Originally published 3.26.2011 on Country Fried Rock.
"Scott, I don't think school had a lot to offer you."
James "Scott" Bullard bares his soul in regular conversation and freely shares about his tumble into addiction. After his hard rocking, regionally successful band Crane folded in 2000 with a farewell show at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, SC, Bullard had no idea what he was going to do with himself, literally and creatively. He hibernated in a borrowed beach house, writing music profusely and growing a long beard--a physical testament to his seclusion. He knew that his lyrics needed a different format, but only knew about hard rock; it took his time in Wilmington to connect with his dad's bluegrass influence and the emerging role of alt-country, a la Ryan Adams. While briefly sidetracked by the great singer-songwriters like Tom Waits, Bullard felt that his own style was best expressed through a more alt-country style, in that it was uptempo but people still listened to his lyrics.
His first two solo records reflect his exploration of the new-to-him genres, with one being more songwriter and the other more alt-country, while his 2010 release is a double album, intentionally highlighting both. Live, though, James Scott Bullard is backed by an existing band who've played together for years, and the Late Night Sweethearts bring the alt-country to the stage. (They spent years touring as a Gram Parsons tribute band.) We've seen them captivate a bar crowd, and rock a college listening room, in a way that has not yet been captured in their records. Bullard is a dynamic performer, no matter the crowd, with audience members comparing him aloud to everyone from Nikki Sixx, Ian Astbury, to Ryan Adams (source: personal experience).
Bullard candidly describes his descent into addiction and the lies he told himself to distinguish his slavery to the pills from people using street drugs, while ultimately recognizing that his abuse was no different than theirs. His brief stint in rehab helped him choose to get sober, and several chance interactions with an orderly have left lifelong impact, including the title of one of his records, Sunsets & Cigarettes. Bullard spins great tales, but in this case, it's not just "based on a true story."