Scott Tournet

Biography

This self-produced solo album from the lead guitarist in Grace Potter & the Nocturnals is not what you might expect. VER LA LUZ(May  14, 2013) is not Scott Tournet’s “guitar record,” nor does it remotely  resemble any of GPN’s LPs. To this listener, Tournet’s music as  evidenced by this surprising record more closely resembles that of Wilco  at its most soulful and like-embracing. The sound is unpretentiously  sophisticated, a seamless fusion of the homespun and the experimental;  the songs are earthy, heartfelt; and Tournet’s vocals have that aching  vulnerability and natural humanity we’ve come to associate with Jeff  Tweedy. But at the same time, there’s something here that belongs to  Tournet alone. These 11 songs of struggle, abiding hope and hard-earned  acceptance—each resolving into a memorable chorus resolution—chart an  internal world that is deeply personal yet universally relatable.

To create this world, Tournet called on some  skilled and simpatico fellow artists: Mike Kamoo (The Stereotypes, The  Loons, Lights On), who engineered and mixed the album at his Earthling  Studios in San Diego; drummer Austin Beede (formerly of Alberta Cross);  fellow Vermont natives Lowell Thompson and Kelly Ravin, who blended  their voices with Tournet’s for some soaring harmonies; and Grace  Potter, who co-wrote “Treasure” and “The Longing,” dueting with her  longtime bandmate on the latter. Apart from the drums, Scott played all  the instruments except for Ravin’s acoustic on “The Longing.” He and  Kamoo started tracking in the spring of 2012, calling on Beede to handle  the drum parts after Scott realized his own drumming wasn’t up to the  level the music required.

“That’s really when the process opened up,” Scott  recalls. “I would play guitar, bass or keyboards along with Austin on  drums, and we would record what we did to tape. We did eight or nine  songs that way, and then he headed home to Santa Barbara. Over the next  couple weeks, Mike and I tackled a song a day and I overdubbed all the  other necessary instruments/sounds as we saw fit. Once we got the music  where we wanted it, Lowell and Kelly flew in from Vermont and laid down  harmony vocals. Kelly and I also tracked ‘The Longing’ on acoustics.”

There was still work to be done, including  Tournet’s lead vocals, when he rejoined GPN, who were booked as the  opening band on a stadium tour. Using a portable rig, Scott recorded in  hotel rooms and on the bus. “We recorded Grace’s vocal for ‘The Longing’  in a football stadium locker room,” he recalls. Throughout the summer,  Tournet engaged in a long-distance dialogue with and Kamoo back in his  San Diego studio.” I would send vocal tracks digitally to Mike and he  would piece them together for me. It was amazing and cool in the way  that technology was allowing us to work on album together while being in  different parts of the country. I never could have completed the record  otherwise.”

In its flow—more like a tidal pull, really—VER LA LUZ moves along with a seeming effortlessness. But in truth, it didn’t come quickly, nor did it come easily—far from it.

“I made the record because I needed to make it,”  says Tournet with the same candor that characterizes the album. “The  songs and the writing of the songs consumed me for weeks and months at a  time. The idea for making the record happened in the fall of 2011. I  had just moved to San Diego. I didn’t really know anyone. I had a fair  amount of half-finished songs or small ideas for songs—lots of music  without words. I had recently gone through a prolific time when I was  writing music very fluidly, but for some reason I could not for the life  of me come up with anything to say on top of the music.

“In September of 2011, I had a bit of a personal  breakdown,” he acknowledges. “Years of life on the road, a crumbling  relationship and some issues with depression brought me too my knees. It  was the most intense time I’ve been through in my life. I got broken  down to the point where I had to let go of all ego and pride and ask for  help. My friends and family picked me up and dusted me off, and I also  got some professional help, which was long overdue. As I began to pull  myself back together and to really address the things that I’d been  covering up for so many years, these songs came flooding out. It was as  if they were waiting to be written but couldn’t be written until I  opened myself up.”

That opening up is vividly documented in these  songs and performances, which form a gripping narrative arc of loss,  yearning and redemption as psychologically wrenching as it is musically  luminous. Among the album’s numerous stunners are the opening “Lights Go  Down,” which hauntingly sets the album’s reflective tone; the driving  yet buoyant “Treasure”; the lilting, Latin-tinged “Song for You”; the  Cali-style midtempo cruiser “Demons,” overhung with harmonies as  shimmering as a Pacific sunset; the aptly titled ballad “The Longing”;  the anxious nocturne “Here All Night”; and the epic “Stand By You,”  which resolves into a blazingly impassioned guitar solo—one of just a  few on the album, though each is mind-blowing, as Tournet cannily picked  his spots to let loose. “I love the guitar and am most definitely a  guitar player,” he says, “but that’s not what this album is about. My  main objective was to say something with the subject matter. Only after  that did I get to indulge in lead guitar parts and sonic landscapes.”


Bio Continued

VER LA LUZ, which translates from the Spanish as to see the light,  is not only the album’s title but also its theme. “The record is about  getting your ass kicked, getting the wind knocked out of you, waking up  in the morning and not being able to get up—being paralyzed by life,”  Tournet explains. “But really, it’s about those first moments where you  can see something beyond the despair and ugliness—like eating a saltine  cracker after having the stomach flu for two days; that glorious and  delicious first bite. Or like being in the ocean and getting caught  under a wave—then you finally find up and you gasp in that  first breath of air. This album resides within that moment. It comes  from darkness, pain and ugliness, but the songs themselves are the light  that contrasts with all of that.

“Even the ‘love’ songs can be read as love songs to  life itself,” he continues, “although they describe the journey of  losing one long-term partner, falling in love with someone new and what  that transition is like. “‘Ex-Lover’ is a farewell to life, in a way;  there’s an eerie calm there. ‘Here in the Morning’ could be about  rediscovering a love for life again, and ‘Crawl Back’ could be about  accepting life on its terms and beginning the long journey back to  happiness.” 

As for the album title, Scott explains, “I was  driving along the coastline and listening to some rough tracks and I saw  this sign that read ‘Ver la Luz.’ It was on this funky mailbox, and the  sign was pointing towards the sun and ocean. I didn’t even know what it  meant at that point, but I jotted it down and ended up looking it up  later that night. Only later did I realize that the lyrics ‘see the  light’ appear in ‘Not Too Late.’”

When asked about specific influences or reference  points for the album, Tournet singles out Louis C.K (“the way he looks  at life and humanity is just so dead-on,” he notes) and the brilliant  HBO series Six Feet Under (“I could write a thesis on that  show”). “I’ve come to a point where I’m finding inspiration from  nonmusical things just as much as musical things,” he says. But there is  one central musical inspiration for VER LA LUZ.

“George Harrison’s solo work really was the main  ingredient for me,” Scott reveals. “His songs like ‘Isn’t It a Pity,’  ‘All Things Must Pass,’ ‘My Sweet Lord’ and ‘Beware of Darkness,’ among  others, touched me deeply. Someone described them as ‘spiritual love  songs.’ They were waiting for me at my lowest point and gave me  something to hang on to. VER LA LUZ is, in some ways, my personal All Things Must PassI hope on some small scale that my songs can help someone else out through a rough time and give them hope.” 

The album closes with the devastating existential  ballad “Crawl Back,” to which Tournet wordlessly brings a palpable  feeling of resilience and redemption by way of a distinctly Harrisonian  slide guitar passage—a fitting touch for this musically invigorating and  emotionally powerful piece of work. If ever an album deserved to be  singled out as a sleeper, VER LA LUZ is it.

Albums

Ver La Luz

Band

Blues & Lasers / The Nocturnals

Scott Tournet PLAYS