Scott Nolan said so many profound things during our 35-minute interview that it became increasingly evident that he is not just a musician. He is an artist searching for a deeper meaning in his music, painfully aware of injustices in the world and is using songwriting to bring light to those injustices.
Nolan credits music to saving him from a path that was littered with alcohol and trouble with the law. Rather than ending up in jail, Nolan sobered up by the time he was 20 and became consumed with music.
“It was just always a pretty steady focus. Music was always a thread throughout [my life].”
Years later, Nolan finally ended up in prison. Not as an inmate, but as a musician called to a place where his own blood — his own family — had started something that he needed to continue.
Nolan was asked to visit Folsom Prison, where his cousin spent the last 20 years of life, some of which in solitary confinement. Rather than going mad, as many would after spending years alone, Nolan’s cousin dedicated his last few years to bringing members of different racial gangs together and bringing the arts to corrections.
A Folsom Prison employee volunteered to film the songwriting workshop that Nolan led for a documentary chronicling the musician, Chasing A Song: Scott Nolan + Friends.
“There’s some attraction to prison [ . . . ] It’s kind of been glorified in television and film. I like the way it was [shown] in the film. It’s a real raw, powerful kind of moment, especially to hear these men’s songs.”
Where many may not be able to agree that inmates deserve these rights and Nolan is the first to point that out, he still argues that the arts is something to which they should be entitled.
“It’s all they have. I believe in my heart that living a creative life, to me, is a civil right. Nobody can take that away that from me and I don’t think they should be able to take that away from them.”
From here, Nolan naturally digresses to a discussion of musicians with a cause. Artists who don’t just produce albums for their own gain, or even for the love of their craft, but who allow their talent and their passion to better the world. Nolan passionately describes musicians he admires, many of whom hold charity events for causes that others may not find the time to think about.
“I can’t believe that they’re not throwing Junos at them. Where are those awards for these guys that are making everything around them better? [ . . . ] That’s what should be celebrated!” he exclaims.
“It’s the difference between being a legend and being a star.”
Still rooted in Winnipeg, Nolan is quick to praise the Prairie city, describing it as a blue-collar artist town.
“It was a great training ground. When I visit places like Nashville and Austin, TX, it’s just a reminder [that] every medium in art is so well represented in Winnipeg.”
Nolan hopes to continue the passion he has found for bringing art to inmates by bringing the cause to the correction facilities in his home province.
“Some people may find that it’s a strange cause to get behind. It came to me and just had such an impact on me that I can’t shake it.”
You can see Nolan’s experience in Folsom Prison in the film Chasing A Song: Scott Nolan + Friends on MTS On Demand. Watch the trailer below.
By Rachel Wood
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAzEk8nyJ-U&w=470&h=264]Manitoba, MB, Winnipeg