When you encounter Scott Marshall, it quickly becomes clear how passionate he is about his craft. The singer-songwriter has worked hard to become a local mainstay, and is well-known across the Valley for his work with his two bands, Marshall’s Highway and The Hillbilly Souls. A veteran of the Lehigh Valley music scene, Scott added to his many accolades this March, going home with nine Lehigh Valley Music Awards for 2016.
Through it all, Scott has remained humble, grateful, and willing at a moment’s notice to give back to his community. Tonight, Marshall’s Highway will take the stage at Bethlehem’s Musikfest Café to present “Sounding Out Against Heroin,” a benefit concert featuring special guests to raise awareness of the addiction problems plaguing our society. Doors open for dinner at 6 p.m., with showtime at 7:30.
Scott sat down to answer some questions from Lehigh Valley Underground, and his answers were what you would expect: genuine, down-to-earth, and with his community always in mind.
Tell us about some of the work you’ve done in the past with ArtsQuest.
It’s kind of a funny, fairytale story. My work with ArtsQuest began at Musikfest a few years back, writing and playing my songs wherever I could find work. I had been playing and paying dues for years throughout the Valley and beyond, and I was always a big fan and patron of Musikfest for all the obvious reasons, but I had never played there. After putting a band together around a new batch of material I had written and recorded, we were seeing positive results from audiences. So, we submitted to perform at the festival. We heard back, and they told us they were adding a new stage to the festival called The Main Street Stage. They asked us if we wanted to perform a two-hour block. We were very excited and honored, so of course, we said yes. Like we still do, we all began promoting the show very hard to all of our friends and fans.
On the second night of the festival, we began receiving messages from friends and fans telling us that the stage was in a great location, just down from one of my favorite stages behind The Sun Inn. However, they told us that it was very small. Of course, I had plans to go visit the festival prior to our performance, so I checked out this brand-new stage myself. Sure enough, it was small. Regardless, I was just as excited as I was the day they asked us to play, because there were hundreds of people throughout the streets, and a great little three-piece Americana band doing their thing, with two hanging floodlights for lights. I still had every intention of taking my six-piece band there and doing what we do. We wanted to make this show a memorable one, because this was a great opportunity for a local, original singer-songwriter. So, in my mind it was still like Madison Square Garden. *laughs*
On the night of the show, we had a great turnout. Halfway through the performance, several hundred people were gathered in front of that stage. The response was overwhelming. A lot of them had never heard us, but had no choice to stop and listen because the street was blocked both ways. It was very humbling and satisfying, if you know what I mean.
We received tons of messages from folks in the following days and months. The following year, ArtsQuest offered us one of the largest stages. Since then, we’ve played various stages and events for them. Whenever they feel what I have to offer might be suitable for something, they reach out. *laughs*
I’m truly grateful for that first opportunity they gave me, and for the opportunities they continue to give. It’s a relationship that’s working for both of us and, most importantly, the fans. The fans are everything in this business, at every level, and ArtsQuest has played a significant role in cultivating and growing me as a local artist. That’s something I’m just as thankful for as the fans are.
How did Sounding Out Against Heroin come to fruition?
It’s a very sad story, but one that has motivated me to continue Sounding Out as I’ve been. Last year, a lifelong friend and former bandmate, David (Dave) Arey, lost his 18-year-old son, Shane David Arey, to addiction and an overdose. After the funeral, he, his ex-wife, and I discussed putting a benefit concert together to help them and another family bury their children and raise awareness. We recruited other folks to help us organize and, with the help of many other wonderful folks, we did just that. It was very successful on many levels.
I made a promise to both of them to continue to be a voice on the matter at all of my shows. The response I get time and time again is overwhelming. People tell me their stories and thank me for talking about it so openly. Awareness has been my mission from day one. I want to get and keep people talking, and use all the opportunities that are given to me as a singer, songwriter and entertainer. I don’t care where I’m at or who I’m performing for, because this crisis knows no class or race boundaries.
At the beginning of this year, ArtsQuest and I discussed my own night headlining the one and only Musikfest Café. When we agreed on the date, I was reminded of last year’s awareness event, and I knew what I wanted to do with this amazing opportunity. I had not heard any talk about putting on another event like last year’s, so I decided to reach out to my former bandmate once again with my intentions. He was very happy. My heart confirmed it was the right decision, when more than a month later in February, we lost more local kids to this terrible drug.
We’re using this show to continue paying it forward, like we always try to do with the different charities we support. We’re making this an awareness concert event. Guest performers are joining me and the band, and guest speakers from various organizations throughout the Valley who try to help those suffering with addiction problems are will be our guests. We’ve invited some of the families who have lost loved ones to addiction.
What does this cause mean to you?
After answering the last question, I hope you know just how much this cause means to me. Over the years, I’ve lost other friends to addiction, and could certainly tell you quite a few stories. From time to time, I’ve shared some pretty personal experiences on social media. It’s something I’ve seen and dealt with first-hand on the front lines, from the street, to the stage, and everywhere in between.
In the last few years, it’s gotten even more personal for me. I’ve done my fair share of research, and see lots of variables at work. Enough is enough, and that’s it. Again, awareness in its various forms is and will continue to be my contribution and battle cry, my song.
Tell us about some of the special guests appearing that night.
I decided to invite other local musicians to join us and play a few songs with my band. I want to show my fans and the music community in general that we all care about this cause. My lifelong friend and singer-songwriter David Perkin also knows what it’s like to lose friends over addiction. Our friends Tony and Joel from The Bombs will be sitting in with my brothers and bandmates from a successful band I was in during the 90’s called Sweet Tequila. Dave, who lost his son last year, was our guitar player. A guitar-pickin’ bluesman and Bethlehem Police Officer, Don Hoffman, will join us, and The Godfather himself, Mr. John Cannavo, will be playing his heart out as well.
What can people expect that night from Marshall’s Highway?
I really tried to put together a 3-hour show that definitely caters to the cause, shares a message and embraces all of the emotions and musical genres I’ve become known for. People will hear rock, country, blues, a little bluegrass, Motown, Gospel and who knows what else?
I get really excited when I’m able to go out with the full nine- or ten-piece version of The Highway. I’m so blessed to have such an amazing group of talented musicians I’m able to call brothers and bandmates. We really hope to give them an experience, with each song an opportunity to once again get to know me and the guys through our music.
Any additional comments?
Thank you for this opportunity to share with all of your readers and music fans, and for all that you do to support and promote our music scene and all of us artists. I thank God for the gifts and talents he’s given me, and for all of the opportunities to use them to serve everyone this way. Thank all of you, who continue to embrace and support my contributions to such a thriving music scene full of so many fantastic artists and musicians.