Scott Riggan is a songwriter and world traveler who creates real music for real people. “More than ever before, I’m writing the songs that I personally need to hear,” explains Scott. “I’m at a stage of life that’s marked by looking back and cataloging my successes and failures, hopes and dreams and regrets. It’s a deep reservoir for writing songs that are specific to me as an artist – but that also resonate with other people.
In his long career as an indie artist, Scott has toured the globe (four continents and counting!) playing his music for new friends far and wide. He’s had a #1 hit on Christian radio (along with other Top 20 songs) and received honors from the Dove Awards and the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.
A worship pastor in Idaho, Scott lives on a small ranch with his family. After a long break from songwriting, he began releasing music again in 2021 (Beautiful and Terrible). His upcoming project Bright Hope drops on June 9 2023.
TRACK 1: BRIGHT HOPE
The entire Bright Hope album is rooted in anticipation; we may be in dark times now, but we know that the morning will come, and at last, all will be well.
TRACK 2: WE WILL FEAST IN THE HOUSE OF ZION
This is a song for anyone who has had to endure.
“We Will Feast in the House of Zion” is an anthem of hope – based on the certainty that God – Who has always been faithful – will continue to be faithful. It’s this confidence that gives us the strength to wait.
I once read that “perseverance is courage stretched out” – and I think that’s true. It takes courage to hold on and to not lose hope.
In Scripture, “Zion” refers to Israel and, more specifically, Jerusalem and the hill upon which the city is situated. The house of Zion is understood as the dwelling place of God; it is a refuge and a safe home for His people.
When she wrote this song, I suspect Sandra McCracken was thinking of Psalm 126:
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. (Psalm 126:1-3)
First, the waiting.
Then, at last, the feast.
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:6-8)
This calls for a party!
Our Lord will “swallow up death forever” and “wipe away the tears” and “remove his people’s disgrace.”
So let’s persevere until that day. And then, we will feast!
TRACK 3: GOODNESS OF GOD
You’ve probably sung this song at your church.
Maybe you’ve heard it on the radio (or Spotify, or however people hear music nowadays…).
Whenever I cover a familiar song, I love to come up with some new way to approach the arrangement. So I went for something a bit different for this one.
There was a time in the late 60’s and early 70’s when the same musicians and producers often recorded the tracks for both country artists and R&B/soul artists. As a result, for that brief period of time, there was a lot of overlap between these genres. And you often didn’t know which kind of artist you were listening to until you heard the singer.
I approached “Goodness of God” with that era in mind. The track is built around a classic electric guitar sound, electric piano, organ, funky bass and a very “tight” drum kit. No synthesizers or programing or loops. All old-school southern soul.
And when it was time to add background vocals, I thought it would be fun to channel the Pips (i.e. Gladys Knight and the Pips). I have a few of those records on vinyl (so, so good), and I really enjoy the way those guys would respond to the lead vocal – sometimes answering Gladys’ question, or repeating what she just sang (or just singing like a train whistle – “woo woo!” on Midnight Train to Georgia).
My favorite vocal moment in “Goodness of God” happens in Verse 2:
LEAD VOCAL: In darkest night…
PIPS: In the night!
In fact, the reason the song has a full 60-second outro was because I kept coming up with fun little background vocal ideas and just wanted someplace to use them.
TRACK 4: ENOUGH FOR YOU (THE MAP SONG)
Do you ever wish God would just spell things out?
Show you His plans?
Or shine a light on your next steps?
Maybe drop a few hints?
Offer some clues?
Instead, He says: “My grace is sufficient for you.”
Okay. I know that this basically just means “chill out and trust Me – you’ll get where you need to go.” But…
…I still kinda want a map.
TRACK 5: BOUND TO COME SOME TROUBLE
Some of you know how much I admire the late singer/songwriter Rich Mullins. While he was one of the most influential Christian artists of the 80’s and 90’s, he was also an entirely unpredictable “ragamuffin” of a man who was unafraid to be vulnerable, and who spoke of God’s grace with deep wonder and amazement.
His song “Bound To Come Some Trouble” was first released in 1989, but to me it feels as if it could’ve been written for this very moment we’re living in.
The lyrics are compassionate but honest, declaring that, while hardship and heartache are inevitable, we can “reach out to Jesus and hold on tight / He’s been there before and He knows what it’s like / And you’ll find He’s there.”
The bridge is my favorite part:
People say maybe things will get better
People say maybe it won’t be long
People say maybe you’ll wake up tomorrow
And it’ll all be gone
But I only know that maybes just ain’t enough
When you need something to hold on…
My production approach was to keep the track lean – just Rhodes piano, electric guitar, bass and drums, leaving a lot of room for the song to breathe and for the listener to soak in the 70’s soft-rock vibe.
I hope you are encouraged by this song, and that it brings you the same comfort that it gives to me.
TRACK 6: SHADOWLANDS
While this song is upbeat, the subject matter is pretty serious. Making our way through life can be so difficult – and we often only have enough light to glimpse the next step or two ahead.
I picture a foggy night in an unfamiliar city. I’m trying to find my way home.
