Iím sitting here with Bar Scott in one of her favorite places: The
Starway Diner at the intersection of Route 212 and the New York State
Thruway in Saugerties, New York. There doesnít seem to be any one
good reason for this being Barís favorite place for an interview, but
here we are. I mean, the food is fried, the lighting is fluorescent,
and the ambience is, well, diner-esque. But she seems to come here a
lot. In fact, sheís been known to frequent diners wherever she goes
despite an otherwise healthy lifestyle. Iíve known Bar a long time,
and this is just one of the many things about her that I simply cannot
understand. My name is Lucy Maxon, and Iím Barís alter ego as well as
her best friend. Iíve been asked to conduct this interview and am
pleased to do so. If she can find the time, then so can I.
||Why is it that you like diners so much? Itís not exactly chic
around here, if you know what I mean.
||I think it has something to do with the price. But also, I
love the fact that the regular Joe and Josephine hang out here. I
always see people I know. Everyoneís friendly. They know me here Ė
not by name, but they recognize me because I come here to write a lot.
Theyíve even found a booth that I can sit in where itís possible to
plug my computer in. Some days I stay here so long that my computerís
battery runs out, so I need an outlet to plug in to. In Woodstock,
where I live, thereís no place to hang out for hours and thatís what I
love to do. Itís also nice that they refill my teacup rather often.
I tip them well for that!
||Youíre asked about your name all of the time. I notice that youíre
more comfortable with it now then you were ten years ago.
Tell us about that.
By far the most frequently asked question that I get is: "Where did
you get the name Bar from, Barb?" People just don't seem to be
comfortable calling me Bar. They want to write ĎBarrí, they want to
say ďBarb". Who can blame them? For me, it's always been ĎBarí. Not
sure exactly how or when it happened, but my sisters, brother, parents
and childhood friends have always called me Bar. In high school, my
sports buddies called me B-bar for a while, and in college, I
experimented with using ĎBarb Scottí when I began to sing publicly.
Simply put though, Barb just isn't my name; Bar is. Yes, I am
Barbara. In fact, I am Barbara Louise Scott. When I got serious
about the music business after college, I tried Bar Lou. Bar Louise.
B Louise. Anything I could do to ditch ĎBarí. Finally, when
frustrated beyond imagining with my own discomfort, a new friend told
me that she loved the name Bar because it reminded her of her favorite
place on the planet: Bar Harbor. Since then, I have been totally
comfortable with ĎBarí. These days, people tell me how great my name
is. Guess we're all getting used to it!
||What are your musical influences? Who did you listen to when
you were growing up? What do you listen to these days?
||Whenever a DJ or journalist asks me this question, I immediately
draw a blank. What is that? Anyway, the truth is, I love pop music.
I love the stuff that's commercial. I love songs that make me want to
sing along because of their great melodies, their lyrics or their
potential for vocal harmonizing on my part. I listened to the Beatles
for hours when I was a kid. I loved Motown and all of the music that
was coming out of Detroit in the Ď60s and Ď70s. I love to dance, so
anything with a groove is great for me. I still listen to Michael
Jackson's BAD more than any other record. I put it on in my studio
and dance to it at dangerously high volumes. I also loved the singers
who you might have expected me to listen to: Judy Collins, Joni
Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Annie Lennox, and Shawn Colvin. There have been
all kinds of phases too. I lived and breathed Ď80s pop: Thompson
Twins, Thomas Dolby, Men at Work, Wang Chung, Sheena E, Prince and The
Time. I also love classical music, particularly solo piano and
chamber music. I probably listen to classical music more than
anything else these days. I absolutely love anything played on the
piano by Vladimir Horowitz. The odd thing is that the music I am
least drawn to is the music of other singer songwriters. I find that
I am drawn to them only if I have heard them live, or if they have a
lot of pop elements in their work. I love Jane Siberry, Sarah
McLachlan, Paul Simon, David Gray and Peter Gabriel. These days, I am
recording and performing so much that I choose silence a lot of the
time. I regret this because I donít know whatís happening in music as
much as I would like to, but in every moment thereís a choice, and I
often choose to listen to quiet so that my mind and ears get a break.
And the sad truth is that a lot of the music that is on the radio
these days is not that inspiring to me. Thankfully I have friends and
a husband who are more proactive than I am about hearing whatís new,
so I do hear more than I would on my own.
||How Would You Describe Your Music?
||Do I have to?
||Yes. You need to do this so that record stores and human beings
know which bin to put you in.
||Well if I have to, and I know I do, then I would simply say: itís
Bar Scott music.
||Thatís not going to cut it.
||I know, I know. But itís such a hard question!
