Welcome to the Conversation: Scott McCaughey of the Baseball Project

The Giants? Really Scott? Really?

Last time I talked to Scott McCaughey, we were battling poor cell reception in North Fricken Dakota, a lack of sleep (Scott), and a lack of voice (me). Yet we somehow managed to talk, email, and text our way through an interview. This time, thankfully, went much smoother. He’s a busy guy, splitting time between R.E.M., Baseball Project, Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows, Tired Pony, Tuatara, and tons more. Yet he still finds time to keep up with his beloved Giants. Amazing.

This Saturday will be the second time the Baseball Project has come to the 40 Watt. Teaming up with Peter Buck, Linda Pitmon, and Steve Wynn, McCaughey is on a Spring Training Tour that just happens to kick off here in Georgia, stopping at the Watt. The first go around brought a ton of surprises in the forms of Mike Mills, Patterson Hood, and Bill Berry clambering on stage, “Ghostbusters,” many Minus 5 and Steve Wynn songs, “Ghostbusters” again, and a whole lot more. So in advance of the show, I took some time to talk shop with Mr. McCaughey. And yes, he’s already got his fantasy team drafted.

AthensMusicJunkie: So it’s cold where you are.

Scott McCaughey: Yeah, it’s kinda nasty. No snow or anything. Just cold and windy and rainy. In the winter it’s cold in our basement and that’s where I tend to do my music work and stuff. I could go out and buy a couple of space heaters but that would actually entail me going and doing…that. (laughs)

AMJ: It takes up a lot of space in the practice room, I’ve found. You could always squeeze another amp in where that heater would be.

SM: Yeah! Exactly. (more laughing) Me, I’ve got a lot of records taking up all my room!

AMJ: So, the new album. There’s so much tragedy in these songs, it’s kinda depressing at times.

SM: (laughs) That’s what everybody wants from a record about baseball, right? But you’re right. It did turn out that way. It wasn’t really intentional but we did sort of begin to go “Man, there’s a lot of people getting messed up in these songs, you know?” They’re cool songs though. Our thing really isn’t about writing “Rah-Rah” that they can play in the stadiums. We may come up with one of those every once in a while but it’s really about things that appealed to us about baseball. The stories, the characters, and the history. You come across some strange and horrific things that have happened. Most of them make really good stories. We’re probably the kind of guys that like murder ballads and stuff like that. We haven’t really done that but we may. But the stories about Tony and Carl Mays and Ray Chapman, they’re really interesting stories we find. We don’t mean for them to be depressing. But baseball can be a depressing game.

AMJ: It was depressing for me this year. Braves fan.

SM: Ah, see, I’m a Giants fan. That was a good series though. I was chewing my arm off every one of those games. But the Braves look like they can be a good team this year.


AMJ: On that note, your other top contenders this year are…?

SM: Well, the Phillies are looking really good this year, I think Cin can be good again. I’m hoping the Giants could be in there again. The Rockies could give them trouble though. Boston’s looking really, really strong. I think Texas will be good again. And the A’s. The Twins kinda lost a lot, I hope they’ll be up there. But that’s just off the top of my head.

AMJ: How in the world do you manage to keep up with all this and all your bands?!

SM:(laughs) Well, you know, I probably pay attention to baseball more than I should but at least now I can say its part of my work. Baseball’s always been a sort of zen thing for me. I can zone out from all the other things on my plate. In the morning I can read my boxscores, it’s like my meditation or something. Now it’s just a bit different because I’m always thinking of songs for the baseball project. It’s kind of amazing how little time I feel like I spend on music sometimes despite the fact that I’m in all these bands. I spend so much more time writing emails to people about the bands like “Can you play this day” or “Let’s do this” and organizing sometimes I feel like “Just f*** this, I should be downstairs playing guitar!” I’m always thinking about writing songs. Getting to play is another thing entirely. It’s such a small percentage

AMJ: How do you go about finding the right stories to talk about?

SM: A lot of it is just something that comes to your attention. Sometimes I’m reading a book about baseball and I discover a strange story. I do read a lot of baseball books. I’m kind of a fanatic. I read a lot. Like last year, we did a series where each month we’d write about something that was happening in the present as the season went along. We were like journalists in a way, but trying to do it artfully. It was a lot of fun but a lot of work. We’re not doing it this year.(laughs)

AMJ: You’ve got quite the team assembled this go round on the record. A lot of guest stars…

SM: We found out a bit more about who else that we knew were actual baseball fans after the first album. We found more people as “geeky” as we were about baseball. You know, I’ve know Ben Gibbard a long time but I’d never have pictured him as a sports fan. And then I heard he was a total Mariners fan. We talked and found out he was writing a song about Ichiro and we were writing about Ichiro so we ended up trading songs and whatnot. Linda knew Craig was a Twins fan. I’ve known Ira Kaplan was a Mets fan so when we did “Buckner’s Bolero” I thought it’d be cool to have him on. Some of it was baseball inspired and some of it was just musically inspired.

AMJ: Which team would you like to perform the National Anthem for? (reader submitted question)

SM: I don’t know if I really want to perform the national anthem. I don’t know that I could do a very good job. Steve Wynn has done it before and I know Mike Mills has done it before and they don’t seem daunted by it. But I would be terrified to do it. It’s gonna come up though. People have already talked about us doing it. So I guess I’d want to do it in San Francisco or Oakland would be fun. Steve’s a Yankees fan but I dunno… It’d be scary doing it there. It’d be scary doing it anywhere really. It’s not the easiest song to sing.

AMJ: Last time you were here you played “Ghostbusters” twice. Any chance of a third time?

SM: We did?

AMJ: Sure did. I’ll make sure to send you the video.

SM: Oh yeah! That’s right. Yeah, that was a funny show. Yeah, don’t think we’ll be doing that one again. Got to do something different. We’ll come up with something hopefully entertaining for the encore. We’ve got a lot of friends in Athens so hopefully someone will come up and play with us.Our buddy Kevn is opening and it’s his birthday so that’ll be fun and it’s his birthday. But “Ghostbusters”? I dunno. You’ve already seen that so we’ll have to come up with something else. I think it’s gonna be a whole bunch of fun.

AMJ: Well thanks for chatting with us, Mr. McCaughey.

SM: Well thank you!

Saturday March 12
  40 Watt Club
presents
The Baseball Project
Support: Kevn Kinney & the Musical Kings
Door Time: 9 PM
Ticket Info: $15 Advance
Info + Links Tickets on sale at School Kids Records in
Athens and School Kids’ Charge-By-Phone
at 706.353.1666
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