The shadows are long, the light is dim – diffused by smoke and fog – and I suspect there are unknowable threats just out of sight, down darkened alleys and in the deep shadows.
But I don’t lose heart, because I know the morning will come.
The acclaimed writer C.S. Lewis was on my mind when I wrote this song:
“God loves us, so He makes us the gift of suffering. Through suffering, we release our hold on the toys of this world, and know our true good lies in another world. We’re like blocks of stone, out of which the sculptor carves the forms of men.
The blows of his chisel, which hurt us so much, are what make us perfect. The suffering in this world is not the failure of God’s love for us; it is that love in action.
For believe me, this world that seems to us so substantial is no more than the shadowlands. Real life has not begun yet.”
Similarly, the Apostle Paul writes:
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
TRACK 7: AFTER THE SHIPWRECK
“After the Shipwreck” is – let’s be honest – kind of a bummer.
It’s sad. Really sad. I tried to counter that heaviness with a somewhat jaunty musical production (I call it a “demented sea shanty”).
I struggled with whether or not I should try to make the lyric more hopeful, but in the end, I felt like it was best to just leave it alone.
My hope is that the song will resonate with anyone who has known grief and heartache, and that it will feel less like “wallowing in sorrow” and more like “Hey, someone else knows how I’ve felt!”
There’s something powerful in “being seen” – the comfort in knowing you’re not alone.
Throughout history, believers have found consolation in the naked honesty of many of the Psalms. King David writes of his own anguish in Psalm 69:
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Return of the King, Frodo’s words near the end of the book are striking:
“No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark, Sam, and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I begin to see it even with my waking eyes, and all else fades.”
Both of these passages resonate strongly with me; I know those feelings. I’ve felt that desperate and wretched emptiness; the certainty that no good thing will ever come again for me.
May you be comforted by knowing that someone else knows how it feels to grieve. You are not alone.
TRACK 8: DOWN IN THE LOWLANDS
Baked in to my philosophy of Producing An Album is what I call the “Cilantro Principle.”
I love cilantro. It’s so good in salsa, or in homemade soup, or sprinkled on enchiladas. In moderation, cilantro is awesome.
But nobody ever sits down and eats a bowl of cilantro.
Every time I make a record, I usually include a song or two that are really different from the rest of the music – something to spice things up and keep the songs from running together.
This is my “Cilantro Principle.”
The “cilantro” on my new Bright Hope album? That would be “Down in the Lowlands.”
The song fits thematically with the rest of the project – songs of personal shipwreck and rescue – but it stretches the musical borders quite a bit. And that’s on purpose.
The lyric is based on Psalm 69, in which David so vividly uses the metaphor of drowning to write about his fears (“Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up”).
TRACK 9: NOT RIGHT NOW
The wonderful artist Jason Gray wrote this one. I first met Jason in 2007 while in Nashville for some music biz stuff. He was an indie artist whose songs were really amazing, and my Bring Glory album had just been released nationwide by the record company I was signed to at the time.
I was struck by how unconcerned Jason seemed to be with appearing to be cool; these music biz events can be brutal, and while people talk to you, they all seem to be looking over your shoulder – presumably looking for someone more important to talk to.
But Jason was genuinely nice and easy to talk with, and we hung out for a few days with our mutual buddy, Staci Frenes.
About this song: Why is it that our first impulse is to try to “fix” someone who is hurting?
We offer advice or scripture, or we tell them about our own experiences. And we’re in such a hurry for them to heal from their sorrow or grief.
“Not Right Now” suggests that we hold off on the “help” while someone is in the thick of heartache, instead choosing to just be present. My favorite part of the song says:
While I wait for the smoke to clear
You don’t even have to speak
Just sit with me in the ashes here
And together we can pray for peace
To the one acquainted with our grief
TRACK 10: WHAT REMAINS
This is the one.
This song kind of broke me, and then sort of helped me heal.
I was pretty sure that I was done as a songwriter. Writing has always been hard work for me, but over the years my “creative muscles” seemed to have atrophied from lack of use. Busy with doing life, I rarely made time to create, and as a result, I had – almost without noticing – lost something precious.
And then the line “I know so much less than I used to” presented itself, and I realized that I still have some things to say. And, even more, I began to recognize that songwriting is, for me, a means of processing and coming to understand myself.
As it turns out, “What Remains” is probably the most honest lyric I have ever written. When I wrote the lines:
I thought by now I’d never fail You
Progress in unbroken procession
But in the death of pride and virtue
I’ve felt the birth of real compassion
I looked down at the page and actually felt as if I’d been punched in the gut; I had to lie down for a minute (I know that sounds hopelessly dramatic, but whatever).
First off, it’s absolutely true that my personal failures have done a number on my own stubborn self righteousness, and as a result I have much more empathy for other losers like me.
But here’s the thing that floored me: I didn’t even know any of this about myself (on a conscious level) until I wrote it down.
There’s an alchemy at work in the discipline of rhyme and meter and theme and craft, and the subconscious is always laboring behind the scenes in its sneaky and cunning way. And I guess I need this creative process as a way into figuring things out in my life.
So I’m back to being a songwriter, apparently.