Scott Kurt is a local musician – make that a hard working local musician – who is on his way up to the big leagues. He has opened for Huey Lewis and the News at Wolf Trap this summer to earning four nominations from the Washington Area Music Association. He describes his sound as, “a little country, a little rock, a lot of music.” He is the singer, songwriter, producer of his band Memphis 59 along with Nate Taylor and Mike “Toby” Toburen.
He has a new album out called Down this Road. Scott talked with me about why DC is a great place to perform, his love of music, how he writes his music, what inspires him, and what he has up his sleeves next.
Marlene: How did you get into music?
Scott: My mom gave me my first guitar when I was 10 years-old, but I didn’t really know what to do with it. I took a few lessons when I was 15 and from then I moved into songwriting, played in a college band, and never looked back.
How would you describe your music?
I grew up listening to guys like Tom Petty and John Mellencamp. Their music is considered rock ‘n roll but they always had a touch of twang and with different arrangements could have easily been considered country music as well. I think my music does a good job of combining the elements of old school rock ‘n roll with a good dose of country.
What is your music writing process?
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of co-writing. I will get together with another songwriter or two, we bounce ideas off one another and sketch out a song. After the basic song is formed, then I move on to fine tuning the lyrics, arrangement etc.
What inspires you to write?
There are times when an idea will pop into my head, but if I only waited for inspiration to write, I wouldn’t get many songs written. For me it’s combination of some inspiration, but a dedication to writing even when the ideas aren’t flowing easily. I try to set aside time to write every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. That way the creative muscle still gets a little work out. As far as inspiration, that usually comes from observation. Things in my life, my wife, stories that I hear from friends, there are ideas for songs all around. It’s just about getting them down into a musical idea that works.
Tell me about the song you wrote about your wife Barbie?
The song is called “Everything is Alright” and the idea is pretty simple. I was waiting for her to get ready as we were about to head out for the day. She walked into the kitchen and looked beautiful. I thought to myself, as long as I have her in my life, everything will be alright. I could get a flat tire, hit every red light, but as long as I have her in my life it’s all good.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I would have to say performing this summer at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center opening for Huey Lewis & the News. My music is a lot more country/rootsy than Huey’s, but his fans really embraced me. I’ve played for some big crowds in my career, but hearing the applause of 7,000 people was pretty amazing.
Who are your musical muses? Who do you listen to?
Right now I’m listening to a lot of Gary Allan, Rodney Crowell, and Radney Foster. I do find inspiration in other people’s songs, especially when they are the perfect mix of storytelling and musical ideas.
What are your future plans?
Writing songs, writing songs, and writing more songs.I play a lot of shows both solo and with the band and will continue to do so. But songwriting is something that I really want to continue to work on and eventually my wife and I are going to pack up our 5 cats and move to Nashville.
What do you like most about the music scene in DC?
Venues. There are some great rooms in the area that cater to live music. Places like The State Theatre, Hill Country BBQ, The Hamilton, Jammin’ Java, and Birchmere all host national and regional acts, but they also do their best to promote local music and when possible have local talent open up for national talent. That is a huge plus for this area.
What do you like most about being a musician?
Creating music. There is nothing else like it.
What advice can you offer to a young musician who is considering music as his/her career?
Find your voice and don’t try to copy what is currently “cool” or “hip.” I see a lot of bands/artists chasing the trends, and I’ve never seen it work out in the long run. There is something inside of everyone that makes you an individual, find that and express it to the best of your ability
How do you want to be remembered?
As far as a person, I’d like to be remembered as a good person, good husband, and a good friend. Musically, I’d like to be remembered as someone who always put the song first and believed in what I was doing whether it’s performing on stage, recording in the studio, or sitting down to write a song.
Catch Scott’s performances:
-Thursday, November 21st at 7:30 pm at Kate’s Irish Pub – 6131 Backlick Road, in Springfield, VA 22150.
-This Friday, November 22, 2013 at 8:00 pm- a solo show at at The Hamilton – 600 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC.
-Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 5:00 pm – a solo show at Finnegans Irish Pub – 2310 Woodland Crossing Drive, in Herndon, VA 20171.