Meet The Artist: Scott Fagan

American musician Scott Fagan plays Bristol’s Lantern this Saturday following the release of last year’s critically-acclaimed reissue of South Atlantic Blues, his lost 1968 debut album.

Fagan’s story is easily as compelling as his music. Discovered, managed and mentored by famed Brill Building songwriter Doc Pomus in 1965, at age 19, just off the bus to New York with eleven cents in his pocket, Fagan recorded early sides for Columbia, Big Top and Bang, played as the house act at the Café–A-Go-Go alongside Jimi Hendrix, and almost became the first artist other than the Beatles to be released by Apple Records, before landing a deal at Atco for South Atlantic Blues with folk rock manager Herb Gart. He later co-wrote Soon, the first rock musical produced on Broadway, which starred a young Richard Gere in his first acting role.

Mainstream success eluded Fagan however, until South Atlantic Blues was recently reissued; now on his first UK tour, he speaks to Andy Howells.

How did you first start out in music?
I am a third generation singer, my Grand Mother Sally Travis, was an orphan girl from Scotland, who came to America alone at 19. She found work as a Barroom singer. My father, Frankie Galvin, was a wonderful singer and Tenor Sax man, I always knew I would be a singer, and in fact my son Stephin Merritt has made it four generations that we know of. So…I suppose I just naturally segued from yelling in my bassinet to singing on stage. in 1964, I was part of a group in St. Thomas (Virgin Islands) called The Urchins we went as far as we could go in the Islands, and so on July 2nd 1964 I signed on as a bilge rat on a 50 foot ketch rigged Sloop called “The Success” and set off for the states.

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
The sure knowledge that music can change lives, that music changes the world.

Can you give us some background about your latest release?
Yes, South Atlantic Blues was originally released in 1968 in the middle of a skafiffle at ATCO Records. It was not promoted and disappeared from view. It was then discovered in a cut out bin by American POP artist Jasper Johns. Jasper fell in love with it and did three lithographs of the A side titled Scott Fagan Record now in the permanent collection of MOMA New York City’s Museum Of Modern Art. I had been doing my best to keep the songs alive, when the wonderful Jakarta Jive aka Hugh Dellar discovered it and did a 5 page spread in Shindig Magazine. Shortly after that I was approached by Chris Campion of Saint Cecilia Knows Records to discuss re-releasing it on his label. We are here as part of the miracle that followed. The reception has been phenomenal and I can’t wait to sing the South Atlantic Blues songbook for you.

You’re enjoying the tour?
Yes, very much so, I am Irish, English, French, Scotch, Dutch, German and last but not least Welsh. I have always felt a deep longing for “my people in the mist” and now just about every stop along the way is a homecoming for me. I am inspired and looking forward to singing the heck out of these songs and connecting at the heart with my long lost Pisanos.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Bristol gig?
First of all an artist and a band who are genuinely thrilled and excited to be there. We will do all ten of the songs from South Atlantic Blues plus my first Bang Records single Give Love a Chance(1966) The opening and closing songs from my Rock Opera SOON and two or three other of my personal favourites’.

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
At the moment it’s Trembling Bells, Entrance, Honey and The Herbs and my son Stephin’s interesting CD Oddities.

What else have you got planned for the rest of the year?
I’ll be spending Thanksgiving in NYC; also, we are working on a Scott Fagan Documentary with Director Marah Strauch, and will be starting a lengthy spring tour of the states with two performances at South by South West in March. Then I’d like to get back home to St. Thomas for a bit.