy voice seems smoother here, soothed over with swaths of pain. “Now it’s going to feel good to be back home”. Riffs tumble forth from a Gibson 336 (more on this later). He shouts out the funky goodness of the city of Memphis, yet he is looking forward to getting back home, with a real longing bleeding through in the vocals. The album was recorded in both Memphis and at the legendary Muscle Shoals in Alabama with a dream team of artists including musicians who played with Al Green and Aretha Franklin, giving the album an old school meets modern blues sound.
His guitar of choice is a Gibson custom shop 336. This gorgeous guitar, mustard yellow in color, was described as “tonally charged”. He bought in online in 2002 and it has since seen a lot of miles. On Saving Grace he employed a Tele when playing with the rhythm section, and crafted certain tones utilizing a guitar that once belonged to onetime Shoals session musician Duane Allman. This was only natural since he worked closely with the the also sorely missed soul brother Greg Allman on his last offering, Southern Blood, which is a fine coda to one of the richest musical careers of all time.
Scott was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview.
You are so incredibly knowledgeable about guitar make and tone. Tell me about your Gibson that you took a chance on purchasing online. It is a gorgeous Gibson Custom Shop 336. I like that term “tonally charged”.
Why thank you, I’m pretty meat and potatoes when it comes to guitars and amps actually. My main guitar is indeed a CS-336 from about 2002. They were marketing it then as being “TONALLY Carved” with an L-5 style sound chamber. Its just the right weight and neck for me and really sings. I have some Wizz pickups in there, the best 59 PAF clones I’ve heard, and my tech Paul Schwartz at Peek a Moose Guitars in NYC did a ton of work on her. New frets, locking tuners, high grade speakers cable and a master volume knob that he mounted in the top of the F Hole.
What other guitars do you like to play?
I love my “parts” Telecaster that has a Warmoth body and a Danny Gatton model neck. Im also a big fan of some new company out of Nashville called EB Rooster and Novo. Novo made me a killer Run Cooder style guitar with a Hawaiian lap still pickup and a Dearmond gold foil taught i love. And EB Rooster hooked me up with this gorgeous Baritone Tele. In the studio I use a lot of guitars.
Your album feels deeply personal. Can you tell me how you came to choose these songs for the album? And the impetus for the title?
Well this album sums up my whole career and it utilizes my musical heroes. From the tune Gregg Allman and I wrote that’s sung by Taj Mahal and played with us and Bernard Purdie, to the tracks at Muscle Shoals with the Swampers and the sessions in Memphis with the HI Rhythm section, I even got to use Duane Allman’s 57 Goldtop Les Paul on a few. A real bucket list moment recording wise. I assembled the best songs I thou
got written across the last 20 years for this event, a few Id even recorded on past albums. But it was time to really dial these in with the best of the best.
I read you believe the title track is ultimately about depression and suicide. How do you cope with your own depression?
Well as for the depression thing, i think the title track explores that “Saving Grace”. We all have our demons. I like to exorcise mine through song.
How did it feel doing your own thing after being with Gregg for so long?
Man it was a gut punch losing Gregg. We knew it was coming but its hard to explain what a loss it was. He was an amazing person. A good friend, and a great artist. I really felt we had a band. In the last few years it never felt like a sideman thing. We wrote songs, worked on music, hung out and traveled all over the world. I guess making my 5th solo album during our last year was a kind of graduation from that apprenticeship, I hope I can do my part to protect what he taught me.
I read you wrote the song “My Only True Friend” as if Duane were talking to Gregg. How did you come up with that idea? I thought Gregg was sending us a farewell letter. The ending feels like an angelic ascension. Really got to me.
Well thank you. It took us almost 3 years to write that song. It came to me in a dream one night and then we honed it over those years. It truly became Gregg’s good bye letter to the world, but it started as a message I received from Duane in a dream. Someone told me that story about Hendrix giving him “Little Martha” in a dream recently, that gave me chills.
What are your plans for the rest of 2019? And do you have any plans for a new album?
I’m starting the recording of my new album in March. Its a real concept album, I feel this is the best collection of songs I’ve written so far. It’s a very personal record. Its probably gonna take the whole year but I’m excited to share it with the world. In the meantime I’m touring with my band mostly in the Northeast USA, although I do have some gigs developing in the Netherlands and also I’m returning the the Poretta Soul Festival in Italy this year.