Natural, rugged: Scott Pemberton describes ‘Timber Rock’

 Scott Pemberton was kind of enough to talk over the phone recently with Tahoe Onstage about his new album and the Tahoe shows.

Garrett Bethmann: I just want to do a run through of your album “Timber Rock” and what you want to do with it live when you come to Tahoe.

Pemberton GuitarmageddonScott Pemberton: “Timber Rock” is a follow up to “Sugar Mama,” of course, and was also produced by Steve Berlin. It is a group of songs tat I have been gradually writing since the release of “Sugar Mama.” We’ve been out playing them on the road and learning them. They are kinda seasoned. We put them on the album and recorded them live in the studio, then went back and put some overdubs over them and stuff. We recorded it in a buddy of mine’s studio in Portland.

Garrett: Did you have any goals or ideas you wanted to express going into making the record? I know you have had these songs over the last couple years, but did you have any idea of what you wanted the finished product to be?

Scott: Not necessarily, no. I was kind of more in it for the process. Every song we play is different from the last show, so the songs have taken lots of directions. That is where Steve Berlin, the producer, could help us decide how much direction to go with. I didn’t really have a lot of expectations. The process of creating art for me is try to get in there and start working on it and let it take shape.

Garrett: What do you like about that process? What is fulfilling about that process?

Scott: I guess for me, it just feels natural to me. It is sort of like how I play, it is rugged and in the moment. And that is just how I work. I have never done it any other way. Not being too calculated and letting things take shape in a natural way. That is just the way I naturally work so it was a natural way to do the record, which is why we did it live gradually added stuff. We started off with maybe 16 tunes, recorded them, and saw which ones worked best on the album. The album has 11, I think. So, you know, we got five more for next time.

Garrett: There you go. You got a bonus release for all of your fans. And how did Steve Berlin direct you or steer you in a certain way during the making of the album?

Scott: One thing Steve did for me was he trusts me. Helping be my voice and help realize my ideas. And then, also, even more so with the “Sugar Mama” album, is helping give me confidence too, like, “No this is good!” From a rock star like that, not questioning my judgement. And he has made so many records, so many more than I have. Just things I wouldn’t even think about, say, like the sound of a snare drum and how important that might be. Take some time to slow down and actually get that sounding the way it should sound. Make sure all the instruments are sounding right together, so the music can breathe and have space. It is a trick to not have a record sound too cluttered, especially when there is a lot going on. So having all the sound cooperate with each other was a big help.

Garrett: The sound is definitely a sharp sound. It is very nice and very polished. Polished in production, not in the way you play. You play very edgy. I definitely like the sound from technical and engineering standpoint.

Scott: Yeah, I like how it was rugged in its creation and there was a lot of improvising. It sounds to me nice and focused and clear sounding. It sounds like it has direction. We are not just meandering around. It jams but it is focused, which is how I like the music to translate. I want it to have that exploration, but I also want it to have that common focus. So, Steve really helped me to create that. To be able to understand that vision that I have, and communicate with the engineer and other musicians.

Garrett: I read “Timber Rock” is a moniker you have to describe your music since you are from the Pacific Northwest. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about what that term “Timber Rock” means to you and point out specific songs on the album that relate to your Pacific Northwest, Portland roots?

Scott: I guess for me, my music is hard to define because it really crosses through so many genres, sometimes within the same song. The guy who did the art was like, “You gotta come up with something to call it.” It is too convenient to call it funky jazz-metal or something. I was born in Portland, and I have always lived in Portland, and Portland had funk in the ’70s, before me, of course. But as I became a student, I would study guys from that era. And Portland has a super vibrant jazz community that I was a really devoted part of. I really was kind of a jazz musician. And then being a teenager in the ’90s, the whole grunge, gritty rock stuff that was in the Pacific Northwest during that era. So an obvious song for that one is a song I called “Theme” is sort of like a grungy speed metal thing. The song “Vehicle,” for me, is sort of a combination of Portland’s funky jazz. It is definitely more of a funk song, but some of the harmonies are coming from that soul-jazz stuff that happens in Portland, in particular what happened in the early ’90s.

Garrett: I think the best song on the album is the last one, “Prudence.” It felt like mid-90s alternative music, in a more melodic, beautiful sense; like Jimi Hendrix musing on it with the backing of that rough Northwest grunge sound.

Scott: And I think with “Prudence,” there is the grunge rock in there and then there is the jamband stuff. So many flavors are in that song. Some of the improvising, some of the jazz influence in a melodic sense. I feel like every song kind of has all of my influences in it to some degree.

Garrett: And that is just natural from you living in Portland? This is the music you grew up listening to and playing in Portland?

Scott: Yeah. And another factor for me is that in Portland, before touring, if you are just a blues band, or that is just a rock band, it is really hard to get people coming out to your shows. There is a natural thing of supporting the individualism. Portland allowed me to cultivate this unique style of music that would have been hard to make in somewhere like L.A. or Nashville, where things are often a little bit more within a genre. Whereas in Portland, people are going to respond more to you supporting your own individuality. And that is part of the moniker of “Timber Rock.” I don’t think this thing could have been created anywhere else. That is it I suppose in a nutshell, or maybe a longer nutshell. And it was a process coming around to it, but I think it is fitting. I like it.

Garrett: I like it too. I just have one more question for you. What made you want to come to Tahoe and play an album release show?

Scott: Tahoe is so gorgeous and it has been such an amazingly supportive place for us to come and feel a part of the community. From our first show in Tahoe, feeling that sense of community and feeling included in it, it just felt natural. And in putting it together, they were interested in having us out. So for this tour, we really wanted to come there. I really wanted to so I am glad it worked out.

Garrett: We got lucky too because we get two shows from you, not just one.

Scott: The cool thing about that is that it will allow us to hang out in town a little bit. That is the one thing about touring, we got to see lots of places, but for 20 minutes.

Scott Pemberton Trio

— 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20 at Live at Lakeview, Lakeview Commons, South Lake Tahoe

— 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21 in the Crystal Bay Casino Red Room, Crystal Bay

About Garrett Bethmann

Garrett Bethmann is a graduate of University of Mary Washington with a degree in English. He moved to Lake Tahoe in summer 2012.

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