APPLE VALLEY â€¢ Scott Gates is in demand as a session mandolin player,
having played with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, recorded an album with Kenny
Loggins and formed two acoustic bluegrass bands of his own.
The kicker? The Apple Valley resident is just 16 years old.
Scott was born in Santa Clarita and began his musical career at the age of
three, fingering the notes to â€œMary Had a Little Lambâ€ on a toy piano.
After a stint with lessons on a real piano, focused mainly on hymns and
classical music, he dropped the instrument completely.
â€œI regret it now,â€ he said. â€œBut Iâ€™m going to pick it up again
Still, those classical roots come back to haunt him on occasion.
â€œI was playing (mandolin) with a harpist on the street in Ventura a couple
days ago and I started playing these classical songs,â€ he said. â€œI was
like whoa, I didnâ€™t realize I had these in my repertoire.â€
When Scott was seven he was at Disneyland with his parents watching Billy Hill
& the Hillbillies. He was enthralled by the mandolin player, who turned
out to be duo-style master Evan J. Marshall.
â€œAfter a show I walked up to him and asked him if he would teach me
mandolin,â€ Scott said.
Marshall agreed, and what started as one hour lessons every two weeks quickly
grew into three hours once or twice a week.
Scottâ€™s parents continued driving him down for lessons when he moved to
Apple Valley at 8 years old. Thatâ€™s also when Scott became friends with the
son of a Lost Highway Bluegrass Band member and fell in love with the genre
through the Huck Finn Festival.
At 13 Gates and his friends formed the Pacific Ocean Bluegrass Band, which was
more of a â€œmusic collectiveâ€ really, Scott said, with its young members
In 2007, the â€œcollectiveâ€ took top honors in the Topanga Banjo/Fiddle
Last summer Scott was invited to play with a friend at the Camarillo Airport.
Turned out he was joining Jonathan McEuen, son to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
founder, John McEuen.
After finishing the airport gig, Jonathan invited Scott to join him the next
â€œHe said, â€˜Iâ€™m going to be playing with my dad and my brother if you
want to come and pick.â€™ I didnâ€™t realize it was John McEuen until I got
Scott ended up playing with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band during last yearâ€™s
Huck Finn Jubilee.
Soon Gates and Nathan McEuen, who is 26 and has opened for David Crosby,
decided to make their own band. Bass player Chuck Hailes joined the group to
form the Gates McEuen Hailes Band.
Over the last year the acoustic bluegrass band has played shows in Memphis and
Nashville, done a tour around the southwest and is getting ready for another
Meanwhile Scottâ€™s earning his high school diploma online through
Philadelphia-based PennFoster.edu. He hopes to graduate through the
independent study program within the next six months.
â€œIâ€™m not going to be the Social Distortion rockstar who drops out of high
school and runs with it,â€ Scott said. â€œThereâ€™s so many people with crazy
pipe dreams and I really want to have something to fall back on.â€
Right now heâ€™s thinking that might include a career in environmental
studies, or maybe advertising â€” â€œsomething that I can make a good living
at,â€ he said.
â€œSome of the best advice Iâ€™ve ever gotten, and Iâ€™ve gotten a lot, is
â€˜Youâ€™re not going to be the cute little kid forever,â€™â€™ Scott said with
When asked how he recently snagged a gig recording songs on the latest Kenny
Loggins album, Scott said humbly, â€œIt was one of those things where this guy
knows this guy and this guy knows this guy...â€
Nathan McEuen showed Logginâ€™s producer a YouTube video of Scott and what
started as playing one break along with John McEuen, battling back and forth
between the mandolin and the banjo, grew to recording three or four songs.
â€œThe best part was when I left (Loggins) said, â€˜Weâ€™ll do it again
sometime,â€™â€ Scott said.
While his oldest brother Thomas is â€œcompletely tone deafâ€ â€” raising
three beautiful daughters, holding down three jobs and still making time to
play Airsoft with Scott â€” his other three siblings have all dabbled in
His brother Brandon played bass in a punk band as a teen, but has dropped the
hobby for dropping out of planes, doing military intelligence work for the
Dustinâ€™s still a great guitar player, Scott said, sticking to classic rock
â€” not Chicago classic rock, Scott clarifies, but more like â€œsome great
Chuck Berry licks.â€
And his sister Lorie, whoâ€™s married to an airman in Arizona, still sings in
Scott started singing a few years back, mainly because no one else wanted to
be â€œthe front guyâ€ for POB. Now heâ€™s taking lessons with a singing coach
in Hollywood and sings backup vocals with Nathan McEuen whenever he feels
Brenda Hough of Bluegrass Breakdown has said, â€œScottâ€™s vocals now match
his mandolin prowess.â€
Scott would love to become a songwriter, too. Heâ€™s penciled one so far about
a coal miner, but calls it â€œnothing special.â€
â€œI like the idea of getting my heart out there. But I really want to write
something thatâ€™s different and unique,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ve crumpled a lot
He also has a passion for Celtic music, as evidenced by his Dropkick Murphys
ringback tone. And he dreams of playing in an Irish pub where, heâ€™s been
told, people â€œshut up and pay attentionâ€ to good olâ€™ acoustic music.
When asked about his ultimate goal as a musician, Scott said, â€œI just kind
of want to make people happy, I guess. I know it sounds cheesy, but I want
people to have the same appreciation for music that I do.â€
Brooke Edwards may be reached at 955-5358 or at bedwards@VVDailyPress.com.