By Amy Kokoszka
The Scott Phillips Band showcased at Canadian Country Music Awards in Calgary this year. That in itself was a big deal, as was the great response they received. This CCMA appearance marks another milestone for Scott Phillips, and for the new members of his current band. But this trip also allowed Phillips to show how he has grown as an artist and a performer.
Scott just wants everyone to hear what he’s doing with his music. That’s why gigs like this and trips to Nashville to meet people and spread the music around are so important. “We’ve always tried to attend a lot of the behind the scenes stuff,” says manager Bill MacNeil. “It shows the industry our commitment and our dedication.”
This is not the first time for Scott to have gone away and experienced a major event like the Country Music Awards. Although Scott and his band did not play at the award show, he did present an award with another group, The Cockrum Sisters. The award turned out to be for Shania Twain. “She was not there to accept the award, but still it was amazing. I was honoured and a little shocked,” Scott said. Earlier this year, he was brought to Nashville by CESAC, an American organization similar to SOCAN. While there, Scott went into a restaurant where he saw Reba McEntyre and her band. “I don’t get star struck. But it was very cool to see them walk in. I now see them as industry peers. I know what they’ve gone through and I’m going through it!”
Since the release of Day One, Scott’s debut recording, he’s been busy, making videos, traveling around and working with his new band. It’s a demanding job and some members of his previous band couldn’t tour and he couldn’t meet their prices in order to keep them. In some cases they also had different ideas about where the band was going.
Mike Hussey, Lonnie Jones, Chuck Allen and Mike MacDonald make up the new band. When they were putting it together, Chuck Allen was one of the first members picked. “He was a traditional country guy, that’s why I picked him,” says Phillips. He was in the band in 1994, but at the time, Bruce Guthro was looking for a guitar player. “He needed Chuck at the time and we were just starting out.” Chuck ended up playing with Bruce for about 5 years and now he’s back with Scott and has been for about 7 months. Chuck says he is pleased and surprised how far Scott has come in four years.
Lonnie Jones was chosen next because of his “experience and talent”. Lonnie Jones certainly is experienced; he has been playing drums since the sixties. “I grew up listening to country but started playing rock and roll.” In the early eighties Lonnie played with the Garrison Brothers and still plays with Sons of Membertou occasionally.
“Their own outside influences are good to have. Besides they have to earn a living aside from the band right now,” Scott said.
Mike MacDonald is a good example of living outside the band. Mike keeps busy giving music lessons, writing scores for theatre and directing an Italian choir. Mike also played with the bands Lamer and VegaPeeler, which he left to play with Scott. Although he misses working on his own music, MacDonald concedes “it was a career move” and band-mate Lonnie Jones adds, “Besides, he’s having the time of his life.” Mike had never played country music before and is enjoying the challenge.
Mike Hussey is the bass player in Scott’s band. “It’s just as much his baby as it is mine,” says Scott. “A lot of my decisions go through Mike first. Mike’s been there right from the beginning and that deserves a lot of credit.” Mike has a nursing diploma, but for now he wants to focus on his musical career. “I’d love to produce someday, but for now I’m having fun.” Mike knows “what’s good for Scott is good for the band” and according to manager Bill MacNeil, that’s what makes this band so strong.
“They’re doing well because they have a great time, he says. “The band complements Scott’s performance. They have lots of energy. Everyone plays an intricate part in the show, which is important and also shows that Scott has a committed band behind him.”
Scott knows that working hard and staying focused is most important. As for the recent trip to Calgary, all members of the Scott Phillips Band are not only happy with the response to their music, but also excited about the doors that the trip to the CCMA has opened. They’re getting feedback already and it looks like Scott will be heading back to Nashville. There will be a showcase taking place in Halifax this month for the European market and tours that include the Merit Music Festival in New Brunswick and the Calgary Stampede are in the works. Also Scott has been contacted by a radio station out west that hails him as “the newest up and coming act” and wants to interview him.
The latest single from Scott Phillips, “You Caught Me At A Bad Time”, was released to a national audience at the beginning of October. And that was the main goal when the group went to Calgary. For Phillips, it was one more step forward.
“That’s what this showcase did for us; brought us a new level of performing so that more people can hear our music.”