Interview with Blues – Soul – Rock guitarist Scott Weis. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off?When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?
Scott Weis: – I grew up in Northern New Jersey and had a kinship to music since I can remember.
I believe music in terms of an artist is a calling. There are expressive artists of many kinds that see through the veil and are drawn to express their vision through interpretation of what they perceive.
I started working as a gopher at the renowned recording studio, the House of Music, and worked my way up from getting coffee and cables to recording tracks for artists.
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I have always had the passion to do what I do now in music and making a living doing it is always a struggle. These days I don’t fit the normal box they want to put me in. Music has for me always been firstly a spiritual thing that comes from the heart and I don’t put a name on it, although Blues has always been the closest thing to put a label on it. Blues stems from gospel and is tied to the spiritual so I guess I preach the blues in my own way.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
SW: – My sound as a band has matured with age I’d say. What I’ve been doing to find and develop my sound. I believe that comes from within. I’ve changed the course of my personal life to step each step confidently with happiness and love.
When the notes and harmonies converge together hopefully they are able bring the listener closer to understanding it within themselves.
All of my album titles have had successive spiritual titles except for one, Simmer me Down. I wanted the title Accession, which means when a person rises to a position of honor and hierarchy, but the owner of the label didn’t understand what it meant.
At that time we were talking about putting the album on his record label. He passed away before that could happen, so we are still an unsigned band just doing it ourselves.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
SW: – I think that inspiration comes from within silence. How to achieve that silence among ever increasing static of the world gets ever harder. Silent meditation, hiking and slowing the pace of an ever flowing rapid river we call our home. I listen to nature and get inspiration from it that in turn opens my mind and lets that true inner artistic expression flow. And once you are in the flow, rhythm comes naturally.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any changes or overall evolution? And if so why?
SW: – I have changed I believe through circumstances, through tribulations and the trials of life. We hopefully transcend our obstacles and live to tell about them happy or sad.
JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
SW: – Recordings come from what I call a stream of consciousness, a still mind. Usually I’ll get a feeling. I’ll hear a rhythm and melody that will keep repeating in my mind. Lyrics start to flow. Then I propose it to the band and they add their own twist and ideas off the direction I’ve given.
The same goes for if one of the guys has an idea or lyrics. We try to do our best to understand what other wants to express then we go from there. As a collective we rehearse and get inspiration from what we hear all together, then plot a plan of ideas and record it. As far as spiritual and musical stamina I believe that comes from within each member. If there is nothing clouding our minds, it’s a gradual focus until we hit the stage. Some may say it’s a form of meditational awareness. When we hit the stage usually it’s all in body and soul. We feed off the crowd’s reaction and build from there. We never speak about it, it’s just one of those unspoken musical languages that we collectively know how to express.
JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2023: Scott Weis Band – Raise Your Hands, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
SW: – The things I love about every album we do is that they are a subtle reflection of the times and our life experience.
For instance, we thought that Motherless Child was a perfect song to redo because we felt, in our day and age, that the collective had moved past racism and prejudice. But due to a small group of ignorant people, we have been faced with having to remind people that we are all the same. The songs on this record talk about our own experiences and influences through our interpretations and influences. My mom says she can always tell what’s going on in my life by listening to the new music.
The song “Bring me Home” talks about the modern day blues and how it’s strayed from talking about life’s struggles and transcending them to marketing. Like gospel, blues was always sacred ground like gospel. You could always listen, learn, feel hardship and transformation, and hopefully learn from it.
JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?
SW: – As far as the Scott Weis Band goes we are a solid core trio, then we go from there. We have been blessed over the years to have a few great musician friends who are the icing on the cake. Cindy Mizelle has written herself into being one of our favorite backing vocalists of our time. Our voices just complement each other, it’s a special friendship. The same goes for Bashiri Johnson-Percussion, and John Ginty- Keyboards. We consider their addition a special spice blend of our own and we are so thankful to have such renowned musicians as friends.
JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?
SW: – I’ve taken the stage with many over the years so to mention a few would be unjust to how I feel now. I believe the performer I am now is a collective of my experiences cumulatively. I’ve had some wonderful experiences that I hold dear to my heart, and I always try to reflect my heart. “Judgement Day” is a ZZ Top type of boogie paying tribute to a good friend Dusty Hill and the band for being so supportive to us when we’ve opened shows for them. They are just wonderful humble brothers who we felt we wanted to pay tribute in our own way.
The same goes for Joe Cocker after seeing the video of Woodstock and his version of “With a Little Help From My Friends “ I never expected to be friends with such a legendary artist and share what I did , it was just happenstance. I’ve always wanted to re do that song as a tribute. I believe each time I take the stage It’s an entirely new experience mentally physically and spiritually. When that stops happening it’s time to take a break.
JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
SW: – Tough question but the easiest way for me to explain it is most of the time musically speaking a person’s musical intellect is a reflection of their soul’s connection. Devine inspiration of sorts doesn’t happen without the soul’s connection such as new ideas and innovations. One does not happen without the other unless you are just playing parts but Blues comes from the heart and soul in its truest form.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
SW: – That’s all I try to do is be in the moment whole heartedly and spiritually.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
SW: – In my opinion the preachers of old are long gone but the imprint they have left lives on. The more we realize we are the story tellers of our era the more connected we become.
It’s a very hard time musically speaking because we are faced with new obstacles such as streaming and social media platforms that are a take away from reality, all we can try to do is portray that as best we can in the modern world. The deeper the youth listens to modern musicians they will find that the influences become apparent.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
SW: – I can wholeheartedly agree with the great John Coltrane, yes music and my spirit are one In the same. The Meaning of life i could write an entire book on the subject. But I believe that it would be different for each individual. As for myself in short I’d say the more we are connected to the heart center the more we can feel and express our soul.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
SW: – Well it would be to allow musicians to thrive and survive. I’m talking about professional musicians who have albums and tour. There should be a support system in place for musicians to make fair money and get medical benefits as well. It seems this is the path less taken when most people in the world listen to it. The majority of Musicians often do struggle.
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
SW: – Hmm interesting question, I listen to a lot of different styles of blues new blues releases and jazz particularly New Orleans Jazz. I think that the Mississippi delta region and its music blues and jazz is where it all comes from. This big gumbo pot of musical styles and its convergence. Has been fascinating to me. Understanding where melodies converge and time signatures meet and trace it all the way back as far as I can.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
SW: – Interesting question I’d go to a time when music was more honest and less about marketing, probably the 50’s-60’s.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
SW: – I believe that in my music, if my experiences can relate to the listener and their feelings I have done something worthwhile. Like Taking someone on a journey to let them forget about life for a while mission accomplished.
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JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…
SW: – These questions are wonderful and one of my favorite interviews. My question: how do you find connections through music?
JBN: – Quite simply, music is life!
JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?
SW: – I have given more free concerts for good causes than I probably should have. My expectations are hopefully the readers and listeners have better insight to my music than before․
Interview by Elléa Beauchêne