Kerrville Folk Festival, 2008

Scott Ainslie: Interview
Kerrville Folk Festival, 2008

The Land That I Love: Social Activism and Music

Scott at Kerrville 2008Scott had been instructing in the Blues Guitar Workshop for several days, but in his first appearance at Kerrville’s Kennedy Theater, he showed his other side, that of activist songwriter.

FAF: You have a new song, which you performed for your encore.

SCOTT: This was the first performance of the song.

FAF: And you haven’t decided on the title for this song?

SCOTT: I haven’t quite decided yet. It’s a song that begins with the NAFTA Treaty and its impact on Mexicans. And what NAFTA has done, there were deals cut under the table that weren’t advertised, and that lowered the tariffs on American corn getting into Mexico.

And so great big huge corporate farms are competing with little tiny, hand [tilled] farms – family farms – in Mexico. And of course they are undercutting the sale of corn that’s grown an acre away from the market.

And people can’t stay on their farms and so they’re walking through the Sonoran Desert out in Arizona and crossing the border to try and make some kind of a living while the corporations are raking the cream off the market in Mexico. So this song, the working title for me is, “The Land That I Love,” which, it really is written from a migrant’s point of view. And it felt good to sing it tonight. I think it’s a song that works. Continue Reading

The Artful Mind Interview

Interview with Scott Ainslie
by Barbara Dean

Barbara Dean: In 1967, while still in high school, you heard Virginia bluesman John Jackson play for the first time.He became your friend and mentor.Can you describe his influence on you?

John Jackson was an unadvertised guest at a Mike Seeger concert for the folk club at Groveton High School in the spring of 1967. At the time, John dug graves for his living, collected Civil War bullets, buttons, belt buckles and things that he found digging graves (later using a metal detector) in the battlefields around his home in Fairfax Station, Virginia. He very quickly made his money playing music. He toured Europe and all over the US.

John was a kind and happy man. He was like a Black Buddha. He tended always to excuse any sort of slight or insult. More than just a coping skill for a Black man growing up in Virginia in the early 20th Century, this was his personal kindness showing through. He loved to laugh and tell stories. And musically, he was a wonderful and spirited player and performer. Continue Reading

Dave Madeloni Interview, 2004

Scott Ainslie: The Feral Crow
An Interview with Dave Madeloni, The Brattleboro Reformer

Dave Madeloni: You not only play the blues, but you study its history and are an educator. Can you talk about how the playing and the teaching interface, in your performances, in your approach to choosing songs to interpret and in writing your originals, etc.

My passion for playing came initially from John Jackson, a grave digger from Northern Virginia, playing in front of me back in 1967. In my experience, when a tradition is transferred, it’s always personal. Seeing it on TV, even hearing it on record doesn’t quite do it. Being with someone does.

Having a passion for something qualifies you as a fan, playing, and singing especially, require some sort of apprenticeship to the tradition. My field work with older musicians and the scholarship both inform my choices: what and how I play. But it’s always dangerous to mention the scholarship, people figure you can’t play. The expression that some people are fond of using about reading music and music theory may apply here, too: “I know about music theory and reading music, but not enough to hurt my playing.” Continue Reading

Acoustic Live! Interview, 2004

Acoustic Live! Interview with Scott Ainslie

It’s mid-November, 2003, and I’m sitting in the darkened Starlight Room of Kutscher’s Hotel & Resort. We’re listening to blues singer Scott Ainslie preface a performance of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad Blues.” He’s one of the featured main showcase performers at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference. In the middle of the brightly lit, circular stage, he gives us the facts behind this classic blues song. Continue Reading

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