What made Scott’s songwriting great?
There was something really honest about it. Scott wasn’t trying to be anyone else apart from himself. The songs spoke for themselves, especially Midnight Organ Fight, which seemed to connect with people on another level.
Scott was such a clever guy. He was writing about love and loss and things that we’ve all been through, and I think that’s why people connected with it so much, but Scott did it in his own individual way and that drew you in. You could tell it was a guy fae Selkirk wrote it. Just the turn of phrases. A line like “You’re the shit and I’m knee deep in it” sounds really Scottish to me. It’s heartbreaking and funny at the same time. He was able to make you cry one minute and then cry with laughter. To be able to put that in a three, four minute pop song is very special.
I think that’s why I connected with him as a friend as well. I knew we were coming from the same place. It wasn’t about writing music to become a massive artist or star. It was writing music because you needed to. It was an outlet.
Were you best friends?
We were really close. We met each other at a time in our lives when we were writing music, but like deer in the headlights – wide-eyed with hope and ambition. We were able to talk about things that not everybody could talk about. Like what it’s like to get up on stage and basically go through a therapy session in front of a room full of people. We were going through that together.
I remember we (The Twilight Sad) weren’t doing too well, and I could see our career finishing, but Scott took us on tour around America, and just kept on giving us encouragement: “You can’t stop doing this.” He dragged me out of a really dark place. He did that for a lot of people.
I think about him every day, and the comparisons between myself and him. Scott had such a big group of friends, and I don’t. The amount of lives that he touched. He welcomed everybody in. He did that with his music, but he also did it as a person. That’s something I’ve learned from him, to try and do.
Tell me about your decision to cover the Frightened Rabbit song Floating In The Forth.
I don’t know how to say this. It’s not something I feel good about. I’ve really struggled with it for the past year. Scott gave me about three or four songs to choose from. Floating In The Forth was there, and who else could do that? Who could have touched that? If you look at everything’s happened, and that song … that’s why it scares me that we did that song. But I felt that we, as his friends, could step up and do it. I put the question to you: do you think it’s right that we did that song?
Yes. And it’s interesting what you did with it, too. You changed it. There’s that final line, “I think I’ll save suicide for another year.” Scott sings that once. You turn it in to a refrain.
That terrifies me as well. When I was singing it, I was relating to it. I sing that song from knowing why Scott wrote it, and I’ve had those feelings myself. I was forcing that point home by making it a refrain. “I think I’ll save suicide for another year.” Just saying it and saying and saying it. I was in the studio and I just kept singing.
So your repeated singing of that line was to emphasise the optimism? The fact that in the song he chooses to live?
Yeah, definitely. Not the other side of it. When I first heard that song, back in 2007 or something, I felt it was hopeful – that you can have these thoughts but you can get over it.
I haven’t listened to the song since we recorded it. I just can’t. As soon as Scott said he liked it, I was like, “Cool.” Then what happened happened.
I don’t know how people are going to feel when they listen to it. I don’t want to say that it was a burden to take that song on. Part of me is glad that it was us who did it, but part of me is devastated.
Maybe not a burden, but some sort of duty?
That’s a better way of putting it, yeah. Everybody that knows our band will know we’ve been playing Keep Yourself Warm every night. When Scott passed away, I didn’t really say anything. There were a lot of people who wanted to talk to us, but I wasn’t ready. My way of getting out how I was feeling was singing Scott’s songs. The words that he wrote in his songs are better than anything I could have said at that time.
To me, singing his songs every night is cathartic. Our bands are connected forever. I know that people who come to our gigs are big Frightened Rabbit fans, and it’s a place where you can come and sing Scott’s words and let every emotion out – sadness, but also happiness that we’ve got this music, that he gave us that.
I saw you play Keep Yourself Warm at the Barrowlands and it was very special. What was that like for you?
Every emotion you can think of. Wanting to do him proud. Not fuck it up. Grant and the Frabbits guys were all there as well. I felt proud and honoured to sing his words in that place where we’d spent so much time together and experienced so many highlights of our lives. I’ve been in that room with Scott twenty-odd times, watching him play, watching us play. I’ve been on stage with him there. It really feels like that room held something for us, and will continue to. So to sing that song in there, and hearing the people in the crowd sing it, felt like an amazing release for them and me. It felt like there wasn’t a barrier up. Everybody was doing it together. It wasn’t the Twilight Sad playing that song. That room sang that song that night.
Do you think Scott’s work will have a future? Will people still be listening to and performing these songs in years to come?
At this moment, I still find it hard to listen to Scott’s music, and I say that as someone who sings it almost every single night. But I think people will look at that body of work and go, “That guy was fucking brilliant.” I wish I could be more articulate than that.
I think that does the job.
He was special. Hopefully, everybody can get to the point where they can look at his music and be like, “We’re very lucky that we had this person. We’re very lucky that we’ve got this music.” Scott’s voice will always be with us. His words will always be with us. This covers record is a really positive thing. It’s going to spread the word about Scott’s music, and that’s important. I’m not going to stop shouting from the rooftops or screaming from small stages about how amazing he was. I think it’s important that we remember Scott through the beautiful things that he put into the world.
A beautiful and honest article. Brought tears to my eyes. Heart braking. I find it difficult to listen to the songs now too, especially the forth. I hear Scott’s words and I know, I get it, I feel the same.
Life is a mixture of dark, shade, and light, unfortunately for people like us there’s a lot of darkness, we hate it. Yet feel comfortable there. There’s no simple way to describe it.
James you touch some many people with your music. I have been through an emotional rollercoaster for the last 2 years. TTS and FR have helped me deal with my dark thoughts. You may think you do not have many friends but we are all here for you. I hear Scott’s songs and they move me and your new album James is helping us all heal. Thank you so much. Tons of love from Vancouver canada
What a raw, honest, and emotional interview. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and apprehensions with us, James. I have such massive respect for what you/TTS and Grant/FR guys have done to keep Scott’s words and legacy alive. A roomful of fans will attest to that.