For most casual fans of music, the forty-five minutes that a band spends on the stage is all they can see. However, when the guitar cases are closed and the venue’s floor is littered with empty beer cans and trash, most bands load their gear into the van and return back to their normal lives.
Mother Church Pew’s Off The Stage is a series that celebrates artists’ paths to where they are and the things they do behind the scenes to stay there.
Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Darrell Scott has penned hit songs for mainstream artists and has had songs covered by over 70 others spanning from Keb Mo’ to the Dixie Chicks. Ever the unconventional artist, Scott has always forged his own path; three years ago, that path led his family from a house right off Nashville’s Music Row to a homestead in the middle of hundreds of wooded acres on the Cumberland Plateau.
“It’s an attempt at it, we’re not 100%, but we do exponentially more than we ever could do before,” says Scott of his work to become self-sufficient and live off of his land. “I’ve always been drawn to handcrafted work—whether it was furniture, pottery, stained glass, or anything like that. When I play festivals, a lot of folk and bluegrass festivals have artisan booths with everything on display, and I’d rather hang out with them that the other musicians,” he laughs. “I’ve been interested in home skills my whole life.”
Scott’s farm is currently home to 40 solar panels, one donkey, 21 goats, one horse, six cows, and fourteen chickens. A self-described foodie who loves to cook, Scott recently raised turkeys for Thanksgiving and geese for Christmas, and, with extensive help from his onsite farm manager, is still in the midst of experimenting with what will grow on his land. “We’re growing some of the best vegetables you can literally get your hands on, raising pigs and lamb, collecting eggs, we simply have some of the best food there is because we grow it ourselves. I’ve never had better food. We just picked eggs 30 minutes ago,” he explains. “Whole Foods can’t even touch that. Everything’s organic, or at least biodynamic here. We don’t buy fertilizer, we have our own through the cows and through composting.”
“I lived in Nashville for 24 years; it had grown so much and my work had changed so much, I don’t really do sessions anymore, I’m not a songwriting with a publishing deal in a Music Row house any longer, and my kids were grown,” explains the gentleman farmer of his decision to relocate, but he’s still writing and releasing some of the best songs around. “I was doing roots music before I lived with solar panels,” he laughs. “I have a new record out, Live At The Station Inn. I had two nights in a row there a while back, one night was electric and the next was acoustic. I recorded both nights, but the electric recording wasn’t exciting. The acoustic recording was just fire, it jumped out of the speakers,” he reveals of the album, recorded at one of Nashville’s musical landmarks. “It seemed important also to record there; my son took the cover photograph of the Station Inn at night, surrounded by all those giant buildings. I wanted to document that, that like a lot of traditional and roots-based things in Nashville, the Station Inn could go away. We’re losing stuff; at one time, The Ryman was very much on the docket to be torn down, back in the 70s. Can you imagine this city without The Ryman?” he asks. “Emmylou Harris and John Hartford and John Prine led a crusade to save the mother church.”
“I recognize that fear,” he continues. “How long can that little cinderblock building stand there while all those other buildings are going up around it? When will that property owner say enough is enough and decide to sell so another high rise can go up in The Gulch? I lived there before there was The Gulch. I’m a little tired of those kinds of things, Nashville ‘outgrowing’ the very things that made it special to begin with, which is one reason why I moved away,” he adds. “Cities grow, but it’s a cautionary tale to those who make these decisions; we need to hang onto these places that are valuable and that have sustained us for decades, and the Station Inn is one of those places. It’s the epicenter of bluegrass in Nashville,” he says. “It was a fiery night of hot playing, and we had to put that recording out.”
[You can catch Darrell Scott with his recording band for two shows at Station Inn in Nashville on Thursday, January 18th, at Knoxville’s Bijou Theater on Friday, January 19th, and at The Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina on Saturday, January 20th. Click HERE for more information.]