Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott could’ve spent his entire career behind the scenes. He could’ve written incredible country-folk-Americana songs like “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” or “Long Time Gone” and watched them become hits thanks to artists like the Dixie Chicks or Brad Paisley or Patti Loveless.
Or he could’ve used his dazzling skills on guitar, banjo, dobro, pedal steel, mandolin and a variety of other instruments just to play on albums by Sam Bush or Robert Plant or Faith Hill. There are many people who would sacrifice everything just to have ONE of those careers, let alone both.
But for Scott, there was never a question that he would eventually take to the stage and recording studio to make his own music, which he’s done since releasing 1997’s Aloha From Nashville.
“I was a studio player and songwriter and a sideman,” Scott says, “and I did all of those things in a very full-tilt fashion. I’m happy with all of that, but the one that calls to me and always did was being an artist.”
But the call of being an artist wasn’t the only reason. In the 1990’s, before he released his first solo album, Scott’s tunes were being covered by performers like Garth Brooks, Guy Clark, Tim O’Brien and Trace Adkins. But he felt like he had a world of other songs that people weren’t hearing.
“What it came down to was that people had covered a handful of my songs, but I’d written several hundred,” he says. “I’m the one who has to represent those other dozens and dozens of songs. No one else is going to do that, so it has to be me. No one’s going to know about them unless I get up off my butt and do shows and make the records. It felt like a larger piece of me that wasn’t being shown, and I was going to have to show it.”
It’s fortunate that Scott felt that need to share his songs, because he has the same skill as a live performer that he does as a writer and musician. Scott exudes quiet confidence onstage, spinning songs and stories with an unassuming grace. He’s particularly effective in a solo acoustic setting; working without a set list, Scott simply chooses whatever songs he feels like playing or that he thinks will work for the room he’s in, and works his magic.
“When I’m playing by myself, I have no idea what song is coming next,” he says. “Sometimes I don’t even know what the first song is. Each particular evening is completely its own evening. There’s a whole lot I don’t know, and I don’t know it right in front of the people. That might make it a little more conversational.”
After a few decades of performing live, the uncertainty of not knowing what song comes next doesn’t bother Scott at all.
“I’m never worried by that,” he says. “I think that that’s what performing is: Stepping into the unknown. At least that’s the way I do it.”
Scott will be performing a solo acoustic show at The Spinning Jenny in Greer on Thursday, and though he readily admits he has no idea yet what he’s going to play, he’s just as likely to play a song that someone else has made a hit as he is a more obscure tune from one of his own albums.
“Those songs resonated with me before anyone else even heard them,” he says. “I wrote them for my own reasons, and the songs are no less mine when somebody covers them. It just means more people know about them. That’s not a bad-news situation; I get to do the song, and somebody else who made it a hit gets to do it, too.”
If you go
What: Darrell Scott
Where: The Spinning Jenny, 107 Cannon St., Greer
When: Thursday, Sept. 12, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $35 adv., $45 door
Info.: 864-469-6416, https://www.thespinningjennygreer.com/