For his new album, A Fool to Care, Boz Scaggs once again teams up with producer Steve Jordan and puts his distinctive spin on a host of classic songs—plus a handful of new originals.
The album, the follow-up to 2013's Memphis, features a guest appearance by Bonnie Raitt, who duets with Scaggs and adds her characteristic slide guitar to “Hell to Pay.” The song, which Scaggs wrote himself, is a knowing indictment of corruption on a personal and political level.
I recently spoke with Scaggs about his new album, recording with Duane Allman several decades ago—and about his 50 years in the music biz.
GUITAR WORLD: How would you describe your new album, A Fool to Care?
That’s an enormous question. It took four days to record and probably 50 years to conceive. When we started talking about doing this album, we considered a theme being the music I was inspired by [when I was] growing up. That led to some discussion about the material. We really wanted to focus on music out of Louisiana and Texas, but then we started talking about other songs we like. Guys like Curtis Mayfield came up. Then the interest broadened and we started picking them out of the air.
There’s a song by the Band on there and others by the Spinners and Al Green. Then there were a few songs that a friend of mine wrote and one I wrote one myself. It’s all styles of music that I love. We had an open ticket to do anything we wanted to do. If it felt good, we took a swing at it.
You mentioned a four-day recording process, which seems like a quick turnaround. Can you elaborate on that?
The rhythm section on this record was the same one we worked with on my last record, Memphis. It’s very high-level and broad-ranging musicians that I had a lot in common with. So it gave us a lot of flexibility.
[Producer] Steve Jordan and I took a good deal of time in pre-production to find the right keys and arrangements. We really try to hit it hard once we’re in the studio. Then I took the songs back to my home studio in California and did some vocal and guitar overdubs and added a few horns and percussion.
What can you tell me about the song you wrote for this album, “Hell to Pay”?
I had been carrying that song for years. When you talk to some writers, they’ll tell you that sometimes a song just seems to fall out of the air and write itself. This was one of those songs that just fell into my lap.
How did Bonnie Raitt get involved with this track?
I really wanted to do a few duets on this record, and Bonnie is one my favorite artists in the world. It just so happened that the opportunity to work with her came up, and it was a great fit. It was a really special session because even though the two of us had known each other for some time, we had never worked together before. Bonnie came to my house with her guitar, and we spent the day together and just worked it out. It was great making music, but just getting to know her well was pretty special.
You also had the pleasure of working with Duane Allman on your sophomore album, Boz Scaggs, in 1969. How did that collaboration come about?
When I was making my first solo record in the States, I was working with Atlantic Records and they suggested I work down in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I did a lot of research to see what musicians might be available, and Duane’s name had come up time and again as a unique guitar stylist. At the time, he wasn’t working with a section. He had just gone off to go start the Allman Brothers Band.
I remember we asked him if he could come back to Muscle Shoals for a week of recording and he did. Then after I made that record, I went to Macon, Georgia, where he was putting the Allman Brothers Band together. I stayed down there for about six months; during that time, Duane and I got to know each other a little better. I feel really lucky that I was able to work with him at an early point of my career. I can say an awful lot about what a unique and wonderful cat he was. Obviously, his work speaks for itself.
Were you aware that 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of your first album, Boz?
You know? That’s exactly right. That had not occurred to me. I made that first record in 1965.
Is there a word to describe what you feel when you ponder this?
Lucky. Music has been an enormous part of my life. It’s been a personal and passionate journey. Like so many people, when you discover music on your own by listening to the radio and start having choices of what you want to hear, it’s one of the greatest odysseys you could ever undertake. That led me to playing music myself, which became another part of the search.
Then I found my footing and made a career out of it. It’s been a great companion to me and given me a vocation. Along with all of the personal relationships I’ve had over the years, music is right there as one of the most important influences in my life.
For more about Boz Scaggs, visit bozscaggs.com.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.