The music of British Columbia’s Scott Shea is steeped in the tradition of great Texan songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Lyle Lovett. Like those acclaimed singer-songwriters, Shea is a storyteller, adding a fascinating dimension to the songs on his debut effort Let It Storm.
Performing at Moncton’s Plan b Lounge on Tuesday evening, Shea comes by the vocation of musician rather honestly. He is the son of famed Canadian musician Red Shea, who played alongside Ian and Sylvia Tyson, as well as the legendary Gordon Lightfoot from 1965 through 1975. It is Red Shea’s guitar work listeners hear on iconic Lightfoot tracks like “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Song For A Winter’s Night,” and “Don Quixote.”
By the age of nine years old, Scott was writing songs. A few short years later, he was winning public speaking awards in the realm of storytelling, eventually parlaying his love of words into songwriting.
In the 90’s, Scott and his brother Brett formed a folk-inspired band called The Shaes, changing the spelling of their family name to avoid being called the “She-as.” While they attracted moderate industry attention, landing shows with some of Canada’s best acts including Blue Rodeo and Big Sugar, the group ended up going their separate ways.
Scott walked away from music following the dissolution of The Shaes, choosing to exercise his creativity in designing and building luxury homes. He wouldn’t return to music until after 2008, when he tragically lost his father to pancreatic cancer.
Retiring from the business of building homes, Scott and his family packed up and headed West, bringing with him his father’s acoustic guitar. Though he tried to ignore the pull of the instrument for a significant amount of time, he one day decided to pick it up to see where music brought him.
Much to his delight and surprise, within six months, Scott had written 27 songs.
“I’m only really hunkering down into music now,” Scott says. “Maybe music has been calling me my whole life and it is just now that I am in the fortunate position of being able to listen to what it has to say.”
With Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson in the producer’s chair, Scott ventured down to Arlyn Studios in Texas to record Let It Storm. With Johnson’s help, they picked 10 of the strongest songs in from the original batch of 27 that Scott had written, getting down to the very essence of the song.
“From the outset, Gordie told me that he wanted to strip away the production that was featured on the demos and let me and my guitar take centre stage. And that is exactly what we did. Aside from some backing vocals on some of the tracks, we kept things very basic which fell in line with what people have been telling me when they heard my songs.”
When he takes Plan b’s stage on Tuesday night, Scott will be joined by Adam Dobres (Ruth Moody, Wailin’ Jennys) on acoustic guitar, national slide and mandolin, and Blake Palm on upright bass.
Over the course of the last year, Scott shares that he seemingly struggled to find the right combination of musicians from which to form a band. He says that Dobres’ work came to his attention via mutual friends who suggested the pair meet up to see where the road led them.
“I spent a lot of time talking to other musicians, but just couldn’t find the right combination of people that felt right. I wasn’t necessarily looking to have a full-band behind me, I just wanted to create some magic from the stage.
“Adam [Dobres] tends to spend a lot of time on the road, but once we finally managed to get together, we just hit it off right away,” Scott says. “The same could be said for Blake. The synergy between the three of us is so great People tell us we sound like 10 guys instead of three on stage.”Although some may find it difficult not to draw musical comparisons between Scott’s work and that of his father, Scott is confident in the version of himself that he put forward on Let It Storm.
“I’m not out there trying to do the Gordon Lightfoot thing. It honestly never even crossed my mind. That being said, there is something in my blood and my DNA that pushes me in that direction, which I am definitely able to live with and be content.”
What: Scott Shea with Thom Swift
When: Tuesday May 12, 9:00 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton