Beyond the Music columnist Scott Sechman has the musical pedigree not only to write about fellow musicians but also the talent to be in the tribe.
In 1967, the seeds of Sechman’s career trajectory were planted while watching older brother, Bill, perform with his band, Norfolk Aliens, at the Virginia Beach Dome. Two years later, he was in upstate New York for the grooviest event in music history — the Woodstock Music Festival. He was one of more than 400,000 people who descended on a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel to listen to Janis Joplin, Arlo Guthrie, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young — and the inimitable Jimmy Hendrix, who blew the throng away with his rocking solo guitar performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Sechman’s fate was sealed, and he’s spent his life playing the music that made him who he is today — and today, just as in the 1969, his playlist reflects the times, which are a-changin' in ways no one could have predicted.
I decided to turn the tables on COAST’s music columnist to answer the very questions he poses to others in his tribe:
Q: If you’re not a native, what brought you to the Outer Banks?
A: I lived in Anaheim, California for nearly 36 years. I was raised in Hampton Roads and left when I was 16. So I knew about the Banks from an early age. Except, we used to call it “Nags Head,” generically. My family in Virginia has been coming down here for decades. I reconnected with a lady I knew as a teenager in Norfolk, via social media, and the connection kind of grew like Kudzu. I was also concerned about the health issues of my younger brother. So, ultimately, my little brother and love brought me here.
Q: How would you describe your music?
A: What I play live is, primarily, songs that I grew up loving. Songs I heard on WGH radio or the local “underground” radio stations (WNOR-FM and WOWI-FM) and albums that I bought as a teen. So it’s classic rock or classic pop. Conversely, the music that I write is based on the same stuff. Some rock. Some blues. Some old-school country.
Q: Who is your greatest musical influence?
A: The Beatles, Gram Parsons and my oldest brother.
Q: What is it about music that touched you?
A: The happiness of it. The sadness of it. The way it can, sometimes, just reach into your heart, or your gut and change how you feel.
Q: What was the first concert you attended? Did it light a fire under you to be a musician yourself and get up on stage?
A: The first concert I attended was the BoxTops at the Virginia Beach Dome. My brother’s band, The Norfolk Aliens, was the opening act. But by that time, I already wanted to be and do what the Beatles did. What with all the screaming girls and traveling to faraway places.
Q: Are you self-taught?
A: Totally, self-taught. In the old days, we would put a record on and try to replicate what we heard. That was after I learned that you had to tune the guitar. I learned chords from a Beatles songbook and from my buddy, Allen Plocher. Technically, I know nothing about music. Can’t read a note.
Q: Besides guitar, what other instruments do you play?
A: Harmonica. I know a few chords on the piano and can play bass if someone put a gun to my head. Or gave me money.
Q: How many different musical projects (duos, trios, bands) are you involved in?
A: I am a solo guy, now. But I have played with The Wilders, since I’ve been here. They are, in my mind, one of the best acts on this beach. Both Kevin Roughton and Matt McGuire are amazing players and singers. I do have one gig scheduled with them in late August. It’s an honor to be able to listen to them and I get to play with them, on occasion.
Q: What's your favorite venue to play on the Outer Banks? To listen?
A: I like Coastal Provisions. I’m close to the audience, and it’s easy to interact with them. As for listening, that depends on who’s playing.
Q: Musicians usually play for those “moments” when everything clicks and you sometimes play above and beyond what your normal capabilities are. Do you have a favorite moment?
A: Those moments are so rare and fleeting. I try to record my gigs every time I play just in case one happens. I’ve been doing that since 1972, if I happened to have a device that would do that.
Q: What do you do in the off-season? Do you have a day job?
A: I try to play music all year long. It’s tough on the beach as lots of places shut down for a few months. But I was lucky that Dan Lewis thought enough of my ability to keep me on at Coastal Provisions a couple of nights a month. Even luckier that their patrons liked me enough to come back. I’m also working on material for a new album. Apparently, I’m some sort of journalist now.
Q: Was there a person in your life that motivated you to pursue music?
A: My older brother and my mom. My mother grew up during the Great Depression and told me that no matter how bad things get, people will still want to be entertained or listen to music. And she was right. During this most recent Depression — although it’s called the “Great Recession,” it was a depression — I was still able to have money coming in while other people were losing their jobs and houses and the lifestyles they had become accustomed to.
Q: If you could perform with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
A: Probably, John Lennon or Gram Parsons. Lennon, because he was my hero. Gram Parsons because he was my other hero. I did get to sing harmony with Parsons backstage at a concert a few months before he died.
Q: What one song have you heard that you wish you'd written?
A: “When the Spell Is Broken” by Richard Thompson. Crazy good lyrics and chord progression. Or anything by Emitt Rhodes.
Q: If you could choose a time period in which to perform music, what would it be and why?
A: Really, just a few years before I actually started playing. The British Invasion era and 1967 to 1970. Arguably, the best years in the history of music.
Q: Do you listen to new music and if so, what are you listening to?
A: The most recent “new” music I’ve listened to, more than just in passing, is Emitt Rhodes’ album “Rainbow Ends”. Amazing record, even though I am biased because he’s a friend. The other night, I was sitting in with Monte Hooker’s band and he was playing the Tedeshi-Trucks band between sets. I’ve also listened to some of the bands I’ve been writing about in my position as columnist for The Coast OBX. Some of them have great original songs.
Q: The music business can be tough. Did you ever consider quitting and doing something else?
A: I did work in the defense industry for 15 years, but I never stopped playing music. There was a time in 1992 that I told a drummer I was in a band with, “If I wanted to deal with politics, I’d go work for Jerry Brown’s Presidential campaign — and so I did. That was a very cool experience.
Q: McCartney or Lennon?
Q: Where were you the first time you performed onstage and how old were you?
A: It was, I think, at a teen club in Norfolk called “The Happening.” I was 14, or so. I sat in with the band that was playing and the only reason they let me was because my brother was in a popular band, at the time.
Q: When you write a song, is it positive or negative inspiration that drives you?
A: Always negative. Heartbreak and depression are great fodder for songs.
Q: Do you have any hobbies that aren’t music-related?
A: Baseball. I love my Anaheim Angels. I have a small butterfly garden and love Monarch butterflies. I also am politically active. I like puttering around the kitchen. I like to make salsa, tacos and Crack Slaw.
Q: Your favorite album? Why?
A: Probably, “Rubber Soul” by the Beatles. It was a dramatic turn for them. Lots of acoustic guitars and amazing melodies.
Q: Your favorite song? Why?
A: “Hey Bulldog” by the Beatles. Because it rocks.
Q: How do folks find out where can you be heard this season?
Q: If you were me, what question should I be asking you?
A: You just did…