Scott Whiddon performs "Scatter and Fade"
Scott Whiddon had some great songs, and he has a great band. But the great songs and great band didn’t necessarily go well together.
“I play with Palisades, and they’re sort of a post-punk, power-pop band,” Whiddon said in the basement of his home in Lexington, in front of a rack of guitars and basses. “I had this batch of songs, and they kind of didn’t fit with what I was doing with Palisades, they didn’t fit with other projects I was involved with.”
For Whiddon, whose projects have included themed concerts as part of the annual Harry Dean Stanton Fest, a solo project was finally in order. The result is the eight-song “In Close Quarters with the Enemy,” to be celebrated this weekend with a Saturday night show at the Green Lantern Bar and a Sunday afternoon solo set at CD Central.
Band vs. solo can be amorphous designations, with “bands” that are really the vision of a single artist and solo acts that don’t sound much different from the bands they stepped away from. There is none of that confusion pushing play on “Close Quarters.”
Folks who have followed Palisades through four EPs and many a live show will notice a different feel from the Irish-influenced acoustic instrumental “The Bird Girl” into introspective, storytelling tunes such as “Holidays,” “Postcards to Pennsylvania,” and “Faster Than We Hoped,” one of the tunes Whiddon says comes from a variety of personal experiences in his native South Carolina.
The tone is quieter than Palisades, but Whiddon’s voice is familiar — the solo record simply adding to his artistic profile.
The voice that is really in focus is Whiddon’s writing voice, which makes sense, because his day job is associate professor of writing, rhetoric and communication at Transylvania University, and director of the university’s writing center. Whiddon says he tries to keep his worlds separate but enjoys it when they sort of naturally come together, like a recent music project with several other writing professors from around the country.
And he says that creating a record, whether as a solo artist or a band, requires many of the same skills practiced at the writing center, including peer review and constructive criticism.
That’s why Whiddon laughs at the designation “solo,” saying it was consummate Lexington musician and producer J. Tom Hnatow that led him through the process along with drummer, harmonica player and arranger Robby Cosenza, and cellist and backing vocalist Cecilia Wright Miller.
“We hunkered down and did this thing in a very small room, about the size of this room,” he says, motioning around the basement neatly decorated with album covers for R.E.M. and Sonic Youth, and framed show posters from Bob Mould, Whiddon’s own events, and others.
The catalyst for the project, he says, was a painting of a house by his Palisades band mate Neil Bell — a “lovely object that helped me imagine song possibilities.”
“Solo records are team sports,” Whiddon says. “So maybe it doesn’t seem so solo after all.”