Brantford's Pioneer of Sound
A discussion with the acclaimed Scott B. on his musical career.
Maichina Veri, January 30, 2023 // Brantford, Ontario Scott Bradshaw on the corner of Murray Street and Colborne Street, Brantford, Ontario. Photo credit Sarah Evans.
The Toronto neighbourhood of Queen West is a vibrant hub for arts and culture. Featuring the Queen West Art Crawl, Trinity Bellwoods Park, The Drake Hotel, hip restaurants, bustling cafes and indie boutiques, all between Simcoe Street and Bathurst Street, this is an artsy destination for anyone heading to The 6ix. In 1981, Brantford musician Scott Bradshaw, who performs as Scott B., found himself in the Queen West music scene. During his time there in the ’80s and ’90s, he would be credited with bringing forward a new sound in Canadian music. BTOWN had the privilege of chatting with the critically acclaimed pioneer of sound for this article.
Scott B. lived in Toronto for about 35 years and during his time there he was a staple in several bands including Groovy Religion, Stratochief, Massey-Harris and, of course, Scott B. Sympathy. “I had to get to Toronto because there was so much happening down there that I just wanted to be part of it,” Scott B. says. “It was very friendly. There were all kinds of bands and they all kind of had their own sound. It was a great scene. People would lend each other gear and help each other with gigs. People would get together for fun and play with each other outside of their own band. And that was original for Toronto, it wasn’t going on in the rest of the country.”
Candid photoshoot with Scott B. Sympathy. Photo credit Sarah Evans.
During this time, when bands wanted to put out music, they had to book recording time in studios because there wasn’t much for home recording equipment. This is how Scott B. Sympathy recorded the albums Neil Yonge Street and Drinking With the Poet – both of which have been recently re-mastered and re-issued. “I was living in Brantford and I felt really out of touch with my old scene in a way, and then in the middle of the pandemic I just found out that Curve Music in Toronto wanted to re-release the first two albums and re-master them. It was amazing for me because I started to remember this is who I was – this is who I am – and it felt like getting out there again. It really made a lot of difference. I was pretty proud of the fact that records that are 30 years old would get re-issued.”
When listening to these albums, you can hear the unique sound that Scott B. helped pioneer in Canada. Classified as Americana/roots, this hybrid sound of rock and roll, country, punk and folk was inspired by working with friends and other musicians, like Scott B.’s mentor singer-songwriter Willie P. Bennett. Scott B.’s musical talent and taste ranges (he began his career in The Wages, a punk rock group, but more recently has played in Massey-Harris, an acoustic folk-country ensemble). He also enjoys pop music and rock, though he says he hasn’t had his mind blown from rock music since first listening to Nirvana. All this to say, Scott B. is able to develop new sounds in music by combining his influences. “I just got friends and players that I liked from the scene that played in strange rock bands, or not so strange rock bands, and we just kind of put it together,” Scott B. explains. “It just happened. I think it was because the variety of music that was being played on Queen Street and how it was a very social scene as well. We mixed the genres.”
Scott demonstrating his instrumental lyricism. Photo credit Sarah Evans.
Scott B.’s music isn’t just sound, it’s lyrics too. These days his songs are mostly about people he’s met, stormy weather and waxing poetic about being on earth. He sometimes has different messages in his songs, but finds the audience will always relate to his music in their own way. With all of his experience, Scott B. says the best songs are the ones that come quick. Willie told him to keep his music conversational, and Scott B. agrees. “One thing I try to remember is keep it simple and not overcomplicate things. Keep the melodies simple and keep the words clear.”
Looking back, Scott B.’s favourite songs he’s written include “Drinking With the Poet” and “Mohawk Road” – the latter being a distinctly Brantford song. While living in Toronto, Scott B. says his heart was in Brantford. “All the years that I was living in Toronto, I still had great affection for my hometown,” he says. “You can never really take the small town out of the boy, so even though I was in Toronto, a certain amount of my heart was here.”
Scott Bradshaw in a moment of quiet reflection. Photo credit Sarah Evans.
Scott B. currently resides on the outskirts of Brantford. He admits he hasn’t seen much of the music scene in the city, but he did participate in the ChevyCat Music Songwriter Rounds last August at The Rope Factory. “I really enjoyed playing at The Rope Factory because it was in the old cordage building and my dad worked there before the war, so that was interesting.” Further to that he says, “That was a fantastic show. There were some good songwriters. I like that kind of thing where you just play a song and you wait for the next person to sing and you jam along with it. I like doing that a lot.”
Being back in Brantford after living in Toronto is strange for Scott B., but he says that Brantford has so much potential. He plans to make another recording soon and is looking forward to booking a couple of cool gigs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maichina Veri is a writer based in Brantford, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Montreal’s Concordia University and has a background in Journalism – Print from Niagara College.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Born on a frigid winter's night, Sarah Evans knew early on that the only way to warm her soul was through art. During her time studying Film and Video Production at York U, Sarah discovered her love for photography and has been shooting ever since. Other things Sarah has done is worked on film and television sets, painted a terrible mural in high school, opened a floral business and bitten into a paintball (it wasn't a chocolate covered blueberry!).