Analogue Music | Scott H. Biram

Scott H. Biram

By Matt Conner

Scott H. Biram has wrestled the same opponents for quite some time.

Even with a new album, Fever Dreams (Bloodshot), now available and a new recording already well underway, Biram says the themes from one release to the next never really change. There's the road and religion, the highway and hell. He still writes about drinking even when he's gone sober.

This latest set of songs came with a new challenge, however: releasing them in a world shut down. A man who thrives on the therapy of live connection has been forced to sit at home. Songs that are normally fleshed out on the road are now immortalized in their nascent form. Most important, Biram enjoys a loyal following thanks to the ways in which he wrestles with such relatable subjects so openly. Without the chance to share those songs in person, Biram is a man without a mission—or at least one unable to fulfill that mission.

We recently sat down with the singer-songwriter to hear more about his newest album and what he's learned about himself over the last several months of isolation.

Analogue: You've had several album releases over time, but never one during a global pandemic.

Scott H. Biram: It's been interesting in more ways than one. I actually finished this record last November, so a year ago, and spent three years working on it because I tend to work on records in between tours and I tour a lot. So I finished the record and we planned on putting it out in May since the label generally takes six months to put it out—they want to get promo all set up, and the distribution, packaging and everything. Then the pandemic came around. Tours got cancelled. The record release got cancelled because they wanted to put it out when I could be on the road to promote it. But there's also a legal battle going on internally at Bloodshot right now between the old owner and the owners so that's also caused some question about the future of things. With that on top of waiting to put out the record, it's been pretty stressful and uncertain.

'Fever Dreams'
'Fever Dreams'

Waiting so long to put the record out has made it so it's not so current in a spiritually or emotionally connected way. My relationship with the record is older now and I'm already working on new stuff. I've never had to try to keep my mind set on a record that I finished so long ago.

Analogue: In what way has the relationship changed?

Scott: On the last couple records, I've done a lot more band-like recording where I put the drums and the bass on and everything instead of my regular one-man band set-up in the recordings. So some songs, I already had an issue with figuring out how to play them live on stage. There are some songs I probably won't ever be able to play on stage because they're just a little too complicated for my one-man band set-up.

But then there's also just what my mind set was when I was writing songs and that evolved into what I'm thinking about now. They aren't as valid to me. I know when people listen to it, it's gonna be new and fresh to them, but to me, I'm already thinking about the next record.

Analogue: How far down the road are you with something new?

Scott: I have enough finished material for half a record right now. But also, a lot of the time I end up going back to re-record things. A lot of time, things evolve on stage and I end up changing them and want to record a more current version, but that's not happening lately because I'm not on stage. I've mostly been concentrating on streamlining my set-up and doing all these things I've wanted to do but instead I've been constantly on the road.

Analogue: Despite your interest in the new songs, I do want to ask about Fever Dreams. What were you wrestling with during this time that you were writing and recording?

Scott: It's kinda the same theme that I've always had on my records, which is a look at the struggle with the human condition or the yen and yang of my own brain. [Laughs] It's wrestling with this feeling of a search for relief of the pain of life. There are songs against organized religion or songs about drinking or songs about the highway and the country side I grew up in. The river where I ran up and down as a kid has become a metaphor for multiple things in my life. It's very similar to the things I've always thought about. What's funny on this record is that I quit drinking a year-and-a-half ago...

"A lot of my songs I'll put out there for people to chew on but I don't tell them which side to go with."

Analogue: Congrats!

Scott: Thanks! One of the songs like "Drunk Like Me" says I'm never gonna learn but I guess I learned, so that's kinda funny. [Laughs] Then there's "Everything Just Slips Away", which is kinda about that, too. I didn't want to get all sappy and start writing songs about quitting drinking. That wasn't my intention to address any of that. I just write most of my songs at 5:00 in the morning. I wake up for a minute and have a weird half asleep/half awake thought and just type it in into my phone and then I let my brain pour it out on there. I don't put a lot of detailed thought into it. I try to let it fall out of my brain and then I rearrange it later.

Analogue: You mentioned a spiritual connection and I wanted to ask about that. Maybe there's some personal interest here, too, having grown up inside a fundamentalist, charismatic church, but your songs are positioned like the prophet outside of it trying to steer people clear.

Scott: I feel like I almost have a duty in a way because of where I've been placed in life with my music and people actually listening to what I say. I personally have a deep spiritualness to me, but it's not a written, organized, what-someone-else-told-me line of bullshit. It's what my own brain has figured out and what my own heart has figured out. So when I do a gospel song, it's on the fence in two ways. In one way, I'm rejoicing knowing there's a good energy that's carrying us through and is going to take care of us. Then there's also the tongue-in-cheek part of it that's also being a little sarcastic and making fun of evangelistic preaching. It's kind of a cartoon to me. A lot of my songs I'll put out there for people to chew on but I don't tell them which side to go with.

Scott H Biram Vert Promo Photo By Christopher Cardoza
Scott H Biram Vert Promo Photo By Christopher Cardoza

Analogue: I'm glad you brought up the song "Everything Just Slips Away" because it might be my favorite on the album. Any good story there? And are you ever worried about sharing something personal?

Scott: It's never anything too personal. I'm pretty open about everything. I'm not really afraid to talk about anything. The things that I worry about are like, 'Is this too cheesy?' or 'Does this sound contrived?' Actually on that song, I was kind of going for a cock rock ballad. I know the production and the actual feel of the song isn't very cock-rocky but the structure of it is. [Laughs] My girlfriend's an old hair metal fan, so we can get a good laugh out of that stuff. I try to throw a little bit of that in here and there. And I'm an old hair metal fan, too.

Analogue: If it's therapeutic for you to get out there and play these songs live, then what do you learn about yourself when that's limited in a year like this?

Scott: I've spent a lot of time in the studio since I've been home, constantly even before the pandemic. It's a learning process, for me, for decades now trying to perfect my knowledge of production. I've spent a lot of time listening to lots of music and listening to their production and analyzing it—more than enjoying it for the music, I'm thinking critically in an analytic way trying to figure out how they did that.

So most of this time, I've been working and working and it's keeping me from going crazy. Clean the garage out. Wash the car. Keep the car immaculate. Ever since my wreck in 2003, it's been nose-to-the-grindstone and that's what keeps me from losing my shit. That's not to say that I don't lose it sometimes.

Analogue: Thanks for your time. Anything else you wanna leave us with?

Scott: I'm just looking forward to when this all starts rolling again and we can get back on the road. It's not going to be the same as it ever was, but I'm still looking forward to it. I've got a couple new tricks up my sleeve in my set-up to make it a little more fun and interesting.

VISIT: Scott H. Biram

Photo: Nate Burrell