Artist of the Month Nancy Scott

Artist of the Month Nancy Scott

by Eric Clow

Some songwriters have the uncanny ability to craft a song that feels as though it was written just for you, a song that’s so universal it can speak to anyone’s experience. The lyrics hit you like a truth you’ve always known yet never found the words to describe. Such songs can stand your hairs on end, coax a smile from your face, or make you sway to the music in gentle reflection. These are the kinds of songs that Nancy Scott writes.

Nancy joined our Lion and Pirate Open Mic community in the first few months of the pandemic. She was one of several artists who benefited from the safer online setting of Zoom, able to perform from the comfort of her cabin in the tiny town of Red Rock, Texas. As with the other longer-distance talents who graced our virtual stage, Nancy gave us solace and hope that not only would we survive that terrible time, but we would be better for it.

Nancy with guitar
Nancy smiles while playing an acoustic guitar at a microphone.

Nancy has described her music as “country bluesy folky sh*t.” This may reflect her formal genres, the sections where you may find her CDs in a record store. But her songs transcend genre. They’re songs of the heart, songs of loss and healing, heartbreak and humor.

Her vocals are at once steady and vulnerable, with an edge that recalls one of her biggest influences, Janis Joplin. Her voice soars over tastefully mellow guitar chords. Her lyrics are relatable, a mix of metaphors and concrete details. Her melodies are gorgeous, lulling any listener into a state of peace.

It was a delight to speak and correspond with Nancy, to learn more about the woman behind such beautiful songs. We began by discussing her background:

“I was born in Tennessee in a town called Oak Ridge, which has an interesting history all of its own! Even mentioned in Oppenheimer… I came to Texas on a very wild hair with a friend, and when she left shortly after arrival, I decided to stay… The rest is history as they say!”

Nancy laughing
Nancy laughs heartily.

Nancy explained how she started playing music—a passion that developed in the 1960s!

“My parents thought I might like to learn to play the piano, so that was tried for a while until I told them I would like a guitar instead. They told me to save up my allowance, so I could buy one. So I bought one for about $5 in 1964, I think it was. I played that cheap guitar as much as possible! Big callouses on my fingers! After they saw that it was serious, they bought me a much nicer guitar for my 16th birthday. That’s the beginning of [my] music story.”

Nancy also recalled the first song she ever wrote:

“It was about a high school friend of mine’s mother having a baby, and a song came to me about the baby whose name I can’t remember.  And I can’t remember all the words to the song, but the first verse started with ‘Blond hair and bright blue eyes, help make your happy face… when you say your goodbyes, this won’t be the same place.’ I believe ‘Lost in Austin’ was my second song after I moved here but couldn’t find my way on Lamar half the time! [I would] be going south and think it was north, etc.”

Nancy went on to record three albums of music, including a live performance with the Therapy Sisters. For more than 35 years she’s entertained Austin-ites with her music at a number of notable venues. She’s played everywhere from BookWoman to UT’s Cactus Café to Patsy’s Cowgirl Café, an iconic restaurant and one of the many cultural casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nancy hosted a popular monthly songwriting circle at the latter for almost seven years.

A woman at a microphone gives Nancy an award.
Nancy receives the NWMF Jane Schliessman Award for Contributions to Women’s Music from Linda Wilson, the producer of the National Women’s Music Festival.

I hoped for a glimpse into Nancy’s creative process, but for Nancy, as it is for many songwriters, inspirations are difficult, if not impossible, to articulate. When asked what inspires her to create, she answered:

“Hmm… I guess mood, experiences in life (heavy, sad, or humorous), my life’s history (Old Flings), even the Moon! (‘sits like a whole note on the telephone wire.’)”

The latter is a particularly poetic image from her jazzy, aptly-titled song, “The Moon.”

As we neared the end of our correspondence, Nancy offered sound guidance for aspiring musicians and songwriters:

“Don’t give up! And keep recording capability close by, so you don’t forget the tune and the words to your inspirations!”

Nancy plays guitar
Blue jeans and a flannel shirt round out Nancy’s rockstar look as she plays an acoustic guitar on an outdoor stage with long, wind-blown hair.

As for current projects, Nancy continues to promote her latest album, Heartprints in Clay. But she also has enough songs for a new project that she hopes to start soon.

Nancy will play at NeWorlDeli in Austin this June, July, and August on the 4th Saturday of each month from 2-4 PM. You can see her perform and/or purchase her CDs there. If you haven’t seen her live, I highly recommend it!

You can also hear Nancy on the Art Spark TX Radio Hour on KOOP Radio Monday, May 13th from 2-3 PM Central!

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