Terry Scott Jr got to experience every musician’s dream in 1970, when he performed with his band Heaven in front of 600,000 spectators at the Isle of Wight Festival along with rock legends Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck.
After its acclaimed debut album Brass Rock 1 in 1971, Heaven embarked on a European tour, opening for Jeff Beck.
Mr Scott Jr’s career was on the up. But contrary to expectations, he chose to settle in France, where he has been living now for 51 years.
The decision to relocate was prompted by his marriage to Karine Jeantet, an actress who formerly worked with film directors François Truffaut and Michel Piccoli before taking up a job at the Crazy Horse cabaret in Paris.
Does a British person who has lived in France for so long qualify as French?
It seems so when you learn about Mr Scott Jr’s trajectory, ongoing career, and partnerships with some of France’s most popular musicians... and his opinion of British expats.
Having settled in Orbec in Normandy, he has experienced the two colours that define this region – the green of the cultivated fields of inner Calvados, its Livarot cheese and Calvados bottles, and the blue horizon of coastal Bernières-sur-Mer.
In Normandy he achieved outstanding musicianship through the songs he wrote, by touring the region, and in releasing records.
His latest album, called Terry Scott Jr, is a tribute to his origins.
He told The Connexion he has always written songs in this way.
“It is not a French thing, not an English thing, not an American thing. It is just where I am,” he said.
Why did you choose to settle down in France?
I ended the tour and was about to dissolve Heaven.
I met Nino Ferrer and other show business people in Saint-Tropez who told me that CBS France wanted to give me a solo contract.
They introduced me to William Sheller, and we co-wrote my first single.
A year later, I met my future wife. Basically, that was it.
Why did you choose Normandy? What was the appeal?
I was living in Paris and performed gigs in some American cocktail bars for ten years.
It was successful but took a lot of my energy and I wanted to live in a country house and go back to my music.
I needed a rest and bought my maison secondaire, which eventually became my main home after I had had enough of my busy life in Paris in 1995 and 1996.
Why Orbec in Calvados? It is inland, with tractors, hay, cows, Calvados and Livarot cheese. I spent my childhood there so understand the appeal, but why did you not choose somewhere near the Channel like many Brits do?
(Laughs) I was driven out by the taupes (moles.)
We lived in Meulles, between Orbec and Vimoutiers, but when we could, my wife and I used to drive to the nearest beach in Houlgate.
We always wanted a house right on the beach.
Our new house in Bernières-sur-Mer is 600 metres from the beach, which is fine.
Do you still have Livarot cheese and Calvados in your cupboards?
Absolutely. Absolutely. All of the farmers’ stuff. Not this rubbish that you buy in the supermarket.
What is your experience of touring in Normandy?
It is great. I was really afraid after leaving Orbec because I had my circle of musicians and wondered whether I would lose all my contacts and not be able to play on stage again.
Instead, I have found so many musicians in Bernières-sur-Mer. It is unreal.
Every day musicians come round to practice with me. Some even come on tour with me. I have discovered a lot of blues bands with musicians that fit right in with my sort of country-rock style – something between Dire Straits, Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton.
I’m talking seriously good guitar, banjo and accordion players that I did not encounter in Orbec.
How did the collaboration with popular French singer-songwriter William Sheller go? As British and French musicians, how did you successfully bring together your different musical worlds?
Well, William Sheller has Canadian and Scottish origins, if I remember correctly. He was very much into The Beatles and George Martin.
His background was very classical, whereas I was a ballad singer. He wanted someone English to adapt Lux Aeterna, one of his operas.
I provided an adaptation of the lyrics.
It was a mutual understanding of the same big ballads, the sort of gospel records which we both bought and loved.
I also worked on a song with Tom Arena, who collaborated with William Sheller for Les Irrésistibles (a 70s boy band).
Tom had written the words, and William the music.
Strangely enough, it is the song for the latest James Bond film, sung by French star Dalida.
Do you agree with John Lennon when he said that French rock is like English wine... bad?
Noooo. I mean, there’s a hell of a lot of bad music in England! I
love Francis Cabrel, Alain Bashung, Jacques Higelin, Georges Brassens, Edith Piaf, and Françoise Hardy. (Editor’s note: Most of these are known for their chansons françaises, rather than rock anthems.) Alain Bashung was a great rebel,
Jacques Higelin as well (a friend of mine by the way).
Nino (Ferrer, a French singer-songwriter) wrote a couple of silly songs, like the one with the cornichons, but he really helped me out.
He produced a record with me.
How do you find the community in Normandy? You are practically French, having lived here for 51 years...
There are different kinds of Brits.
Expats often do not mix with the French, they watch Sky television. If they had no Sky, I think most of them would have left already. They don’t speak the language. I feel sorry for them because there is so much culture here.
They think English humour is the only humour in the world. They cannot believe that the French make jokes. Some of them are so closed.
I do not go out with a lot of English people. I prefer to go out with the French.
Going back to the Isle of Wight festival in 1970. Did you get to meet Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck?
I met Hendrix backstage in our caravans, he was a gentleman.
He asked me to share a caravan with some man. Turns out it was Leonard Cohen.
I thought we would get to jam with him but he slept all day (laughs).
It was such a shock as a 21 year old.
Walking on stage in front of 600,000 people was something really special that I will never forget.
Can we expect more tours from you this summer?
I have some gigs coming up in June and July around Orbec. I’m doing a festival on July 28 in Bernières-sur-Mer.
The album just came out and got really good reviews, so I’ve got to get out there and perform.
Has France changed the way you write songs? Do you still connect with your British roots?
I don’t know if the influence is British to be honest, because I listen to more American music than English. And I have done so for years now.
My lyrics are just everyday thoughts of my life.
It is not a French thing, not an English thing, not an American thing.
It is just where I am. I write ballads, but I am going back to writing rock songs.
In fact I’m writing more now than ever before.