It started as a remarkable story no one could believe, and to say it has become the stuff of legend over the last 12 years wouldn’t be overstating the case. But one listen to Scott H. Biram’s music and it doesn’t seem so far-fetched that he would almost get killed by an 18-wheeler in a head-on collision and be back on stage a month later.
“It’s a little fuzzy since I was still on the Percocet, but I had a lot drive at the time,” Biram said, recalling the May 11, 2003 gig at The Continental Club in Austin, Texas. “I was building up my initial momentum for my musical career back then before that happened, so when I had the wreck, it was a really big bummer for me. It was like my career growth had been stunted. So I was really driven to get back and prove to everybody that I wasn’t giving up. So that wasn’t hard. Physically, they just rolled me in on the wheelchair, lifted the wheelchair up onto the stage, somebody helped me from the wheelchair to a chair and that was that.”
Sounds simple enough, but there was the issue of the broken right femur, the broken right foot, and the shattered left knee, a problem since Biram doesn’t have a backing band. He is the band.
“My left is what I stomp with,” he said. “And the doctor told me I probably shouldn’t stomp my foot. But I started playing and as soon as I started playing, it just started going and I couldn’t stop it. I don’t know how I did it.”
No one else does either, but it just shows that to Biram, there are no halfways in music. You’re either all in or all out, and the 41-year-old Texan has always been all in, whether playing in punk bands, bluegrass outfits, or doing his mix of seemingly everything on his own. And it’s as a solo artist that he’s truly found his home, even if he has occasionally thought of putting a band together again.
“That temptation’s always there and it’s always been there,” he said. “I like to fool around with the idea of different band names and stuff like that – it’s just fun. And I have some musicians I feel like I could really meld with and make a good band. It’s just that I know what happens in bands with egos and personal agendas. I hate having to find a new drummer all of a sudden. You have a great tour coming up and all of a sudden so and so can’t do it because he quit the band. It’s really stressful, and I do pretty well on my own. And I think because I’m a solo artist and I have such a big sound, it’s more impressive to people sometimes. It makes me feel proud to record whole records that sound like a full band and it’s just me doing everything.”
That is the best part of the Biram experience, which New Yorkers will get a taste of when he returns to the stage at the Mercury Lounge tonight. Let’s just say he makes a lot of noise for one man, and while that always fascinates people, these days fewer and fewer are focusing on the one man band concept, and they’re paying more attention to the songs and the music, with his latest album, Nothin’ but Blood, firing on all cylinders from start to finish.
“I think I get a lot more praise for my songwriting and my performance in general, than the novelty of being a one man band that I used to get,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got a lot more exposure in the last five or six years, and that’s helped too. A lot of people have already heard of me when I go somewhere, and that feels great. That was an uphill battle at the beginning, being a solo artist, but having as big of a sound that I do, and my booking agents over the years were trying to explain to promoters that haven’t heard me that I’m not a singer-songwriter guy on a stool with an acoustic guitar. One of my least favorite sounds in the world is the sound of a bad pickup in a cheap, acoustic guitar. (Laughs) That’s what I hear when someone says singer-songwriter.”
It would be difficult to marry the reality of Biram with the stereotypical singer-songwriter, especially with him blasting through the speakers with the ferocity of someone who somehow, someway, will annoy someone in the politically correct or easily offended camps.
“My radio play has probably suffered from my being a little brash or obnoxious, so I haven’t got as much radio play as I probably could have because a lot of my songs have at least one cuss word in it,” Biram said. “It’s what I do, so it’s not really an uphill battle or anything for me. I feel like life in general is an uphill battle. I guess that’s part of why I’m loud and in your face with the music. I’m overcoming anybody trying to tame me and make me politically correct. I’d rather just get my point across.”
That point does hit home with more folks than it doesn’t though, and he appreciates those who “get it.”
“I feel like I’m filling some people’s empty spots with what they’ve been looking for if they didn’t know they were looking for it,” he said. “I do get a lot of people saying stuff like ‘man, you helped me through my divorce,’ or ‘I’ve had a horrible time in the last year and a half but you got me through it.’ That makes me feel great. It makes me feel like I’m doing this for a reason other than just to pay the bills.”
So what is that reason?
“It’s built inside me,” Biram said. “It’s what I feel like I was put here to do. It’s what I know how to do best, and it’s therapy for me as well to get stuff off my chest. It’s exciting for me to have a song come together and turn it into something that people are asking for. It’s an exciting life. I love being in front of crowds and entertaining, getting a good laugh out of people, and feeling like a badass occasionally when I pull off a really good guitar lick. (Laughs) It’s been a decent living, monetarily, for me. I’m not rich or anything, but I definitely have a decent life and it’s nice to know that I can do something to support myself that’s not bagging groceries.”
Scott H. Biram plays the Mercury Lounge in NYC tonight, November 14. For tickets, click here