Musical Rooms

November 15, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 93: Mike Scott

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 9:44 pm
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“I used to write and play anywhere – bedroom, living room, kitchen, street – until I set up my first music room in 1988, when I was 29. It was in a house on a hill overlooking Galway Bay. The view was incredible but once I started singing and playing I’d forget all about it; the only landscape that mattered was the one in my head. I finished writing The Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues album in that room and since then I’ve set up a music room in every place I’ve lived: twelve of them in all, including Baile an tSleibhe, Waterloo Rd, Hudson St., Kilmashogue Lane, Marine Cottage, Lansdowne Road, No. 69, No. 72, Primrose Hill, Broombank, Raglan Lane – of which the current one is the best.

It’s an extension of a mews house in south Dublin city. My wife and I have a home in Scotland but we’re in Dublin for a year while I develop my Appointment With Mr Yeats project, a show The Waterboys are doing at the Abbey Theatre in March 2010, for which I’ve turned around 20 of WB Yeats’ poems into songs. The music room is at the rear of the house, reached by a glass hallway, and feels quite separate from the rest of the building, giving it a removed atmosphere.

The command posts are my electric piano, which is plugged into to a Fender guitar amp and a large desk on which my computer sits. I do all my home recording here using Apple’s Garageband system, which I prefer to Pro-tools (less mental energy is involved running the system, freeing up my mind for music). I have guitars, a bouzouki, a mandolin, various drums, tambourines and sleighbells, two speaker systems (KRKs and Yamaha NS10s) and a couple of huge boxes of Venetian masks that got worn on the last Waterboys tour.

There are a couple of cupboards; one’s full of books, sound effects CDs and tapes; the other contains effects pedals. I love Electro Harmonix pedals: the Pog, the Hog, the Stain, the Wiggler. They sound as great as their names and I spend many psychedelic hours sticking keyboards and guitars through them.

The floor is wood but I’ve covered it with eastern carpets purchased in that famous and most exotic bazaar, Dunne’s Stores in the Stephens Green shopping centre. The room is well-lit, with about a dozen bright ceiling lights. The family who rented us the house used this space as their office, and the bright lights suit me – I’ve no patience with working in shadowy, dingy places where I can’t see what I’m doing. I like atmospheric lights on stage, not in my music room.

The Waterboys sometimes rehearse here if we’re preparing for an acoustic show, though we could squeeze a drummer in too, I guess. And Steve Wickham and I are doing the string arranging for the Yeats’ show here, the two of us sitting together at the desk sorting the manuscripts on our computers. He’s a trained reader who went to music college, and works beautifully fast. I taught myself to read and write music only a few years ago, and though I compose quickly, it takes me a day to write out a page of manuscript.

I don’t work specific times; I just get in here whenever I have a ‘go’ feeling, which is most days. I used to stay up working all night but now I prefer to work only when I’m fresh and at my peak. I make less mistakes, keep my perspective, and it’s easier to stay “on” all the time. In common with all my music rooms just the fact of the room itself enhances the creativity. I only have to walk in to feel stuff start happening. That’s the beauty of it: a dedicated space where alchemy happens.”

Mike Scott is the founder of The Waterboys, a band who have released hugely successful albums like A Pagan Place (1984), This Is the Sea (1985) and Room to Roam (1990). They are probably best known for their 1988 album, Fisherman’s Blues. Scott has also released two solo records to date and his next project is An Appointment with Mr Yeats, a show fusing the poetry of W.B. Yeats and the music of The Waterboys. The WB Yeats show runs for five nights from Monday March 15th, 2010 to Friday March 19th, 2010 on Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. Scott also plays a solo gig on Saturday, November 28th at the Clyde Auditorium, (part of Scotland’s SECC complex) in Glasgow. For more information, visit

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  1. A very special room for a very special musician. Thank you Mike!

    Comment by Helen — November 20, 2009 @ 6:12 pm |Reply

  2. Hello Mike,

    My mother was born in Donegal, Ireland and I was born in Los Angeles. I have listened to your band on and off for years. Very special music!! My mom is a Yeats fan and I have been to his grave site. I will let her know about the event next year, but I am not sure it would be good for an 80+ year-old. If at some point you need a break and have an inkling to travel to the south of Portugal, The Algarve, to a very quiet house by the sea, let me know. I can forward pics. and location details in advance. Keep up the good work and someday hope to see the band play live. Take care.


    Comment by Adrian Gauthier — November 21, 2009 @ 4:58 pm |Reply

  3. Thank you for sharing your talent and work. I love your music and voice. My favorite song is “The Whole of the Moon”. I have the CD and the music video. I have probably listened to this song and watched the video a least a hundred times. I have other CDs and love them as well. Thank you for ALL of your work.

    Comment by Sharon Moore — November 21, 2009 @ 8:20 pm |Reply

  4. Rooms give something back when you appreciate them
    Trains give something back when you appreciate them
    Human beings give something back when you appreciate them
    Though the last named is not always mutual.

    Comment by Fien — November 22, 2009 @ 6:43 pm |Reply

  5. Just as Sharon says, thankyou for sharing your music and your work. It’s nice to be able to picture where the alchemy happens. Both my wife and i drift away to your music regularly. Our wedding song was ‘Strange Boat’. At this moment i am in the middle of the ocean thinking about getting home because waterboys are playing. One minute i’m back in a pub in Ireland with ‘when ye go away’ short while later i’m with my wife listening to strange boat. Thats a nice way to spend the afternoon when you’ve been so far away for so long. So there you go thats how i spend the gold, my thanks to you.

    Comment by Andrew — December 14, 2009 @ 2:43 pm |Reply

  6. Have seen u many a time
    Takes me right back and forth when I hear your songs
    My ears have suffered from the odd live show
    but what the hell as I am getting on and dont need to hear everything these days
    My daughter and I will be there Paddy’s Eve enjoying yourselves
    Keep up the process of change
    Always await with curiousity your next move
    All the best

    Comment by james d — February 9, 2010 @ 8:22 pm |Reply

  7. Saw Mr Yeats at the abbey. Brilliant. Thanks Mike for for illuminating a true Irish and world hero.

    Comment by Denis — March 22, 2010 @ 10:52 am |Reply

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