Back from the abyss, Scott Alan Stagg is clean and sober and staging a comeback.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Written by Dege Legg
|Photo by Robin May|
Each man has his own myth. Sometimes the man is larger than the myth. Sometimes the myth dwarfs the man. Sometimes the myth and the man wrestle in such close quarters — each rearing its head at odd intervals — that one can never properly distinguish the two. Scott Alan Stagg is a man who has wrestled with his own myth.
Somewhere around 2003, Lafayette singer-songwriter Scott Alan Stagg — a longtime fixture of the Acadiana music scene since the late 70s — slowly disappeared. Poof! Gone after two decades of being nearly everywhere at once, playing numerous local residencies, releasing two records (Weekend in August in 1981 and The Other Side of Town in 1990), and sharing stages with the likes of Warren Zevon, J.J. Cale, Greg Allman, Louisiana’s Leroux, The Band and Paul Simon. He simply dropped off the radar in the gray haze of obscurity. Rumors of drugs and general excess followed in his wake. His bouts of excess and the stories associated with them were of local legend.
Few knew what had become of him.
“There were a lot of rumors about me — most of them were not true. What happened is I quit playing music and went to jail on a couple drug charges — one for four years,” says Stagg. “That did it. I lost everything. Got divorced from my second wife who’s the love of my life. You have to hit bottom. I guess that was my bottom.”
After an initial stint of seven months, Stagg began the slow process of piecing his life back together in the early 2000s only to have a previous drug charge resurface. “I’d been clean for three years when the second charge came back on me. They put me in a probation thing,” says Stagg. Stubbornly true to his own rhythm, Stagg had difficulty conforming to the strict nature of the program and was thrown back in jail to serve out the remainder of his sentence. “They tried to control every part of my life, accusing me of all sorts of things. I told them to get f***ed! And they sent me back to jail.”
In jail, Stagg pondered his wild past. “People would come up to me at shows. Give me drugs. I was doing cocaine right before gigs, during the breaks.” In addition, he hashed through the mountain of rumors that had surrounded him. “Some were true. Some weren’t. I did a lot of crap, but a lot of the crap I did nobody knew about! A lot of the rumors were about stuff I never did.”
Released from the Lafayette Parish Correction Center in 2008 and clean for eight years, Stagg settled into a quiet life of relative normality. No more gigs. No music. Just the flat track of life and its humdrum pulse in the distance. Stagg concentrated on commercial artwork and voice-over jobs. But the music never completely left his blood. “I’d gotten so used to telling people I don’t play music anymore that it became second nature,” says Stagg. “But there was a hole in my life. Something was missing.”
He started plucking and strumming the guitar again at home. “My fingers hurt like hell, but it came back pretty quick,” says Stagg. After making a few phone calls, Stagg booked a series of shows at Collage Café downtown and his old home base, the Cellar Door at Bisbano’s.
“The thing about playing music is it just makes people happy. There’s nothing like it. Having people come up to you and say their first date was at your gig. That’s what I enjoy about it.”
At the ripe age of 50, plans are in the works for a new Scott Alan Stagg CD as well as many regular live shows.
As for his past, “I don’t mind talking about it. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who didn’t think I would’ve lived through it,” says Stagg. “I don’t give a sh**. I’m over all that.”
SAS plays his big “Come Back” show at Bisbano’s July 1. Be there to welcome him back.
History of Scott Alan Stagg in five words, give or take.
Born, became older, played football, did drugs, played music, graduated, did more drugs, learned lessons, quit drugs, survived.
How long have you been playing music?
About 36 years; 34 years professionally.
Where you been, man?
I’ve been doing commercial art and portraits (scottalanstagg-art.com) as well as voiceover work and basically laying low and getting my sh** together physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Why the desire to come back now?
I really didn’t think I’d ever play music professionally again. But there has been an enormous hole in my life, and I just realized, besides lacking a certain female love of my life, it was performing and making people happy with my music.
At the height of your local and regional fame back in the day, were you ever offered any record deals, etc.?
I was a couple of times. I declined because 1) I thought that I’d be moving to Nashville or somewhere and there would be plenty of other, better opportunities, and 2) I felt they were just looking to exploit me and not give me any control over my music.
How many songs would you guess you’ve written over the course of your career?
About 100 give or take.
Best gig ever?
I was performing for the media event following Paul Simon’s Graceland Tour concert at the Cajundome back in the early ’90s. He was making a donation to the Children’s Shelter, which I did a lot of charity work for. Anyway, he sat in with me. We played several songs together: “Mrs. Robinson,” “The Boxer,” “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” and a few others. Coolest thing ever.
Worst gig ever?
A little club in Eunice. It was so small that me and my equipment took up half the square footage of the joint. I just remember drunk people dancing on tables right in front of me, threatening a major accident. It was a blessing to get out alive.
Over the years, you were the subject of some pretty wild rumors. Did you ever get the urge to just pack up and go live on a deserted island?
Yes. Because a lot of those rumors weren’t true. Some of them really affected me. I was married at the time, and they had to do with other women and stuff like that. Not good for a marriage, you know? The rumors about drugs were, unfortunately, mostly true. Been clean for a long time now, so I’m cool with all of it.
What’s the plan for the future?
To never have any rumors told about me.