The son of one of Canada’s most influential folk guitarists, doesn’t let that define him.
Scott Shea, son of legendary guitarist Red Shea – known for his distinctive pick work and memorable leads for Gordon Lightfoot – carved his own path in the music world.
Shea has been writing music since he was a kid and claims a house filled with silence inspired him.
“(My dad) was always on the road. I remember gong to pick him up at the airport and him being very tired and not really wanting to hear much music,” says Shea. “After playing so much on the road, he wanted quiet in the house, so I’d always go out to the car, his old Cadillac, and sit in the backseat and write my own songs.”
From the age of nine, Shea was writing songs, by the the time he was 12, he was winning public speaking awards, in his teens, he turned his skill to winning national songwriting competitions.
“I was songwriting, doing gigs around town, then I moved to New York when I was a teenager I started playing down on the beaches and busking,” says Shea.
For more than a decade, Shea and his brother Brett played in a band together, opening for Canadian acts Big Sugar, Blue Rodeo and Ron Sexsmith.
“Then my wife was pregnant and I had to put a cap on that. I had to support my family so I got into working construction,” he says. He soon left the construction crew and began to work for himself doing high-end renovations and custom home building.
By 2008, he was 43 and ready to semi-retire, he moved his family, which includes wife Layla and two young daughters, to a rancher in 10 Mile Point.
In the years since, he’s spent time fixing up the house and travelling. “I went to Africa, Cambodia, Nepal, Southeast Asia. I guess I was searching for answers,” he says. “I was always looking for some kind of god, I guess. Here I was studying, researching and music kept calling, so I started writing.”
He didn’t find religious answers in his travels, but something else. “I try to be as good a person as I can be. (The search) ate up a lot of time but it gave me material to write about.”
Shea’s debut solo album, Let It Storm was developed during a reflective period following his father’s death.
“He was a character, he had quite a life. He was wilder than blazes, he got famous with Lightfoot then he kind of left it all behind when he found religion,” says Shea.
Recorded at Arlyn Studios in Austin, TX last summer, the album was produced by Gordie Johnson (Big Sugar, Sit Down Servant ) and features Willie Nelson’s sister Bobbie Nelson on keyboard and her son Freddie Fletcher (Johnny Cash, Billy Joe Shaver, Austin City Limits) on drums.
“Gordie liked my writing – he just liked what I was doing. Bobbie said she would do it for nothing and brought in her son Freddie Fletcher … I got sick while we were doing it and I tried to hash through it, but it wasn’t easy,” he says.
“Let It Storm, it’s about losing love and finding love. There’s some religious connotations, some spiritual connotations. … When you’re in a relationship, it can storm all at once, all around you, and I’ve got love and I’m happy with my kids and my wife and I’m comfortable with me – that’s what the record’s all about.”
The album has a bit more of a country flavour than his live performance, Shea says.
“Gordie Johnson, he’s into the outlaw stuff: Waylon Jennings, Townes Van Zandt, Billy Joe Shaver – that style. When I was down there, that’s the direction Gordie took with the record. I’m not 100 per cent comfortable with that – I’m more folk roots with a hint of Americana,” says Shea.
His live performances stay somewhat truer to that genre. “Some people say I sound like early Lightfoot, I have no idea, maybe it’s because of my dad’s guitar,” he says of the 1955 Martin D28 he plays at home.
Shea is hitting the road on a cross-Canada tour in support of his album. “I’ve got some great guys with me, Adam Dobres (Ruth Moody Band, Outlaw Social) and I hired this young guy from UVic (upright bassist) Blake Palm. It’s been 15 years, I’m so excited.”
For tickets and more information, go to ScottShaeaSongs.com