In assembling a lineup for the Waterboys’ 13th album, the band’s Dublin-based leader Mike Scott looked toward the U.S. for bandmates and inspiration.
“It’s quite different from the last few albums,” Scott says of Modern Blues, which has a U.S. release date of April 7. “It’s a bit more rock ‘n’ roll, so I knew it had to be an American-sounding record. American music has a rhythmic swagger that European music doesn’t have.”
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Recorded in Nashville, Scott recruited the legendary Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood to join the band for the recording and a North America tour that runs April 16 to May 24.
“He came up with all the right melodies and shifts and changes and, for my money, he raises everybody’s game,” Scott says from Dublin. “That puts some nice pressure on the other musicians to do what David’s doing. And having three American players in the band has a turbo-charging effect on the old music.”
In existence for more than 30 years, the Waterboys broke through in 1988 with Fisherman’s Blues, an album that set Scott and his bandmates on a path that mixed rock ‘n’ roll with the folk music of Scotland and Ireland, with a bit of American country thrown in. A top 20 album in the U.K., it remains the Waterboys’ highest-charting album in the U.S., hitting No. 76 in 1989.
“Folk music and some Irish music were diversions,” Scott says, “but playing rock ‘n’ roll is central to me.”
“The Girl Who Slept for Scotland,” which receives its exclusive premiere on Billboard.com, was one of countless titles that Scott stores, waiting for inspiration to strike. (“I Can See Elvis” is another, springing from a backstage conversation with a drummer about near-death experiences).
He came up with the title while dating a woman who was always difficult to awake. “She slept like a rock,” he says. “When we were together, I came up with that phrase. I said, ‘You could sleep for Scotland,’ meaning if there was an Olympic category for sleeping, you could represent Scotland. That was the joke. And it stuck with me. Who knows why songs happen when they happen, but it became a song.”