The U.U. Coffeehouse on Silver Street in Waterville will present a concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 2. It will feature singer-songwriter Jim Scott paying tribute to Pete Seeger and his music. Anyone with a fondness for folk music is encouraged to attend to hear Scott perform. To that end, a telephone interview was planned with the singer who has made it his life’s work to create and perform music that celebrates peace, justice and the earth — themes that are in lock-step with those of Seeger’s. I reached Scott at his Shrewsbury, Massachusetts home.

Q: Watching your videos on YouTube, I’m sure I’ve met you at some time in the past. I must confess that I just can’t place when, though.

Scott: Well, I recognized your name. I lived in Maine a long time ago, in the early ’80s, in Belfast, and I was playing around Maine at that time, so we might have met at some point. I was in the Paul Winter Consort, and we played Maine many times in the ’70s and ’80s. I played all the time with Paul up to about ’85 and then off and on until the last time, officially, in ’93.

Q: Now you’re coming into Waterville to the UU Coffeehouse there. Have you played at that venue before?

Scott: Not for the coffeehouse, but I do play and lead services at UU churches, so I have been there on a Sunday morning. I know the church well. I lived in Belfast back years and years ago, so I’ve had a connection with the church a bit before, but I haven’t actually played for this coffeehouse.

Q: As far as this concert goes, it’s a tribute to Pete Seeger, right?

Scott: Well, my joke is: I didn’t know I was going to become a tribute band, but I knew Pete Seeger for — off and on — about 40 years and that being about half of his performing life … he was a big help to me. I did get to play a couple of sizable concerts with him just in almost the last year of his life when he was still going on. His voice was a bit weak, but he still had the magic of getting people singing. Some years before he died, I asked him if I could do a Pete Seeger songfest … and he had said, “Oh, sure.” Well, I did it in Worcester and had a huge turnout for it and people were asking me, “Well, could you do this somewhere else?” So I’ve done it a whole bunch of times now across the country, and it’s turned into a show with a lot of history and some of my personal stories, but more from the history of Pete Seeger in songs and lots of singing. It’s been fun to do, and it’s turned out a lot of Pete Seeger lovers around the country. I do slip in a few of my songs into the program, but mostly I’m kind of telling the story of Pete Seeger and singing his songs.

Q: And he does have a legion of fans worldwide.

Scott: Yeah, he raised up a whole generation of folk musicians — several generations, I think.

Q: What do you consider to be his greatest legacy?

Scott: Well, what I think what most people tend to know now, if they don’t remember Pete in The Weavers and the black-listing and all of that kind of stuff, they know Pete with the Clearwater and cleaning up the Hudson River and really just influencing cleaning up rivers everywhere … he gave us that consciousness. Plus he fought for every other good thing like civil rights and equality. It’s hard to pick one thing.

Q: And musically speaking?

Scott: I came from a classical background and I thought of myself as more of a jazz musician. I left the Winter Consort being a singer-songwriter in a way going in the folk direction, but people like Pete — and Pete in particular — just really gave me a model of what I could do. I certainly admired what he did and I stole his ideas. I tell people that the way I get everybody to sing in a concert is kind of the way he would have done it. He gave us that legacy, too. Keeping real music — live and genuine music — going in the midst of the pop onslaught. The whole folk genre owes its existence, I think, to Pete. Certainly lots of great musicians in Maine and New England — even if they don’t know it, if they’re young enough to not know it — they are all Pete Seeger acolytes.

Q: Well, there is something very powerful about joined voices. Whether it’s organized through a choir or just impromptu, there is great power in that.

Scott: Well, I really believe in that, and Pete would say that exactly. It’s so empowering, and when we’re afraid or when we don’t know what to do or we’re looking for inspiration or when we’re depressed, all those things, it just lifts us up. Pete would say that experiential thing goes where no lecturer, no intellectual prophet will reach — so I try to do that.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Scott: Well, there certainly are some great folks in that Augusta and Waterville area. I’ve made a lot of friends there so I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends there. It’s great to be back in Maine to do this, but if anybody thinks this is just going to be a history lesson or just nostalgia, the energy of it is right now — it’s today and fun — and I think it’s probably a course in American music that everybody should take. In fact, every kid should know this stuff. That’s my bias!

Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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