Singer-songwriter Darrell Scott didn’t live in rural Kentucky long. His parents moved north, like so many other Southerners, in search of a better life. But Scott, whose Kentucky roots run for generations, never lost his mountain soul.
It’s easy to hear his ancestral home in the poignancy of one of Scott’s best-known songs, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.”
“For my family, grandparents, music was a way that working people and farming people had to entertain themselves,” he said. “I didn’t spend a lot of time in Kentucky myself, but I maintain that, if you live in Beverly Hills and your folks are from Kentucky, than you’re still in a Kentucky home.”
More than 70 artists have recorded Scott’s songs, including Garth Brooks, Patty Loveless, Trace Adkins, Tim McGraw, the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Guy Clark, Keb Mo, Sam Bush, Maura O’Connell, Kathy Mattea, Brad Paisley and Sara Evans. His songwriter royalties finance his solo career.
A three-time Grammy nominee, the Nashville-based Scott has a three-pronged career. Besides being a singer-songwriter, he’s a multi-instrumentalist session musician and a sideman whose credits include Robert Plant’s post-Led Zeppelin group, Band of Joy. Scott and opening act Patrick Cooper will perform at the Manship Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Their appearances are part of the Red Dragon Listening Room’s songwriter series.
Scott will precede his Baton Rouge show with a few days of recording at his friend and fellow musician Dirk Powell’s recording studio near Lafayette. Scott is recording several songs by the well-regarded Montana singer-songwriter and country doctor Ben Bullington, who died at 58 last November.
“I wanted to do it in a no-fuss kind of way,” Scott said. “I didn’t want to be in a Nashville studio. It doesn’t require that. Dirk’s place is perfect.”
Scott recorded his latest album, 2012’s “Long Ride Home,” with friends in his own Nashville living room.
“I love to record in living rooms,” he said. “Not because it’s a superior sonic space to record in, but because of the vibe that comes across from the musicians while they’re playing there. Really good people playing together and having good food and telling stories, that’s an environment good music can come from.”
After spending most of 2014 on the road — first with his longtime friend and collaborator Tim O’Brien and then solo — Scott plans to spend next year at home in Nashville.
“If you have a big, steady diet of travel, it prevents you from doing records,” he explained. “So Baton Rouge will be my last gig of this year and next year. I’m going to take a break and work on recording.”
He’d also like to write more songs, something he’s been unable to do while traveling.
“New music needs space,” he said. “The road does not provide space for that any longer. So I need the non-road time to see if the songwriting will come back. And if it doesn’t, I’ll just put out a bunch of the music that I haven’t been able to get out yet.
“I’m not worried about it whatsoever. I figure that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen, in order to turn the page and go on to the next part of what I’m doing.”