5 Questions with Jeremy Scott

The sustainability of any music scene is often best gauged by considering its veterans, those battle-scarred souls boasting lengthy resumes of collaborations and contributions that illustrate their investment in the sounds issuing from their corner of the sonic landscape. If the contemporary Memphis scene calls to mind Goner and Shangri-La, Jay Reatard and Tav Falco, then somewhere in that mileu looms Jeremy Scott, Reigning Sounds bassman and purveyor of bite-sized power-pop wonders. His debut solo album Bear Grease hardly disappoints in that regard. Recently, Jeremy was kind enough to share some thoughts on Memphis garage-rock’s past, present, and future with WAMM. 

As a real Memphis music lifer, how do you think Memphis itself shapes and colors your songwriting? Does living in this city factor as a crucial element of your music, or do the songs stand fully free of the scene’s shadow?

Without getting to much into the mythology of it, I don’t think there’s a musician in this town who ISN’T shaped by the experience of living here.  Nobody can create in a total vacuum.  Speaking for myself, I do think that since I came here 22 years ago, my writing has gotten a little. . .maybe earthier is the word.  A little more direct, probably.

Do you feel that listeners familiar with your past projects will find comfort and familiarity in this new material, or are you hoping to challenge their expectations a little this time around? 

This record was originally intended to be a bit more acoustic than it turned out.  In and of itself, that would have made it distinct from most things I’ve been involved with, if not more explicitly expectation-challenging.  That said, there is always a little continuity.  To cite one example, “Fred Neil Armstrong” is kind of a sister song to “Captain Remo” off the Toy Trucks record, in that both songs deal with the concept of artistic creation and the importance of overcoming both internal and external roadblocks to achieve it.

As a legacy member of a cornerstone Memphis institution like Reigning Sound, what’s something invaluable you learned during that band’s initial run that’s served you well in later musical projects? 

During the initial run, I got more comfortable with the idea of spontaneity in that the original band almost never went on with a setlist.  Maybe we’d decide on the first 2-3 songs, then it was anything goes.  Over the years, I learned a bit more about when to go with the flow and when something might need a bit of tweaking.  Also, I learned quite a bit about songwriting, which I think anybody who’s ever worked with Greg Cartwright would say is a byproduct of that experience!

Looking back maybe twenty years ago, do you think the younger Jeremy Scott would be capable of writing these sorts of songs, or does that perspective only come from considerable experience? 

I was gonna say both, then memories of songs that I wrote in my 20’s came up like acid reflux.  If you want to know what true pain is, go try to dig up some of that stuff.  Hopefully you won’t find it!  Seriously, if you continue to grow as a person, that experience informs your songwriting and can’t help but improve it.

If a curious listener could only sample one track from Bear Grease, just to get a general idea of its themes and energies, which song would you recommend they seek out?

There isn’t really one track that emblemizes all the different sounds and themes within the record; it was designed to optimally be heard as an album, the way many albums I still love were.  However, I do think “Fred Neil Armstrong” is a fair combination of whimsy and “smartassitude,” but it also has a serious side to it, so that’s as good of a starting-off point as any.


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