SPRINGFIELD – Scott Southworth says his annual trip back to Springfield always feels kind of like a high school reunion because he gets to see so many old friends.
Well, this year will be extra special. Because of Covid, he hasn’t played a hometown show since 2019. He’s spent these past three years padding his already-impressive list of country music awards. His 2019 album, “Hey Hillbilly Singer,” was named Pure Country Album of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists.
“DJ’s all over the world vote for that one,” Southworth said. “That meant a lot to me.”
Earlier this month, Southworth was inducted into the Nashville Hall of Fame’s Academy of Local Musicians. He’s also in Springfield High School’s Hall of Fame.
“They’re all sitting in a drawer somewhere,” he said of his ever-growing accumulation of awards. “I don’t get too fussed up by it, but I’m grateful for it.
“When I was at Springfield High School, I was an average student – I got A’s in choir – but now that I’m in the school’s Hall of Fame, it’s been fun to get a little recognition from your peers.”
Southworth was a 1984 graduate, and spent the next 20 years playing locally with a variety of musical projects. His first band was an oldies group called Shazam, then he became more of a blues-rocker playing at Taylor’s blues jams, where he befriended local blues guitar legend Eagle Park Slim, a strong influence on Southworth’s career.
Finally, it was time to make the big move to Nashville.
“It was the year of our 20th reunion, and we let everyone know we were moving to Nashville, and the table got dead quiet,” Southworth recalled.
“Then somebody said that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. I tell you, our class, the Class of 84, they’re the best. They’re always very supportive.”
Southworth, who was born in southern California, moved with his family to Springfield when he was 5 or 6, so he says Springfield will always be home. He says he occasionally has to pinch himself to realize he’s not dreaming.
“I came to (Nashville) to be a songwriter in 2004,” the 55-year-old Southworth said. “I didn’t think about being an artist until I turned 50. The stuff I write just doesn’t sound like today’s popular country music.
“I’m thrilled for my friends who are achieving big-time success, but I like my country music to sound a certain way. It has changed many times over the years and I’m sure it will keep on changing.
“I had several top-30 songs in the UK and Ireland. They have a whole subculture of indie stations that support indie artists. I’m thrilled that anybody wants to listen to me.
“I found there were pockets in Europe where I could perform and do really well. New Zealand is on the schedule next year, France … having people want you to play for them is nuts! In Norway we had a bunch of 20-somethings in the audience.
“I’m so appreciative of everything, to be in your 50s, and to go to Europe – who could imagine this? To be in a rock band in Springfield, Oregon, and have all of this happen to them? I’m very appreciative of it.”
If you haven’t listened to Southworth before, think of a cross between Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard. He says he’s a huge Willie and Waylon fan, but says he can’t do a very good Willie Nelson on stage, so he saves that for practice only.
What you will likely see on Aug. 7 is several cuts from his “Hey Hillbilly Singer” 2019 Album of the Year. In 2020 he released “These Old Bones,” which has also been receiving rave reviews.
The new album “continues to raise the bar set by his earlier releases,” writes Scott Wikle of ION Indie Magazine. “ This is Damn Fine Country Music … the way it should be!
Of course, going to a Scott Southworth show is a bit of an adventure in itself. “In Switzerland, after a show a guy came up and asked, ‘What do you call what you do?’ I didn’t know what he was talking about,” Southworth said. “Finally, he said, ‘You play a couple of songs, then you tell a couple of jokes, then you play around with the audience, then you do a few more songs …’ Anyway, it turns out he was a reporter, and he called our performance ‘a carnival’ in his article. I do have ADD, I think, so I often stop in the middle of songs when the mood strikes me.”
So be forewarned, things could get a little wild at the Wildish when Scott Southworth comes to town.