More than twenty years after Scott McQuaig’s self-titled album with MCA/Universal Records was released, a new album by the Meridian, Mississippi musician is out. The November 2012 release, I’m Still Falling, is the result of Scott’s unrelenting drive to create music that describes real experiences and reveals the true emotions that stem from them. So many listeners throughout the years have connected with his words and music—so many that he was encouraged and was finally convinced to record again.
Scott’s first album, recorded in Nashville and released in 1989 by MCA/Universal, featured legendary musicians and co-songwriters and led to several years on the road full-time. He achieved moderate success with his first single, “Honky Tonk Amnesia,” which reached #46 on the charts. Two more singles, “Johnny and the Dreamers” and “Old Memory,” were released on Capitol Records.
Eventually, Scott decided his family needed him more than the road. After his return to Mississippi, Scott remained active in music through songwriting and playing locally from time to time.
The past few years have been a great deal busier with Scott forming a five-piece band and playing frequently in local clubs and for special events. Playing live on a regular basis allowed him to further develop the original songs he had been working on, and he began receiving positive remarks from listeners. Requests were piling up from fans about getting a copy of his new music.
Friend and music legend, Chris Ethridge, known for his work with The Flying Burrito Brothers, Willie Nelson, Ry Cooder and countless others, also performed regularly in the same venues as Scott. Chris expressed to Scott on many occasions the importance of sharing his songwriting with others, and he strongly encouraged Scott to record one song in particular, “I’m Still Falling.” With Chris’ encouragement in hand, Scott teamed up with his band, The Tomcats, and Point Recording owner Clay Barnes, former guitarist for Steve Forbert. Scott decided to make the most of everyone’s time there and record three or four songs. Then a few more songs were added, and eventually the project evolved into an entire album of twelve original songs. Scott explains, “Once we decided to record a complete album, the goal was to have a collection of my songs that would be a good representation of what you hear when you see us live.”
Scott gives details about some of his favorite songs on the album:
“I’m Still Falling” was a work in progress that I first started writing 10 years ago. It had a beautiful melody and real potential. I had worked on it and re-written it so many times, but I was never satisfied. Something was missing and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Meeting my wife, Kelly, a few years ago changed the way I felt about a lot of things and it allowed me to approach the lyrics differently. I was able to put aside the way I was thinking before and approach it from a different direction. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and the song finally made sense. I incorporated it into my live set, and the positive response was overwhelming. It is very satisfying to get that positive feedback after working on it for so long. I would never have guessed that finishing this song would lead to an entire album being recorded.
“32nd Street” was always one of my favorite songs. I’ve always thought of it as my “Wonder Years” song about growing up in the 60’s. I grew up on 32nd Street in Meridian, but most of the memories that inspired the song come from my grandparents’ house, which was actually on 40th Street. My sisters and I spent a lot of time there when we were growing up. Losing our father at a very young age gave me an apprehension about what life was about and what we would have to face in life. Occasionally, I still take a drive through that old neighborhood and think back to those times. The lyrics of this song are about just that.
“1862” is obviously about something that happened all throughout the South during our second war for independence. My songwriting buddy and harmonica virtuoso, Steve Smithson, called me up one day and told me about a dream he had that was so real he couldn’t get it off his mind. In the dream, he saw the approach of the Union Army. Not knowing what to do, he hides in the woods and watches as his house is ransacked and burned. After he awoke, the dream seemed so real that he felt an overwhelming feeling of guilt for hiding in the woods instead of doing something to stop the destruction. We immediately got together and wrote the song about a young boy who was told this story by his great grandfather in 1945. One thing which sets this song apart is its rhythm, which has a sort of eeriness and conjures up a sense of the army advancing. To this day, Steve says the dream is as vivid to him as the night he dreamt it.
Another song on the album that was inspired by a friend and fellow musician is “Snake in My Kitchen.” The song came about as the result of an incident that happened to Tom Rovinsky, who plays guitar on the album and regularly with the band at live performances. Tom walked into his kitchen one night to find a huge snake on the floor. Tom flew out the front door and called the Sheriff’s department. A deputy arrived and after a thorough search, the snake was nowhere to be found. The deputy was long gone when, unfortunately, the snake reappeared. Instead of calling the deputy back, Tom resolved to stay out of the kitchen for some time until he was sure the snake had moved on for good. The twist of “Snake in My Kitchen” is that the song does not actually describe these events. Its bluesy riffs and lyrics take on a whole other meaning.
One evening years ago, I was playing an acoustic gig at an upscale restaurant. There was a group of prim elderly ladies dining at a table nearby, and between songs I couldn’t help overhearing one of the ladies telling a joke to her friends. Instead of beginning the next song, I stalled so I could listen. The joke was about an elderly woman on a cruise announcing to the bartender that it was her 80th birthday. After patrons buying her several rounds of her drink of choice – a double shot of scotch and one drop of water – the bartender finally asks why just one drop of water. She replies, “Sonny, when you're my age, you've learned how to hold your liquor. Holding your water, however, is a whole other issue.” After hearing this, I couldn’t wait to get home that night and write the song, “One Drop of Water.” It is always fun to play this song live because people really enjoy the upbeat tempo and the West Coast Bakersfield sound.
“When a Train Whistle Blows the Blues” is my tribute to Hank Williams. It came from an experience one late night when I was driving home from a gig in Alabama and realized I was running parallel with a train whose light was shining across the field between us. I rushed ahead to a trestle and got out of my car and stood below as the cars rocked overhead and the train passed by. That moment I had the feeling of wishing I could jump on the train and ride, but I knew I couldn’t leave everything behind. I understood how Hank might have felt when he heard that train whistle in the distance. This song is a haunting waltz like one hears in Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”