Award-winning musician Jason Scott will be bringing his tribute to Neil Diamond to Ashcroft on Friday, August 10, and promises a “solid, non-stop” concert featuring 27 Diamond songs, as well as many opportunities for audience members to be an integral part of the show.
Scott, who now lives in Cranbrook, has been performing “Diamond Forever: A Celebration of Neil Diamond” for 17 years. He says he’s been a musician since he was five years old, and when he was 11 years old he saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Something clicked. “If you asked me after that, I’d say I wanted to be a rock star.” He began playing in bands and was signed to a record label in 1988, working with legendary musician, songwriter, and producer Brian “Too Loud” MacLeod of Chilliwack and the Headpins fame.
“I got a hell of en education from Brian,” says Scott. “I had the opportunity to meet lots of people, and was exposed to the critical side of music writing.”
The sudden illness and death of MacLeod was a factor in the American company that had signed Scott dropping distribution. He says that he wondered if he’d wasted 25 years of his life as he looked around at friends who were doing “normal stuff”, like buying homes and having families.
“I did some deejaying, and thought of going into radio. I took some courses but there’s not a lot of money in [radio]. And to rise through the ranks you need to be young and single. It’s a young man’s game.”
Scott says that he ran into Neil Diamond in a very strange way. “I was having dinner at a pub with my sister, and the karaoke guy was just finishing before a Canucks game came on. He was using the big screen to broadcast the lyrics while the other TVs played the pre-game show. It was a Sunday, and pretty slow, and my sister said to me ‘Sing “Love on the Rocks”.’
“The karaoke guy called me up. I’d always sung in a high rock song range, and never experimented with a lower range, and Neil is a baritone. So I started singing, and Neil Diamond just fell out of my face. There was a big whoop from the audience, and I thought the game had started and the Canucks had scored. People were on their feet, and I thought that I might have a few musical laps left.”
Scott says he was familiar with Dianmond’s music at the time—the mid-1990s—but had never really experimented with any of his songs, as the bands he was in didn’t really cover any of Diamond’s music.
“I practiced a lot, although it was very easy for me to sound like Neil. It comes naturally. But I had to study the man.”
“Diamond Forever” has been tweaked over the years, and calls on Scott’s many years of performance background and the skills he learned. “The recording studio chops that Brian taught me years ago came into play. The audio tracks are all studio recorded for a really rich sound. And I play live guitar on some songs.”
Scott says that Diamond has been quoted as saying that he loves the tribute shows to him, as it’s great that people are keeping his music alive. “He does suggest that rather than go out and impersonate him, people should be creative and have fun with the show.” He notes that “Diamond Forever” is “very audience interactive. They’ll be part of the show as much as I am. There’s a dancealong and a singalong. And the songs are all backed up with stories about Neil’s background and the origins of the songs. There’s lots of humour.”
Performing the tribute show is now Scott’s job, although he’s tried to back off this year and only do one or two shows a month. “I’ve never thought of it as a part-time thing. I don’t use an agency; I’m my own production company. I get up in the morning, have some coffee, and make the rush hour walk down the hall to my office.”
He says that Diamond’s music appeals to everyone. “Every year my audiences include more younger people. A lady at a Penticton concert said that she brought her two kids kicking and screaming to the concert, and that they now wanted to stop somewhere on the way home and get some Neil Diamond albums.”
The show remains a joy for Scott to do. “When I’m performing I get to the end of the concert and think ‘Am I here already?’ I don’t want it to end.
“There’s only one Neil Diamond, and I’m very happy to present his music and vocals and have fun. ‘Diamond Forever’ is one big Neil Diamond party.”
Scott will be performing “Diamond Forever” at the Royal Canadian Legion in Ashcroft on Friday, August 10, with the doors opening at 6 p.m. Tickets are $30 each, and include dinner (served at 6:30 p.m.) and the concert, which starts at 7:30 p.m. For tickets call the Legion at (250) 453-2423. For more information about Scott and “Diamond Forever”, visit the website at www.diamondforever.ca.