Born on a tobacco farm in London, Ky., in 1959, and raised in E. Gary, Indiana, Darrell was part of a musical family. His father Wayne, a steelworker by trade but a songwriter in his heart, moved his clan to Southern California when Darrell was 11. Soon Darrell and brothers Denny, Dale, Don, and David were part of their dad’s band, getting on-the-job training in country music as they played its hits on the stages of roadhouses and taverns as far north as Alaska.
Darrell eventually left the band and California, paying some more musical dues in Toronto and in Boston and earning a degree in poetry from nearby Tufts University, where he also studied literature. With his lyric skills sharpened and his abilities on guitars, banjo and other instruments already road-tested, Darrell followed his muse to country music’s Ground Zero, Nashville. His key to entering Music Row’s inner circles was, at first, his string-slinging skills – starting in 1992, he appeared on albums by alt.country mavericks Guy Clark (for whom he later produced two CDs) and Steve Earle, Randy Travis, Patty Loveless, and dozens more.
As his “day job” as a picker flourished, Darrell channeled his other creative energies into his own songwriting and recordings. By the time he had released his debut CD, Aloha from Nashville (1997), its follow-up Family Tree (1999), and Real Time (2000), a duo album with “newgrass” trailblazer Tim O’Brien, Darrell’s original songs were much in demand by singers looking for more than “big hat” bragging or slick country-pop. Suzy Bogguss was the first of many to record a Scott song, taking his “No Way Out” into the country singles charts in 1996. Darrell’s compositions became highlights of albums by Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Kathy Mattea, Maura O’Connell and even his mentor, Guy Clark. The Dixie Chicks’ recording of “Long Time Gone” from Real Time was not only a hit for the Chicks but garnered a 2003 Grammy nomination for “Best Country Song”; “The Second Mouse,” a Scott/O’Brien tune from Real Time, was a Grammy finalist as “Best Country Instrumental Performance” in 2001. That same year, Darrell was named Songwriter of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association International, an honor repeated by ASCAP in 2002.
Somehow, Darrell has continually found the time and energy to expand his musical activities ever further. In 2003, he launched his own label, Full Light Records, and his first move as owner was to produce a traditional, mountain country album for his father, This Weary Way, that finally showcased Wayne’s original songs. For the past two years, Darrell has been the “artist in residence” with Orchestra Nashville (members appear on Modern Hymn’s “Joan of Arc”), creating what he calls “diverse musical happenings – the odder the better,” mixing the string section with such guests as Sam Bush, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and other musicians from many genres.
Darrell has also been stockpiling songs and ideas for his next few CDs, including orchestral recordings, a “stone country” album, a duets project, and a band record of roots, Americana and folk-rock songs. He plays more than 50 shows a year, including prestigious US and UK festivals, and conducts songwriting workshops around the country. He recently had to turn down an invitation to lead a road band for Joan Baez due to logistics. We should all have such problems; we should all have such skills. But Darrell does, and that’s what makes him such a distinctive and creative force in contemporary music.