For songwriter and virtuosic acoustic guitarist James Scott, it would be one fateful event that sent him on a lifelong journey. Now, he emerges a profoundly versatile musician, performing solo and in ensemble settings as a singer-songwriter, an impressionistic instrumental composer, and a masterful interpreter of styles, including jazz, bluegrass, folk, Americana, and Celtic.
“I remember one day my father came home with a cassette sampler from Windham Hill Records,” the Nashville, Tennessee-based artist recalls. “I must have listened to that every day for a year—I went to sleep listening to it. I was fascinated how one instrument could span the timbrel range of orchestral music. That sampler totally changed my life and my music.”
Windham Hill Records is the vanguard of modern acoustic music, featuring a roster of composers with dazzling musicianship whose singular artistry is transporting, evoking rolling hills, the sweet easy feeling of small towns, and bucolic sentimentality. At the time of hearing this life-changing music, James was an aspiring metal and progressive rock fan and guitarist, clocking in hours on the instrument to play the challenging heavy music he loved. The Windham Hill music was different and resonated with him in terms of being a music that requires dedication and the pursuit of excellence. It also evoked his love of the lush paintings of Van Gogh, Monet and the movement of Impressionism in art.
James Scott’s expansive musicality has garnered favorable comparisons to a broad array of artists. His songwriting has earned comparisons to Tom Paxton and John Hartford; his warmly resonate vocals evoke Arlo Gutherie, Neil Young, and Gordon Lightfoot; and his innovative instrumental fluidity conjures modern masters such as Michael Hedges, Alex De Grassi, Russ Barenberg, and Tony Rice. James is gifted as a fingerstyle player and a flat picker on steel string acoustic.
As a professional musician, he’s toured around the country performing at private house concerts and for folk societies. While home in Nashville, he can be found teaching privately, and gigging in a variety of guises that challenge and showcase his rich palette of artistry. Some career highlights have been touring nationally with Capitol Records recording artist Emily West (of American Idol fame), and opening for modern fingerstyle guitar icon Vicki Genfan. In 2011, he released the gorgeously reflective Letters From Sonora EP. It’s a thematic collection of snapshots of love and relationships brought to life by pastoral original solo fingerstyle guitar pieces. Standout pieces from that EP that highlight James’s bucolic artistry as a composer and an instrumentalist are “The Unexpected” and “Wherever You Go.” Up next, James plans on releasing another solo EP. This one will showcase the various facets of his music, including his singer-songwriter side, his inventive approach to covers, and his authentic authority when performing time-honored fiddle tunes. Currently, James has the distinction of having an endorsement from Krusa Guitars, a fine luthier based out of Nashville who crafts acoustic baritone guitars.
From James’s transformative experience with that cassette, he set out on a winding journey guided by a series of epiphanies. One foundational event was when, as a teenager, his buddy studied with Bela Fleck bass ace Victor Wooten and James had the opportunity to sit in on a lesson. Soaking up the unbridled creativity, discipline, and musicality of the Wooten household, he was forever changed and began studying with Victor’s brother, guitarist Regi Wooten. Another milestone was studying with Nashville’s premiere jazz guitarist Stan Lassiter who helped James shatter his perceived limitations musically and technically. Studying fiddle tunes with Jim Wood opened up new compositional and melodic worlds to James.
The powerful and timeless melodies in fiddle music, including traditional and Celtic music, have inspired James’s compositions and his tastefulness as a player with a very high level of technique.
In closing James says, “The way I see all this music is that it will always be emotionally and spiritually relevant. Bach, fiddle music, and all forms of traditional music are timeless. I hope I can honor that music and write current music that respectfully serves the same purpose as those wonderful classics.”
"Music is Life, Life is Music." - James Scott