Scott Severin was in the middle of the New York City music scene in the heady days of the 1970s, where he became friends, hung out and partied with some of the biggest names in the downtown scene from David Johansen to Eric Andersen with Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell in between. Townes Van Zandt was a drinking buddy and Scott wants it on the record that he forgives him for punching him in the face but not necessarily for pissing on his bathroom floor.
Scott Severin – singer, songwriter & True Keeper of the Rock n Roll Flame
photo by Sandy Hechtman
A native of Brooklyn, Scott lived large and hard and, sadly, his promising music career went off the tracks as he sank into years of addiction and, in his words a “serial womanizing”. Says Scott, “I wasn’t the best boyfriend in those days. To put it bluntly.”
Then one day, he found himself broke, financially and spiritually, having checked himself into St. Vincent’s psych word. It was there he got a call from a friend who offered his couch to Scott and a chance to get back on his feet. Only thing: his buddy lived in Omaha. As in Omaha, Nebraska. As in the, as Scott now says, “the last place on Earth I wanted to go.”
But he had no money and no place to live and in a few days, he was on a bus heading to the Fly Overs. When he got off the bus, he was sure it wasn’t the place to be, but after a chance visit to a bar, he found a group of like-minded folks who loved to talk about the things most important to him – music, life, philosophy, books, art. As these stories usually go, he met a girl. And it is Omaha where he now stays and plays music and raises his little girl.
Since arriving, Scott has discovered that Omaha is a great place for artist, musicians and Brooklyn-born philosophers of a certainly age. Coincidence? We don’t think so.
Kindred spirits – those groups of people who share common interests and beliefs – have the uncanny ability to recognize their own kind.
Like aliens who have taken human form to walk among us, they can see through the disguise to find one of their own in a crowd. Musicians are one such group, although it exists in every possible interest group. My chef & wine geek friends can walk into a room, immediately recognize a kindred spirit and, in matter of minutes, be so deep into a conversation that not only leaves outsiders unable to follow along, it’s like no one else in the place exists.
These people also have their own language. Based in common experiences and study, it’s often a shorthand for sizing each other to gauge exactly where in the spectrum of the belief system each resides.
Not too different from dogs sniffing each others butt, actually.
I once made the statement I can tell how good a guitarist is by watching him tune & warm up before a gig. Might sound ridiculous, I know, but there’s an incredible amount of information revealed in the body language and muscle memory riffing that happens during those few minutes.
It’s like a poker tell.
I “met” Scott Severin during a very heated thread on a mutual friend’s wall in the early days of Facebook. Marc Campbell, a fellow musician, rock n roll freak and provocateur shit-stirrer was enjoying throwing grenades on the table to generate followers and basically enjoying the mayhem that ensued by being controversial. We had had many exchanges, contributing to our respective posts, and found a mutual respect for each others opinions – while they sometimes were polar opposites. One evening, probably with both of us well into a bottle of our favorite vino, Marc sent me a private messaging to ask if I’d be willing to have him post my opinion of Bruce Springsteen, just to see what happened. It’s no secret to those who know me, I’m not a fan of “The Boss” and Marc knew a post singling me out as slamming the revered rock star would be like throwing a meat dressed Lady GaGa into a shark tank.
Who wouldn’t pay to see that? But I digress.
Being one who’s always one up for a rousing forensic dust-up, I agreed, writing a brief summation of my opinion and sent it for Mark to post.
The reaction was immediate, scorching & brutal. As in most Facebook “debates”, the majority of the comments were snarky, stupid, plain mean and generally lacking in any intelligent basis in logic.
“Fuck you, Sonni. Springsteen is the greatest. You don’t know shit.”
That kind of thing. Whatever.
ONE UN-MET DEGREE OF SEPARATION
Marc Campbell – musician, writer, artist & web agitator
But Scott Severin’s comments were witty & insightful and, along with his willingness to actually read my responses and show respect for the basis of my argument, he revealed himself to be a singer/songwriter with a great depth of knowledge for the art form and, ultimately, a true kindred spirit. The debate raged on for well over 400 comments and ended as all Facebook debates do, with no minds changed, but I’d found a new friend.
As we exchanged comments on threads, sharing posts and generally getting to know about each other’s lives, I was amazed to find that Scott had lived in New York City at the same time I did and frequented many of the same bars, night clubs and after-hour joints. We could drop names of mutual friends without blinking yet we’d never met – that either one of us could remember.
What became apparent over the course of time, was we shared so many common experiences – struggling to “make it” in NYC, forming bands, recording demos, performing to empty rooms masquerading as an audience, coming close so many times. My own struggles – emotional & financial including the birth of my daughters and breakup of my marriage after my time with Dire Straits – were mirrored in Scott’s more recent tribulations. His crash and burn in New York resulting in a move to Omaha, his marriage, birth of his beautiful daughter, Ivy, and a subsequent, crushing divorce had pushed him to the darkest of possible places and a deep, clinical depression, something I am all too familiar with and recognize, like another alien seeing his own, in those around me. This lead to our friendship stepping out the virtual, at least to the extent of putting a real voice to the internet exchanges, with a few phone calls to commiserate a bit and bond a lot.
Choosing who made the very short “must visit” lis for the first road trip to meet my virtually real friends was really easy.
As you’ll see in the video, our time spent together, while way too short, seems much like the reuniting of old friends picking up a conversation they’d started 35 years ago without missing a beat.
Choosing the artist’s path – which more often than not means accepting the only path you are built to follow – is not the easiest journey. Success in financial terms is a rarity even for the most talented but for those of us who survive, the true joy is in what happens along the way and sharing all those war stories with our kindred spirits.
Even if they do like Bruce Springsteen.