Latest Scott Tournet Articles
We chatted with Scott Tournet about his new project Electrik Voodoo and his parting of ways with Grace Potter after a long run as a member of The Nocturnals.
About Scott Tournet
Scott Tournet was born in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts sometime in the 70’s. Scott’s formative years were spent in the small New England town of Williamstown, MA, where Williams College is located. “Williamstown was very cultured and quite socially progressive,” remembers Scott. “There were two art museums, a summer theater, and I even remember my mother running for the job of “selectperson” as far back as the early eighties. My brothers and I used to go to the Clark Art Institute just to look at the nude paintings, and by default I guess I developed a taste for the arts.”
Musically Scott was listening to his father’s music (Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, Woodstock tapes), early rap (Run D.M.C, Doug E. Fresh, Beastie Boys), and the popular music of the early to mid-eighties (Michael Jackson, Quiet Riot, Men at Work etc.). In addition to all of these sounds, Scott was heavily influenced by his mother’s love of dance (Jazz, African, Break-dance, etc.). “From my mother I gained not only a strong sense of rhythm, but also a playfulness within rhythm and meter that comes across rather strongly in my playing,” notes Scott. One of his fondest memories is that of his mother performing the “robot” in front of about twenty of his dance classmates to Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” (she taught the class). If you ever get the chance you should ask Scott to perform the centipede for you.
At the age of ten, Scott and his family moved from Williamstown to the very rural town of Chester, VT. The family found themselves in a geographic location where electricity cost over twenty thousand dollars to run to their house. For the next seven years they would live without it. Needless to say, the experience had a profound effect on Scott. “At first I obviously hated it, but looking back now I see that it really helped my creativity, while giving me an unavoidable dose of originality.” Scott learned to entertain himself and family members on a little battery-powered plastic keyboard. He memorized all of the preset melodies (“Greensleeves”, “Swanee River”, “Ode to Joy”), he improvised funny songs on the spot, and he learned that the highest C note – on top volume – annoyed his older brothers to no end.
After high school Scott attended Castleton State College (VT) for two years before dropping out with a microscopic GPA. More importantly, he used this time to begin learning the guitar. “I pretty much stopped going to class and just practiced all the time, remembers Scott, it was Jimi Hendrix vs. Finite Math… I mean, c’mon. I joined a band and played second guitar for like five or six shows. We weren’t very good, but the feeling of playing with a full band was just amazing. After that I had absolutely no doubts about what I was going to do with my life.”
Scott stayed out of school for the next couple of years and worked as a dishwasher, waiter, cook, painter, janitor, and an exterminator in order to scrape by and pay the bills. It was during this time that he began to see the enormous financial and social gap between the rich and the poor in this country. This issue touched Scott deeply and has been a recurring theme in his songwriting. In addition to practicing guitar, Scott began reading voraciously and thinking about social change.
“So I drove across the country by myself and applied to Goddard.”
Goddard College is a school that has no grades, accepts nudity, allows students to create their own curriculum, and is, in general just a random entity. At Goddard, Scott became exposed to radical politics, tofu, punk music, free jazz, slide guitar, vegans, naked men with flutes, nude women running, and the chaos theory among other things.
Musically, Scott became a sponge. He played in as many as four bands at one time in addition to his courses (all musical). He picked up bass guitar, drums, sound engineering, and rudimentary piano in addition to advancing his guitar skills. “It’s hard to even begin to conceive of what that brief period of time has done to me,” reflects Scott. During this time his tastes began to change from Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Phish, to Chicago Blues (Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy), 60’s Jazz (Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock), funk and Afrobeat (James Brown, Fela Kuti, the Meters) and country rock (Little Feat, the Band, 70’s Rolling Stones, JJ Cale).
Toward the end of his Goddard residence, Scott formed a band called The Big Huge. The band played about sixty shows before breaking up, after about a year and a half. They released one album (Underneath the Lowdown), but it failed to capture the group’s bombastic live sound. Following the breakup of The Big Huge and his graduation from Goddard, Scott moved in with his girlfriend Jen Crowell (future co-producer/singer/co-graphic designer on his first solo album) in rural northern (very, very northern) New York. Here he taught guitar lessons full time, played coffee-house shows, and immersed himself in his album Next to Canada. The album features Scott playing all the instruments, while also doubling as engineer. Next to Canada is reminiscent of Paul McCartney’s McCartney, any JJ Cale album, Dire Straits and 70’s Eric Clapton while still sounding fresh and not derivative.
For the past few years, Scott has provided guitar, harmonica, and backing vocals for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals who have toured with such acts as Mavis Staples, Taj Majal, Trey Anastasio, Moe, North Mississippi All-Stars, and Gillian Welch & David Rawlings among others.