Scott Kirby - Music through His Son's Eyes
by Shelby Berry
For Scott Kirby, who has performed professionally for 16 years, recorded nine albums, and written 135 songs, the art of writing originals is an intimate and personal process.
“I write from that center of inspiration, whether it’s a feeling or a fantasy. If I can put myself in that place, it’s cool. I have a lot of other songs that are that way, moments in my life that I’ve woven into songs like grieving,” Scott said, speaking in depth about his long and successful songwriting career.
He continued, “If I’m really feeling something, that’s when it becomes clearest to put into song.”
For example, with his song “Hazel Eyes” from his 2018 EP, Scott said it was easier to express through the lyrics his feelings for his wife early in their relationship.
“My song ‘Cool Water’ is for my wife also. She had a heart valve replacement right after we got married. It took a while to come through all of it with some perspective and write about it. The song became all about being grateful for those in our lives that make it worth living,” he said.
So obviously, even in more challenging times, Scott has been known to channel his emotions, and even grief, through song.
Scott had a high school friend who died of brain cancer. Before she passed, Scott wrote a song for her and sang it to her at her bedside. This song, “L.A.M.B,” meaning Lindsey Ann McKenzie Beloved, is all about the girl he grew up with and what she meant to them.
“This type of music is important, but sometimes these songs take you to a place that isn’t happy to be at,” said Scott.
In the sixth grade, he got his first taste of music in the public school system in northern Wisconsin, first with the tuba and then with the guitar and electric bass. As he started learning to play music, every genre of music influenced him.
“When I first learned jazz music, I opened to the fact that music could go anywhere,” said Scott. “Jazz opened me up to the possibilities, and the other genres kept me rooted. Like The Blues Brothers did when I was a kid, they reached me. The first cassette tape I had was Hootie & the Blowfish. Then, I moved on to the Goo Goo Dolls, Counting Crows, and the Dave Matthews Band. Listened to my first Bob Dylan song as a senior in high school,” said Scott.
“Then I met Tuck Pence, a local musician here in Wisconsin. I started backing him up years ago and realized his dad taught me how to play guitar. He taught me all about songwriting. He has an approach to making a living doing what you love. Otherwise, I probably love the same music that everyone does, the John Lennons and Rolling Stones of the world.”
Today, Scott’s sound is an eclectic blend all its own coined “mojo” by a Canadian comedian he met along the way. “If you can feel the music with the artist, that’s what I feel mojo is,” said Scott. “I try to be as authentic to the moment as I can be when I’m playing. It’s about getting down to the heart of a performer and sharing my true self in that moment with people.”
About three years ago, the most rewarding part of Scott’s experience changed quite a bit. He and his wife had a son, Elton Ray, who loves to be just like his dad.
“My kid at three years old is monkey see, monkey do. He’ll get up there and play like he sees me do. I got him a ukulele and a 6-string guitar. He’s a long way away from making a record, but aside from it all, that’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve taken out of my career at this point – being able to see my music through the eyes of my kid.”
While inspiring his kid could easily be a full-time job, Scott stays busy with his regular weekly spots, always trying to change it up, keeping moments authentic, and other live performances. He also works with a local radio station on a bluegrass music show that features local musicians called Midwest Music Hour.
“The show was created to feature local artists and provide a streamline way to get local artists’ music out to the world. From Fall 2020 to now, I’ve worked with over 30 artists,” said Scott.
He received two grant awards to fund and support this project with the radio station, and now Scott has the Burch Barn, where videos are recorded and sent out to radio.
“The radio station was the path, and it was my thing. I hope it becomes a more permanent fixture when I’m not doing it any longer. People love hearing from local artists,” said Scott.
If you’re in the Wisconsin area on December 18, you can see Scott Kirby and his mojo live backing up Tuck Pence in Wausau, Wisconsin, as he opens for The High Hawks.