Who Is Scott Tournet?
Scott Tournet is known for being the frontman for Elektric Voodoo, a founding member of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (2003-2014), Blues & Lasers, a solo artist, and producer. With The Nocturnals he was a co-writer on 3 Top 40 albums and scored a gold record for the song “Paris”.
In addition to his work with the Nocturnals, Scott has written and recorded with Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Willie Nelson, T Bone Burnett, Kenny Chesney, Alison Krauss, Mark Batson (Dr. Dre, Alicia Keys, Eminem) and others. He has performed with The Allman Brothers, members of The Grateful Dead and Phish, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) and many others.
Scott was born in the Berkshires of Massachusetts and moved to rural Vermont at a young age. His family lived out of town on a dirt road with no electricity and no neighbors for miles. It was here that he learned to entertain himself and use creativity to his advantage. “I spent hours and hours wandering the woods and making up stories and creating a fantasy world. I also had a little monophonic casio keyboard that I would play and play until the batteries died.” He always knew music was something he was drawn to but his attempts at joining the school band just didn’t work out. “I wanted to play the drum set but instead got a little pad where I had to read waltz and polka rhythms off of a page…it just didn’t resonate or seem fun. This began my struggle with traditional musical education.”
After graduating high school, Scott attended a traditional state college with no clear focus in mind. It was here that he discovered the guitar through friends. “It seemed like all of my neighbors had an acoustic or electric guitar. One friend taught me some basic chords, another taught me a scale or two and I was off and running. One day I couldn’t find any quarters for the laundry machines so I sat in the hallway playing 3 chords over and over begging for laundry money. I ended up with like $20. It seemed like my best option at the time.” Soon after this Scott tried majoring in music but struggled again with the traditional approach. “I wanted to study Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin…music that moved me, but we were playing recorders and learning music from centuries ago that didn’t connect with me at all. I stopped going to class and started playing my own music 8 hours a day. I lived in a house where there was a P.A. system, drum set, bass guitar, keyboards, and my guitar. I also had a 4 track recorder. I would play everything and make little instrumental tracks. I was too shy to sing still.”
About a year after dropping out and playing in college bands, Scott transferred to Goddard College in central Vermont. Goddard is a progressive education inspired school where the student gets to direct their own curriculum. At the time Goddard had a recording studio, a jazz program, private lessons, and classes focusing on songwriting and current music. After struggling through much of his scholastic career, Scott found his inner student within this new approach to learning. “I discovered that I love learning and pushing myself. I had been pushing myself and learning by playing 8 hours a day but not everyone saw it that way. At Goddard I dove in headfirst. I was taking Jazz courses, private lessons in guitar, drums and songwriting, working in the recording studio…after my courses were done I would stay in the music building until 1 in the morning practicing with bands or by myself. I was consistently playing in 3 or 4 bands. I started making big strides musically.”
Soon after graduating from Goddard with a focus in composition and performance, Scott moved to upstate New York in the vicinity of St. Lawrence University. He started playing bass in a hip hop band and met Matt Burr who introduced him to Grace Potter. Together, the 3 of them formed Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. Grace was performing solo sets at little coffee shops and Burr and Tournet started accompanying her by playing quietly. Soon, Scott and Matt started turning Grace onto music that they were inspired by like The Band, Little Feat, Led Zeppelin, soul music, funk, blues, and roots music. They got her to trade in her modern keyboard for a Hammond B-3 organ and started to push the music into what became the GPN sound.
For the next decade Grace, Matt, and Scott rode the wave of success. They started selling out shows regionally and soon signed with a booking agency and record label. They soon found themselves touring nationally and internationally with acts like Robert Plant, Mavis Staples, The Black Crowes, The Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, and many others. They played Leno, Letterman, Fallon, Conan, Ellen, Good Morning America, etc. Their songs showed up on TV shows, movies, and commercials. They started their own festival, Grand Point North that hosted acts like The Flaming Lips, The War On Drugs, Lake St. Dive, Warren Haynes, etc. They made records with T-Bone Burnett, Jim Scott (Tom Petty, Johnny Cash), Dan Auerbach, Mark Batson, Michael Brauer, Rich Costa, etc. They performed for and met President Obama, Bernie Sanders, and two governors of Vermont.
For Scott, the career success had been satisfying but after a decade he began longing for new challenges. “We unfortunately agreed to open for Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw in football stadiums for a summer. It was a terrible fit and we only got to play for 30 minutes a show. Between stuff like that and only making an album every 3 years, I started to get creatively out of shape. We were always on the road and so many days were spent in airplanes or on the set of a TV show where we would wait around all day and then play music for 5 minutes. Also, our “appearance” began to become more important than the music. One day I woke up and realized that I was very far away from who I was when I was at Goddard. I wanted to get back to music and what made me love it so much”.
Soon after this, Scott made the difficult decision to leave the band he helped build and abandon financial security and career certainty for the hope of rediscovering the joy of music and creativity. He took a few much needed months off from the road in his sunny home studio in San Diego and started delving into the music he left behind when he left Goddard. Afrobeat, experimental and psychedelic music, latin music, jazz, and more started showing up in his compositions. Soon he had uncovered songs like he had never heard before. He called it World Beat Rock & Roll. Elektric Voodoo was formed shortly thereafter and continues to this day.
Throughout this journey, Scott had periodically put out solo albums (Next To Canada ’03, Everyone You Meet Is Fighting A Hard Battle ’07, and Ver La Luz ’12) and produced albums for other artists and bands as well.