Interview with Scott Law

Interview with Scott Law, Marin Magazine

Wednesday, May 9th: The Chapel in San Francisco (doors 7pm – show 8pm) 

“Scott Law & Ross James’ Cosmic Twang” 

Featuring Dave Schools (Widespread Panic) and Neal Casal (Chris Robinson, Circles Around The Sun) plus Alex Koford (Phil Lesh) and special guests. 

Mad Alchemy Liquid Light Show.

Tix $18/20

Also catch Scott Law at his residency at Terrapin Crossroads one week a month!

ER: We’d love to have you full-time in the Bay Area, but I know right now you’re living in Portland and gracing the Terrapin Crossroads stage in 8-day stints. What’s that like for you?

SL: To tell the truth, this is part of what’s amazing about my path these days and how grateful I am at this point to have an anchor in two of the sweetest places to dwell on planet earth — Portland, Oregon and Lagunitas, California! I’ve been a traveler since the beginning and especially since playing music for a living; it’s the job part. I’m a native Californian so I feel super at home during the stretches I get to be here, plus I am learning a ton and meeting amazing people.

The monthly, week-long+ residency at Terrapin Crossroads that commenced in February 2014 has been a transformative experience on many levels. Sometimes I end up here for half the month, tho’ it is billed as “Scott Law Week.” This (Grateful Dead) adventure continues to put me in touch with some deeper aspects of what I’m attempting to understand musically… and in life. People need community and vision right now more than ever and a good deal of music energy resonates with origin point Marin County and Terrapin Crossroads for me at this moment.  

The ability to perform with a sprawling multi-generational roster and so many heroic figures in a supportive, efficient environment (great sound, daily gigs) is a huge encouragement and a windfall to artistic development. This has been my experience here. A typical TXR residency week features different lineups and setlists on each show with barely (if) any repeats over the course of a week plus. I recall a run with lots of extra happy hours where I clocked in 248 different songs! The chance to develop new original material in a live context with some regularity is also a cherished thing.

ER: Acoustic Guitar magazine called you an “esteemed flatpicker,” and fans in Portland and the Bay Area, as well as around the world, know and love you for your intricate talent on mandolin and guitar. How did you develop your style?​

SL: Seems to me like I’ve taken the long road, but I work on it all the time. Thoughts about music occupy most of my waking hours and have since I was very young – even before I settled on the guitar.

Listening is the key… being sensitive to what’s going on and digging back into the musical history. Trying to get where the instrument becomes more an extension of thought and feeling has been my goal from the start. The emotional conveyance is real — you can tune in on levels that are tangible yet invisible. That feels like something. Now I’m kinda more after that than anything.

ER: You founded Scott Law Music in 1999. Can you tell us more about it?​

SL: I had just returned to Seattle from an introspective 20-week backpacking trip to Nepal, India and Thailand and decided to organize the concept of my endeavors as both an independent artist and freelance musician.​

Even though I was in a touring band, Hanuman, at the time and was about to start some work with Melvin Seals while commuting from Seattle, it made sense to be a bandleader on shows during calendar gaps. So, I tried getting a pretty nascent (at the time) website scene together and began thinking of my economic mission as a little mom & pop, guitar-driven solo industry. Getting an email address was kind of first-wave proliferating back then. My obvious name was taken, of course so — — it was, and here we are!​

ER: I once saw you at a house concert singing three part harmonies and playing guitar with Tim and Nicki Bluhm, but I know you’ve also played huge music festivals. How do you choose what projects you work on? And is there a kind of venue you prefer? ​

SL: Seriously, I count it very fortunate that all along I’ve been in the position to perform music I truly enjoyed with people I respect and like to be around. I pretty much can’t hang if the situation or the music turns out otherwise. 

In terms of choosing projects, it’s been more like following the path of a river. Things kinda come along when I’ve needed to be patient enough to eddy out and let them unfold… then there are times I just paddle like hell! That’s usually when I start taking my own band out on the road. Leading your own band is super hard work.

Mostly, I like collaborating. Tim and Nicki Bluhm as you mentioned are examples of where a collaborative project can magically emerge. “Brokedown In Bakersfield” was formed when we met on a whim and we could all make space in our schedules to do gigs for a few years. Kismet. 

Now I am really excited about the musical partnership that has developed with Ross James who plays guitar in Terrapin Family Band with Phil Lesh and his son, Grahame. Together, Ross and I co-lead an authentically inspired psychedelic country-rock & roll band called “Cosmic Twang.” After a year or so we are starting to recognize where our sound lives and with our core of players and material we build out lineups with unique special guests. We’re also incorporating analog liquid lighting into our show production… old school, very effective!

Playing music and traveling around, there have been many situations, halls and festival stages that range from the most humble (some truly awful), on up to the most regal, historic or even technically advanced architectural mind-blowers. What happens onstage, inside the music and with the audience is what I mostly ever remember. Usually, that has a good bit to do with the sound of the room, too.

ER: What’s the rest of 2018 looking like for you? Tell us about upcoming projects and plans!

SL: 2018 is mostly continuing Scott Law Week each month at Terrapin Crossroads, playing select festivals throughout the summer and Cosmic Twang shows w/ Ross including a trip to Spain in the fall!

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Emilie Rohrbach

Emilie Rohrbach has taught music and theater to grades pre-school through 8th in San Francisco and Marin counties for the last 20 years. She has been a freelance writer for Divine Caroline for five years, and her writing has appeared in Narratively, Hippocampus, Common Ground, Travelers’ Tales, and Marin Magazine, among others. She is passionate about Room to Read, Shanti Bhavan, and Destiny Arts and serves on the board of Knighthorse Theatre Company.