January 23, 2015

2009 Scotland Barr Interview

Just as with Blind Pilot, I interviewed Scotland Barr for the now defunct Popwreckoning in 2009. Reading this again is a bit emotional as he succumbed to pancreatic cancer later that year. While I had only spoken to him a couple times, I loved his music, and like many fans, felt a connection to him and his music. His last show was a bittersweet affair. It was clear he was ailing, but still pouring it out on stage for his loving fans. Sadly, he was not able to finish the album. However, his friends and bandmates forged ahead and fulfilled his vision releasing the double LP in 2011. All of his albums are available on Bandcamp.

Also, if you pepper your eggs with Secret Aarvark Hot Sauce, you are enjoying one of Barr's creations. 


Scotland Barr and the Slow Drags released a stellar album last year, and judging from the front man's answers below, the next album is going to be even better. Unfortunately, in the midst of what should be the bands shining moment, Scotland Barr was diagnosed with cancer. Amazingly, after a relatively short period of time off, he's returning to the stage to open for Clem Snide on Friday night at the Doug Fir. I couldn't be more excited to hear him and the Slow Drags play my favorites off All The Great Aviators Agree and, with any luck, some of their new songs.

Earlier this week, he graciously took the time to answer a couple of my questions about his health, the progress on the album, and some more upcoming shows. Those familiar with his band's good-timing country and roots rock won't be surprised at the humor and positive outlook infused in his answers.

QuickCrit: Do you mind talking a little about your illness? How are you feeling? Where are you in the process?

Scotland Barr: Not at all. As of now, today, I feel great. Lately things have been going well, feeling better in general. Overall it is like having a bunch of little evil creatures running around in my gut, all with minds of their own and bad intentions. Lately they have been behaving themselves. With this type and stage of cancer the process is basically one of just staying alive and functioning as long as possible since it does not go into “remission” as with most other cancers. We keep up all the treatments that work until the end. I am, however, more cavalier then that and have declared myself cancer free. And I am very serious about that statement!

QC: How did you decide to play live?

SB: I figured it was better than waiting until I was dead!

QC: How does that affect your show (or your health)?

SB: It depends on the day/night and what Demons are at play. No matter how I feel before a show, I always feel good once we start playing. My health issues do add a certain urgency to the live shows I think. And there is no better feeling then playing a good show.

QC: I see you have a new album, We Will Be Forgotten. How is that coming?

SB: It’s moving along. Not as quick as I would like, but that is always the case. We are taking our time with this one and with over 20 songs on the project we got our work cut out.

QC: When can we expect to hear it?

SB: I think this record is larger on all scales. First of all, the primary format is going to be a double vinyl LP. It is far more epic in scope and follows a very thin thread of a “concept” in a random abstract way. You will probably pick out influences as diverse as Pink Floyd and Merle Haggard.

QC: How does it compare to your last one?

SB: Well, besides the above mentioned aspects this record is really the first “Full” band record we have done. The core group of the band was far more involved in the arrangement of the material then on past records. Also, all the songs on this album were written during the lifespan of this band so it reflects the group and its overall influences in a much more comprehensive way. This record leans a lot less towards the Alt. Country mantle then the past records.

QC: Did your illness change how you wrote or recorded your new album?

SB: Most of the songs for We Will Be Forgotten were written before my diagnosis. Oddly, however, the songs are very fitting and timely, strangely so.

QC: Did you integrate it into either the lyrics or tone of the new album? If so, did it help to write about the experience?

SB: There is definitely a shroud over the whole recording process for good or bad, probably both.

QC: Are there any songs that you are particularly proud of?

SB: This group of songs are my favorite of any CD so far. As far as favorites, I am very partial to “Love Is Pavement”.

QC: So, what's next for you and the Slow Drags? Do you have any more upcoming shows people should know about? 

SB: Lots coming up! We will be opening for Clem Snide at the Doug Fir on Friday April 10th (9:00 sharp) and then our big resurrection and comeback show (also at the Doug Fir) is Saturday May 2nd. We have an Eastern Oregon and Idaho tour just booked for August and a fall tour through California, Arizona, and New Mexico coming up. Other than that we will be working hard on the CD for a late summer release.