Hereís a better, more long-winded answer: The music business has
variously called my music Adult Contemporary, Contemporary Acoustic,
Light Rock, Folk, Contemporary Folk, Female Vocalist,
Singer-Songwriter, New Age, and Jazz. I know for sure that the latter
two donít work for me, but I understand why others might think of it
that way. The other categories all make sense, so yeah, all of those.
Vince Scelsa of WFUV radio in NYC played ďParachuteĒ when it first
came out, and he compared my songs to art songs that Judy Collins has
been doing recently. I love that he described my songs that way. I
feel like they are art songs. Art songs are short musical vignettes
quite often with a sort of poetic feel to them. They are generally
composed by classical composers and are generally performed in
classical settings by classically trained singers. I am not any of
those things, but I love the comparison and it makes me want to write
even more songs that could be called art songs.
||When did you start to sing?
||Very young. Maybe 6 or 7. I sang in the church choir as soon as I
was able to. I was an alto, so I learned harmony right from the
start. Still love to harmonize as you probably noticed. My four
older sisters, younger brother and my parents all sing well. We used
to sing madrigals together, but most of the time that we spent singing
together was about making up silly, often gross songs typical of
children with a lot of time on their hands and a little bit of talent.
We often embarrassed ourselves (or at least our parents) when we would
sing our little ditties in public places!
I didnít get serious about music as a career until I was in my mid
20s. I was living with a guy named Joe Alexander who owned a big
recording studio in the Philadelphia area. I took his recording
course, fell in love with him and his studio and was hooked. He
encouraged me to buy a little 4-track recorder and start to experiment
with my writing. Nearly 30 years later, I have spent a gazillion more
dollars on recording equipment and have recorded a lot of music Ė most
of which no one will ever hear, so be grateful!
||When did you pick up the guitar?
||Very late. I started when I was 31 mostly out of desperation. I
wasnít so comfortable singing a capella back then, and when I told
people I was a singer, naturally they would ask me to sing for them.
Having a guitar made that possible. I asked you to ask that question
because I think itís important for others to know that it is possible
to start a musical instrument when you are ďoldĒ.
||Piano is the instrument of my dreams. I have literally dreamed
of playing the piano since I was a little person. I played on the sly
when I was a teenager for fear of my sisters or brother, mother or
father discovering how incompetent I was. I used to drag my one-piece
stereo from Sears down to the piano in the living room and try to pick
out Beatles melodies in the rare moments when the living room was
empty. I never took lessons Ė probably because I never disclosed my
love of the instrument. When I did Confession in 1995, I was 37 years
old. When I started recording ďOne Small CageĒ, one of the songs on
the record, I heard a piano part loud and clear in my head. I asked a
couple of pianists to play it, but neither played it the way I heard
it. That was a shock because it was SO loud and clear in my head that
I couldnít believe they didnít hear it. One of them, Francesca
Tanksley, told me I should play it myself since I heard it so clearly.
Her suggestion changed my life. I did record the part, and I got away
with it. No one ever asked: ďwho played that lousy piano part on ďOne
Small CageĒ? Experiencing first hand the thrill of playing the piano
in the studio and the fact that I got away with it, allowed me to
shift gears and go from guitar to piano almost exclusively. I wish I
could go deeper on the guitar, but I love that I have gone deeper on
the piano. There are years of growing to do on both instruments for
me, and I look forward to that.
||Do you write the lyrics or the music first when you write a song?
||Always the music first. In fact, too often for my own comfort,
the music is arranged, performed and recorded before the lyrics come
to me. Itís one of the more exciting/tense parts of my work. Nothing
like a little pressure to force me to clarity! Lyrics are hard, and I
demand a lot from myself to write them. When I say I write them last,
what that really means is that I am working on them the entire time
that I am working on or recording the music. But often they donít get
done until the last possible moment.
||Why do you do this with your life?
||What a great question - one that I ask myself over and over
again, maybe even every day.
||Well, yes, you would know now, wouldnít you? I mean, why do any
of us do any of the things we do? For me, making music is automatic.
