By Denise Smith (interview 2010.06.15)
“With a past steeped in love, loss, death, addiction, human suffering, torrid tales of flirting with the devil, the wrath of deep south religion, more southern-gothic lore than a Tennessee Williams play and a constant walk on a moral tightrope, James Scott Bullard’s songs reflect not just his own life, but real life. He has won several awards for his efforts, collected a mass amount of glowing critical reviews, and had much written about his prolific songwriting and troubled past. His songs have hit well over 20 million downloads across the internet ocean and he has gained worldwide attention due to massive airplay spanning the entire globe,” boasts James Scott Bullard’s artist bio at reverbnation.com.
No brag. Just fact.
I recently talked to James Scott Bullard about alternative Country, his father and his love for B-Grade Horror flicks.
What is your favorite story about your father?
James Scott Bullard: There’s so many; He was very big man, very old school, tough as nails, cowboy type of guy from the backwoods of North Carolina. We’re talking about moonshine, shotguns, the whole 9 yards. But don’t be fooled or mislead by stereotypes, he was probably one of the most intelligent people you’d ever meet! He was a lot of fun, and had so many great stories to tell. He had traveled the world, wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything and was friends with everyone from the local preacher to hardened murderers in prison. But, if I had to pick a favorite story, I guess it would be when I was about 8 or 9 years old. We were driving along the highway one day and we saw a homeless guy pushing a shopping cart. It is freezing outside. My dad pulls off the highway, walks to the back of our van and pulls out a brand new coat. Walks over to the guy handing him the coat, and asks him when he last ate. He then puts the guy and his cart in the back of the van, and drives us all to a diner. Where we sit down like old pals and eat a huge meal. My dad then hands the guy $20.00 and offers to take him somewhere, but the man politely declined the ride. Opting instead, to stay in the diner for a bit and drink some coffee. So, we leave and as we get in the van I’m chomping at the bit to talk about this incident without the guy around. I ask my dad why he did what he did, and he said: “You never know where angels roam.” He then went on to explain that it was possible that that poor guy had fought in a war for our freedom and deserved better, but that life was just that hard. My dad was a softie for vets because he was one.
But years later I had time to ponder; “You never know where angels roam.” And it hit me that to that guy my dad was the angel, but my dad saw it the other way around. He was like that.
Who or what inspired you to pick up your first instrument and how old were you?
James Scott Bullard: I was always surrounded by music. My dad played guitar and I had uncles that played instruments. My first memories are of the differences in musical taste in my immediate environment: My dad was a hardcore Merle Haggard, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, country/bluegrass kind of guy, but my mom was into Rod Stewart, The Commodores, and average pop. Then I had an older step-brother who lived with us at the time and was into Kiss, Ted Nugent, and whatever else you’d expect a teenager to be into. But what really inspired me to pick up a guitar was when a friend of mine discovered heavy metal before I did and brought over Quiet Riot’s ‘Metal Health’ and the ‘Ozzy Osbourne/Randy Rhodes Tribute’ albums on the same day! I was in complete awe, it was everything I wanted! Loud, aggressive and angry, but fun. My dad was so happy that I wanted to play guitar, he went out and bought me one a week later. Long story short: The week before I was an A student, playing little league. After that week, I stopped studying and quit the team.
Remembering back to your first time in front of a live audience, what comes to mind?
James Scott Bullard: Fear, excitement, and feeling like I belonged.
What has been your biggest triumph as an artist? Greatest challenge?
James Scott Bullard: Being tagged ‘The New Gram Parsons’, with a nod of approval from some of his family, friends and peers has to top the list as a triumph.
Greatest challenge? Giving up any semblance of a stable, normal life. And trying to explain alt.country (Alternative Country) to people!
If the whole world were listening, what would you play? And why?
James Scott Bullard: “The War” from one of my new albums: Sunsets & Cigarettes, because it needs to be heard.
We’ve got plenty of protest and pro-war songs, but no one says anything about the reality of what it’s like for a soldier to come home mentally unstable, addicted, crippled, or whatever the case may be. No one speaks from the soldiers perspective, and this song does.
As your music has evolved, what do you think has been the most significant change and do you consider it a positive or a negative?
James Scott Bullard: Has it evolved? Ha! I guess the best answer here is that in the past 10 years, I went from being in a hard rock band, which had it’s limits, to being an alt.country solo artist, which really has no limits. If I want to play “Kick out the Jams” live, and then go right into “He Stopped Lovin’ Her Today,” it’s ok! And having no artistic boundaries is definitely positive!
What is the best line you have heard from a B-Grade Horror flick?
James Scott Bullard: Wow! There’s so many great ones. My personal favorite would have to be from an 80’s indie vampire flick: Near Dark with Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen who both play these hard, redneck type of vampires. And at one point in the film, Lance Henriksens’ character ‘Jesse’ is asked how old he really is and his reply is: “Let’s just say I fought for the South…We lost.” Love that line, and any other answer I would have given here would have been too vulgar to print!
What is your favorite song to perform live? Why?
James Scott Bullard: That changes every night, I guess I don’t have a real answer to this.
Some nights I like to get their a**es movin’, and some nights I like to get their brains workin’ …It all depends on the crowd and my mood.
Who would be your dream band to perform with, from anywhere in the world?
James Scott Bullard: The Rolling Stones!! Not only because they’re The Rolling Stone for God’s sake, but because my other choices are no longer among the living. Then again, I’m not sure Keith Richards is either.
Is there anything you’d like to say to fans?
James Scott Bullard: ‘Thank you’ and ‘I love you’ sound too much like I’m running for office and desperately need votes… But thank you, and I love you each and every one! (This message was approved by James Scott Bullard.)
Seriously, thank you for listening and spreading the word… Keep spreading!!
I would like to thank James Scott Bullard for his participation in this interview.