Scott Laurent: Some of the best sounds in Nashville are not country at all

Sometimes you leave home and things change, and sometimes that change is you. Scott Laurent returns to Minneapolis to celebrate his latest album, Love Don't Let Me Down, after living and immersing himself in music in Nashville for the last six years. The music has traces of country and blues, yet still contains particles of indie rock.

Gimme Noise caught up with Scott before his two shows at Icehouse this weekend to chat about how Nashville has changed him and his musician friends he's been hanging out with down South.

Gimme Noise: How do you think Nashville has changed you?

Scott Laurent: I feel the same, but I am probably not. There have been a lot of changes. I have different responsibilities now as an artist and a songwriter. I am under more pressure, constantly trying to balance obligations. I have written so many songs, it's hard to remember them all and who I wrote them with. I guess, I have become more serious about everything, more disciplined.

As a songwriter, things have changed quite a bit. I write for a publishing company now and collaborate with different people almost every day. It's kind of like having a hundred different bands. The whole experience has changed me for the better. I have worked with new artists that I'd go out on the road with in a second, if I could. I work with songwriters and musicians whose names are on some of my favorite records growing up. It's been a surreal experience. I am constantly learning from others, sharing what I know, every aspect of my life centers around songwriting.

What do you feel are the biggest differences in the Twin Cities and Nashville music scene? 

Definitely, the industry side of things is much bigger in Nashville, with all the labels and publishing companies, etc. You have a better chance of getting something heard by another artist here. Mostly because so many artists with recording deals come here to write for their records or live here.

Otherwise, I feel like the performance side of things, like the bands working their way up and playing the clubs is very similar to Minneapolis. I mean, Lower Broadway and the honky-tonks are their own thing and really cool, but the bands that are coming up on the indie scene here could easily fit into Minneapolis venues and vice-versa. I really expect Nashville to have a moment like Minneapolis had in the past and seems to be making headway in again. Some of the best sounds out of this city are not country at all.

Can you tell me a little more about this retreat that you hold? Your Nashville Writers weeks? How do you choose who attends? What usually happens at these retreats? 

It's been mostly people I have written with, artists and songwriters. The first year we did it, we had counted 21 number-one songs between the five guys that were there. That doesn't happen all the time, especially in the middle of nowhere in Alaska. Writers' retreats are common among Nashville songwriters and artists, but performing isn't usually a part of them, or the kind of fishing we get to experience. Bristol Bay Lodge is a remote fly-in fishing resort.

The songwriters get to experience something really special, the guests get the added bonus of performances. This is our fourth year, it has really caught on, so much so that guests book their next trip before the week is over. Bristol Bay Lodge does not have a hard time filling up 2121 Music's Nashville songwriters week.

You debuted the songs on this album at the Pennyroyal concert back in the fall, but are only now releasing them on an album. Why do you think it happened this way?

Pennyroyal! My sister is managing them. I love them and I wanted to come back and support their record release. My record was finished at the time so we pressed some advance copies for the show. And, well, I had not played a show in Minneapolis for nearly 10 years; it was a good opportunity to see what kind of support I might have. It was a bit of an overwhelming experience -- so many showed up! It was great to play again with old friends and bandmates, great to collaborate with Pennyroyal. We will be recording together sometime in the future, and they'll most likely have some great opportunities here in Nashville.

Can you tell me the story behind "Feel Like I've Been Here Before"? How did it come to fruition?

"I've Been Here Before" was the first song I wrote after moving to Nashville. My friend Don Pedigo came down from Indiana to help us move in. We were all excited, so we drank all the beer and wine...

Don crashed out in our loft that night and the next morning, I woke to him playing this guitar lick out on our porch. I got this melody in my head; it was one of those moments you wish could happen every day. I remember sitting down, picking up my guitar, and the story just came out when I started singing. We even built the record track off that original recording -- my dog barking and all of it! There are very few times that it happens that way.

Besides that, do you have a favorite track off this album?

I really like "Nashville." I wrote that song in Minneapolis after I went down to Nashville for the first time. I went there to check it out -- didn't write or meet with anybody. I could just tell it was a city where some dreams were fulfilled and dreams were lost. Now, all these years later, I feel like I have met the character in that song many times over. I guess you could say that about any city, but this is music city after all.

Tell me about Sean Power. How do you think he changed the album?

Sean, Sean, Sean...pop guru, rock guru, country guru, and player of everything that has strings, skins, and keys! I wanted to find someone here in Nashville to record this record with -- I found Sean. Great guy! He's from Brooklyn, New York, and has great patience and talent that brought out the best in my songs.

What can we expect to see at your two nights at Icehouse?

Something to remember I hope. I just went to a Springsteen show here in Nashville; it reminded why I chose to do this whole thing. Play great songs, have your friends on stage with you, lose yourself in it every once in a while, and have fun! That's what it was like last fall in Minneapolis. I am lucky to be able to come back to such a great music city and work with so many incredible people.

Scott Laurent will release Love Don't Let Me Down at Icehouse.
Saturday, May 10, 2014, 11 p.m. - Pennyroyal
Sunday, May 11, 2014, 9:30 p.m. - Taj Raj
21+, $10

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