It simply IS what I do. That part of it I have no question about. I
do it because I was given this to do. It is a gift that I was born
with and which I am moved to give back. I am challenged (essentially
by my own self) to go deeper and deeper into what I love. For me,
that is having the courage to be as honest as I can be with myself and
with my audience about the emotions and experiences that I have. I
recognize that I am an artist and that an artistís job is to observe
and express the world that he or she lives in. I take my job very
seriously. I feel as though I have been entrusted with a special
talent that needs to be nurtured and cared for and most importantly,
given. It gives me great pleasure to do so, and it is especially
powerful for me when it works for someone else and when their life is
somehow enhanced by this gift that I have been given.
But the question of why I do the music business is a much more
difficult one to answer. I go wildly back and forth in my commitment
to the business of selling my voice, my songs and my performances. I
am so excited when I get paid properly for my work. Thereís nothing
that matches the compliment of singing and being paid for the value of
what I do. Often I do not get paid for that value and like most
artists, this breaks my heart. There are times when I want to make
music my hobby and forego my dreams of a more commercially successful
career. Then someone will come along and offer me an opportunity in a
theatre, for instance, with a fabulous grand piano and lights and
monitors (wow!) and a sound engineer, and perhaps even a monitor
engineer, and those experiences remind me of how badly I love to sing
in proper venues where I am paid well and the sound is excellent and
the audience is well-served and everyone wins. I still love that
dream enough to stick to it, but I donít think my life will be a waste
if that sort of regular ďsuccessĒ is not in my future. I try hard to
be honest in my connections with other people in the business. If I
do not like someone or trust them, I stay away and do not do things
that are uncomfortable for me. On the other hand, I do try to reach
to the people in the business who I am drawn to and who are good and
fair people. The music business itself is notoriously difficult and
heartbreaking, but in fact, there are a lot of great people who do
music, and I try to work with them as often as I can.
||Speaking of money issues, do you mind talking a little bit about
how you make a living in the music business?
||People who know me well, know that Iím kind of an open book when
it comes to my life. I donít think thereís too much I wouldnít tell
someone who wants to know something about me or my work. So here
I donít make enough to live without my husbandís support, thatís the
first embarrassing fact. I could live alone, but I would have to live
a lot less comfortably. I earned 20k in 2004, 26k in 2005. Havenít
done my taxes yet for 2006, so Iím not quite sure, but itís not the
kind of income a middle-aged woman is extra excited about especially
if you consider this as my gross income. Out of this income, I pay
Jen and Callie or whomever is performing with me. I also have a fair
amount of costs associated with what I do. CDs cost a ton to record,
which I talk about in detail in an article that I wrote about the cost
of recording a CD which you can find at my
Articles Written by BarĒ
page on this website. There are also a lot of costs associated
promotion, advertising and travel. When I do my taxes, it pretty much
zeroes out by the end of the year. I might add that I am very proud
of what I have been able to do as an independent artist, and I thank
Peter regularly for my warm home and the studio that heís provided for
me. Considering I am the only employee of the Lucy Max Production
Company, your namesake, I have gotten pretty far by myself. My
records (except for Parachute, the newest one) are all in the black Ė
very uncommon for an artist at any stage in their career. I have a
fan base, I am called on regularly to sing for a fee, my website is
active, I get heartfelt fan mail, etc etc. But Iím not rich. By many
standards, I am a success; by other measures, Iím not really cutting
it. The thing I am most grateful for is my freedom. My only real
frustration comes from not being able to do more. Working
independently keeps me out of many of the loops I need to be in to
really move forward. At my age, those loops are harder and harder to
get in to, so I am often creating my own loops which tend to involve
considerably more work for me on non-musical activities like fund
raising, show production, booking and management. Does that answer
||Yes, I think so. You have a lot to say, donít you?
||Who me? You think?
||Yes, but not as much as you do! (laughter) Whatís your favorite
||Thatís easy. Arenít you glad?
||Well yes, in fact, I amÖ.
||I was opening for Livingston Taylor at a venue in New York State.
I had brought a skimpy little form-fitting dress to wear on stage, so
I had to wear stockings too. As I was getting dressed just before the
show, I pulled out the stockings to put them on, and I heard the
elastic do that thing that elastic does when it no longer feels like
stretching anymore. It was awful! Now, I hadnít shaved my legs for a
number of days, and I have the legs of a woman who has not seen the
sun in many moons, so I HAD to wear the stockings. There was no time
and no choice. As I was playing my 30-minute set, I could feel the
elastic-less stockings slowly creeping down my legs. There was
absolutely nothing I could do except tell the audience what was going
on. If I hadnít told them, the stockings would have been around my
ankles in no time and I might have fallen flat on my face walking off
the stage. As it was, I had to do some serious hiking up just to be
able to stand there. Not a great moment, but a great story, huh?
