Former Squares frontman and Wooldridge Brother Scott is striking out on his own, releasing his eponymous debut solo CD.
Though he lives in Minneapolis now, Wooldridge often returns to Milwaukee, where his brother and bandmate Brian remains. I asked the Kokomo, Ind. native recently about why he's going it alone for the first time in his career and what it means for the future of his fraternal band.
OnMilwaukee.com: You've been making music for decades now with the Squares and the Wooldridge Brothers, but your new solo record is your first. Why now?
Scott Wooldridge: It’s something I had been thinking about for a long time. In part, I’ve wanted to do something like this because there are some song ideas that we’ve set aside– as the Wooldridge Brothers – that I still wanted to explore.
But the bigger thing has been that after moving to the Twin Cities, I started performing and I just couldn’t see starting a whole new rock band that would cover the same ground as the WBs. So I’ve been performing solo or with one or two other musicians. And I started writing songs that fit that more sparse, stripped-down approach. The new album is mostly acoustic instruments, with a healthy dose of pedal steel guitar – a sound I’ve loved for a long time.
OMC: What did doing the record as a solo record allow you that, say, a WBs record doesn’t?
SB: Well, the WBs albums have always been a collaboration between Brian and myself. Doing a solo album gave me complete control, which was a blessing and a curse, because I didn’t have BW there to bounce ideas off of or give me input on tracks. But I think it was good for me having to sort of stand on my own two feet in the studio and figure out what I wanted and what sounded good.
OMC: Is this a hint that the WBs are doing that KISS-style solo album thing? Is Brian's out next week?
SW: Brian’s sign is Taurus the Bull, so you can imagine the cover of his album.
OMC: Tell me a bit about the process of selecting material. Did you write these songs specially for the solo project or have you been stockpiling them?
SW: It’s interesting, I started out just doing solo versions of WBs songs when I played in Minneapolis, but I pretty quickly began writing songs that worked better with an acoustic sound. However, it’s not clear-cut. There are several songs that I thought would be solo songs but after I lived with them for a while, it was clear that they would work better with the WBs.
I guess you could say that I come up with the songs and they tell me later where they belong. And some of the writing I’ve done more recently is going to be on the upcoming WBs album, just because we’ve been working on recording that and I guess my brain is more in rock band mode.
OMC: Did you learn anything via the project? Were there surprises or unique challenges?
SW: The lesson I’m constantly learning, and re-learning, is how little I know. I thought making a solo album would be easy and it would come together quickly, but it actually was quite a challenge and took a long time.
I had never made an album quite like this, and figuring the sound and arrangements for a quieter, acoustic album is a bit different than making an album with a rock band. Can’t blame everything on the drummer, for one thing. I also had some personal dramas going on, such as a job transition, that really slowed down the project for a while. But that all got worked out and I’m quite happy to have the project in hand – and looking forward to playing some shows featuring this material.
OMC: Finally, give us the details on a Milwaukee CD release party, please.
SW: We’re playing Shank Hall on Feb. 27.
SW: I say "we" because it will be me and Sloan Hamilton on mandolin and Josh Braun on pedal and lap steel guitars. These are the two guys I’ve been performing live with live in the Twin Cities and they play a lot on the album, with some other very talented musicians. Myles Coyne is opening – and we may add a third act; that’s being worked out. This will be the first time the Scott Wooldridge Trio has performed in Milwaukee, and we’re really looking forward to it!
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.