An excellent new American singer/songwriter emerged recently into Britain's CD racks. In fact "new" isn't entirely appropriate as THOMAS ANDREW SCOTT has clocked up a wealth of experience as Tony Cummings found when he spoke to him.
First a confession. In a previous review of a Victory Christian Fellowship album that Tom Scott produced, Cross Rhythms confused our Tom with the Los Angeles-based sax player who has recorded numerous fusion jazz albums and seemingly played sessions for just about every major US pop and soul star. Tom is used to the confusion.
"When I used to live in LA, I would get calls. People would say, 'Yeah, show up with your horn for the show!' I probably could have done it because I play trumpet, but I knew they were probably calling for the other Tom Scott who plays sax. It didn't really get on my nerves but when I came to record my own albums, I decided to use my full name Thomas Andrew Scott. Eventually, I'll probably drop the Scott and just go on as Thomas Andrew, cut off all the confusion once and for all."
Born in Sacramento, raised in a small agricultural town with a community of 3,000 folk, it was in the 70s that Tom set out for Los Angeles to study in college. Underlying his choice of location was a desire to break into the record industry. By his second year the keyboards playing singer was laying down tracks at the legendary Motown Records. He landed a deal where he could record and produce his own songs in the studios for free, the arrangement being that Motown's Jobete Music had first rights to sign any of the songs to their publishing company. They signed four. The fledgling singer/songwriter was to experience similar lack of control further down the line.
While in Los Angeles Tom began to get serious about the things of God. Having been a Christian since the age of 13, Tom came to recognise the tension between his desire to have a recording career and finding his destiny in the Lord. 'There were a lot of openings to go to different places that I just knew weren't the right thing."
Finally Tom got together with a band who stayed together for eight years, largely because they were a bunch of Christians. The aim was to go out into the world, relating to people but without compromise. The band, Whose Image, formed in '85 and were described by Tom as a "funny mix, kind of like Prince meets the Beatles meets George Clinton meets Led Zeppelin. This was at the beginning of the whole retro movement, when people started dressing in 70's gear," remembered Tom. "There was much anticipation for the band to hit it big. At one point there was a bidding war going on between all the major record companies, both secular and Christian, for a deal." The decision was made to go with Quest, the label owned by industry legend Quincy Jones. But though a Whose Image album was recorded it was never released. Sucked into the vortex of record industry politics the band finally began to crumble. Tom left, commenting, "It was as painful as a marriage breaking up."
Tom sought refuge for his battered soul in the familiarity of Sacramento where the seasoned muso would have time to figure out the next move. He wound up staying for four years partly due to the spiritual home be found at the Victory Christian Fellowship there. He took up a new role as worship leader. The Victory Christian Fellowship have now recorded two albums, 'Experience The Fire' and 'You've Been So Good To Me' and they are getting ready to record a third. They are live albums using some immensely talented musicians and singers from within the church. The albums were released in the UK via Spirit Music. A Cross Rhythms reviewer commented, "For me 'Experience The Fire' is the best live praise album I've heard." Certainly their joyful spontaneity and rock and blues overtones make them a long way from the tepid outpourings of production line praise.
Tom's schedule is busy in his capacity as worship leader and musical director with the Victory Christian Fellowship. He has a close working relationship with his pastor, an ex-hippie flower child with an in-the-past heroin habit.
Tom's debut album 'The Long Way Home', also gained a 10 square rave from the Cross Rhythms reviewer. It is an eclectic mixture of styles, taking in hooky pop, blue-eyed soul, raunchy blues and even smooth-as-silk jazz. Classily produced, there is still a great deal of depth in the songwriting. Tom commented, "Some of the songs on 'A Long Way Home' are very old. Like, 'His Way' which I wrote back in '83. There was a Christian artist back then called Leslie Phillips. I was friends with her and I was writing that song with her in mind and thought that she might want to record it. I thought it was a good song and I'd kept it for years so I thought I might as well put it on the album. But most of the other songs I'd written recently. 'Forget Yesterday', for example, I'd written for the youth group at the church. I have a heart for the youth and for the children and I see that they just grow up so fast these days that you can be in your teens and can already have a lot that you want to forget and leave "behind. 'Only You' was a song that I just wrote very simply in my room, sitting on my bed praising God, looking out my window and seeing everything that I was singing about, the sunlight playing on the leaves, the wind blowing through the trees, the sky being so blue and I was just worshipping God.
So what is it which sets off the songwriting process for Tom? "The way it happens a lot of times I'll be just worshipping God, singing a song and all of a sudden I'll realise it's a song. The Long Way Home' was one that I'd written towards the end of my time with my band when we were still down in LA. That song is more about being patient in love. I felt that I had taken the long way home with that band. I felt that I could have gotten out a lot earlier. It was hard. A lot of times I wanted to leave but I felt that I'd made a commitment and I took that seriously so I saw it through to the end and I just feel that nowadays it's easier and easier to discard relationships and that's why we have such a high divorce rate - it's so easy to get out these days. That song is speaking to that and saying, 'Just be patient, persevere and just stick in there, take the long way home.' The inspiration for 'Give Love To Get Love' .was that I had been playing live and felt I needed a good blues song, 'cos blues goes over well in a live situation, and that's what came out. The sentiment is sincere. I really believe that you have to give love to get love."