||Ah, yeah. Letís move on, ok? What charitable organizations do
you donate your time and money to?
||I have committed most of my time for benefit concerts to causes
close to home. I love helping families in the Hudson Valley who have
specific needs. I love to raise money where I know the people who are
the beneficiaries. Because of my son Forrestís life and death, I am
deeply grateful for the Ronald McDonald House of Albany, NY. I have
raised some money for them, and hope to raise more in the coming
years. Woodstock, NY is really good at helping its neighbors. My
family and I have been on the receiving end of that, so I am committed
to being on the giving side of that as much as I can afford to be.
||Are there projects that you still want to do?
||Many. I am working on a standards recording now where I will
only be singing. Others will play the piano, bass, drums whatever. I
want an opportunity to really explore my voice without the distraction
of being the writer, producer and the player too. I would also love
to do a classical record using my untrained voice singing songs that
are usually heard sung by bigger, operatically trained voices. I
would love to make a record of music that Iíve created entirely by
myself and almost entirely with my voice. Iíve got enough engineering
and editing skills under my belt now that I could conceivably do this
finally. I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to do a record with a producer that
I knew could interpret my songs in a way that I would love. To date,
Iíve been the producer sort of by default. Thatís been excellent
training, and Iím grateful for it, but boy do I love the idea of
meeting a producer who really hears what Iím thinking and can join me
as producer and really do some fabulous things with the production of
my records. Kevin Bartlett and I tried to do that with Parachute, and
I love the input he had (primarily on ďParachuteĒ and ďSarahĒ), but
the relationship never really gelled in the studio because there
wasnít enough budget to keep Kevin fully engaged. He had to work on
other projects, and I had to keep moving on mine, so it didnít totally
work out. Iím talking about a dream that would involve me, another
producer and a group of incredible musicians working intently on a
group of songs for 4 Ė 6 months until the songs are fully realized and
the ensemble is all on the same page. Wow! I get a chill just
thinking about that possibility! I think that I will be able to do
that at some point. The main issue with that dream is money, lots of
money, and money is always possible to come by when the rest of the
details are in place.
||Any advice for aspiring songwriters or musicians?
||All I can say is that, for me, living has been the most important
thing that I have done. I could tell you to practice (and you
should). I could tell you to schmooze whenever you can (and you
should, I guess) but more than anything else I think all people,
especially those who are going to be artists in one way or another in
their life, should set about the task of living: fall in love, fall
out of love, have children, go to church, to synagogue, temple,
ashram, wherever you are drawn to that gives you an opportunity to
commune and to pray; do yoga, or martial arts, look at paintings,
travel, get married, make friends, be hurt, try not to hurt others,
listen, question your church, your temple, their leaders, your
teachers and your personal heroes. Live your life as fully as you
can, and while you are doing this living, be conscious. Look at what
you are doing. Be aware. Take note. Take responsibility. Reflect.
Write. Explore. Create. Live and Love. All of these things will
make your expression fuller and more alive for you and for your
audience. And finally, be as honest as you can be with yourself when
you create. In the process you will know yourself better, which will
make you a better creator, I think.
||Yow! You are serious!
||You bet. This life is all that I have and I am very serious
about experiencing all that it has to offer. The good and fun stuff
and the harder stuff too.
||So, before we wrap this up, would you mind explaining where my
name came from?
||Sure. Itís kind of a cute story. When I started performing and
recording in earnest in the late Ď80s, I was singing with my
boyfriend, Ed Mann. We had a little duo that was really his little
duo that I was the chick singer in. I had rather awful pinkish-red
hair of the unnatural variety at the time, so I called myself Lucy and
we called ourselves ďLucy and the ManĒ. The name Lucy came from the
most famous red head of all: Lucille Ball. Max was my grandfather
Scottís name, short for William Maxwell, and I liked the combination
of Lucy and Max. When I first started, I used Lucy Maxon as an alias
so that I could represent myself when I needed an agent or a manager.
The only time Lucy Maxon was ever called by a real agency looking to
do business with Bar Scott, I couldnít handle the deception, so I told
that agent upfront that Lucy Maxon was an alias. They never called me
back. Since then, Iíve only used her signature until today when you
agreed to do this interview. Does that answer your question?
||Yes, and itís good to know where I come from.
||Thank you, Lucy. Iím grateful that you could take this time with
me. And thank you all for supporting my music, and for coming along
for the ride.