Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is hands down the most successful musical act to originate in Ventura. From an appearance at the Super Bowl halftime show to a major label record deal and numerous appearances in film and TV plus a busy touring schedule, the band has literally done it all. Its most recent release, last year’s Rattle Them Bones, was a critically acclaimed effort, and 2013 marks the band’s 20th anniversary. Despite a hectic tour schedule, which finds BBVD playing at performing arts centers and festivals as opposed to the clubs and lounges where they cut their teeth — often backed by a full piece orchestra — the Voodoo Daddys have found time to do a local show for a local cause that’s near to their hearts: music education. We caught up with founder and lead singer Scotty Morris who discussed how the band’s upcoming benefit concert at Ventura High School came to be, how kids value music today and what advice he’d give to a music student who wants to follow in his footsteps.
VC Reporter: You’re doing a benefit for the Ventura Education Partnership to help local school music and arts programs. How did it come about?
Scotty Morris: The idea came from our baritone sax player, Andy Rowley. His son is going through the music program at Ventura High School and he’s having firsthand insight to the struggles music programs have to deal with. The absolute first budget cut to happen in any school district, anywhere, is music. Andy brought the proposal of a benefit show to us and he explained to us what was happening and what his experience was. We jumped on board and thought it’d be a great idea to do. We wanted to see if we could do something to help.
You all have children of your own now. What are your thoughts on your own kids learning an instrument or even pursuing music as a career?
I can only speak for myself and my family, but I support it completely. I don’t think my attitude is that when you play music you go into it thinking you’re going to make a living at it. I think that’s the one thing that’s helped me keep a good perspective. I have two children, my daughter plays multiple instruments and my son plays multiple instruments, and for us it’s never been an issue of, “You’re playing music because it’s what I do.” Playing music is the one thing in life that’s been a constant for me since I’ve been a really little kid. It’s always made me feel good. So if my kids get the same kind of feeling that’s great. If they want to go and pursue music as their career, I think that’s great too but I would never push them one way or another. For me it’s as simple as this: If you love what you do, it doesn’t matter how much you get paid. If you love what you do for your job, you’ll never feel like you’ve worked a day in your life.
Kids look at music so differently than even 10 years ago. The value, and with it, the appreciation has been degraded. Where they get music, how much they listen to, how much they pay for it, it’s all changed. As someone who makes their living in the music business is that hard to deal with?
The thing is to not try and fight it and say, ‘the way I grew up listening to music is the right way.’ It’s called evolution. If the industry doesn’t evolve with what’s happening with technology you’re gonna fall behind. Yesterday’s new model is today’s relic. If you think traveling the same road people traveled for years is gonna let you survive in the music business now you’re crazy. Nobody pays you to make records anymore. No one gives you advances. There’s too much involved for these companies and not enough return. You have to figure out ways to make deep connections with your fans and that’s the way to survive. I mean I can’t judge kids for how they are getting music. They don’t know any other way. If I were a kid and I could get any music at my fingertips, I’d be doing it too. I get it. I think the only way to stay up with it, is to stay up with it.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was formed at such a different time culturally. Do you think if you started the band right now you would be able to have the same success?
Impossible to speculate. What we do is special. It’s the collaboration of what the nine of us do on stage. It sounds different. It sounds unique. There’s just something to it. Don’t know if it’s the bonded brotherhood or just the way it sounds. Now, whether we’d be as big or not, I’m not sure. I would like to think that we would be. (Laughs.)
Ever marvel at the fact you still make a living playing music, especially when a lot of your peers are long since gone? It’s got to blow your mind when you think of where you came from and everything you’ve done.
It does. The biggest thing is that I still have so much more to do. I think that the band has so much more to do. It fuels me. It really does — almost more now than at any time in at least 15 years. I have so much fire for the band right now. I still see great adventures on the horizon.
Ok. Last question. The big one. If a kid comes to you after the show in Ventura and says, “I want to do what you do.” What advice do you give him or her?
Be in touch with your fans. Make sure you know who your fans are and who listens to your music. Connect with them and stay connected with them because they’re the ones that are going to help you through the hard times. It’s the fans. It’s the people you see every night in front of you. Keep that relationship fresh, keep it good and don’t take it for granted — ever.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will perform Saturday, April 13 at Ventura High School, 2 N. Catalina St. at 7:30 p.m. For more information and tickets visit www.vep4vusd.org. In addition, Ventura High School Music Boosters will be holding a free Music Fest from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. on campus with performances by area school bands, dancers, food vendors and more. For more information, visit www.venturahsmusic.org.