Many master guitarists find their homes within a specific genre, perfecting the ins and outs of their chosen musical realm until their names become synonymous with the very art form.
Portland’s Scott Pemberton is not your average guitarist. He’s a musical nomad. His home isn’t in one comfortable bubble, but rather spread across genres. One moment, he’s shredding through the blues. Then next, he’s living in a classic rock world, or drifting melodically through an ethereal psychedelic plane. Maybe he’s leading a dirty funk jam, or experimenting with something heavier, or sitting back on a jazz odyssey.
Regardless of genre, though, Pemberton’s musical journey is marked by two unmistakeable realities: You always know when you’re hearing a Scott Pemberton song. And you’re always going to be captivated.
A Portland native, Pemberton and his guitar have been inseparable since the musician was in his teens, and he quickly established himself as an integral to the city’s musical fabric, sitting in on studio sessions, becoming a fixture at jazz and rock clubs, and taking guitar teaching positions at Lewis & Clark College and Reed College at age 21. So much a part of Portland’s fabric is Pemberton that the city’s famous Voodoo Donutes gifted him a custom guitar-shaped donut for his birthday.
Beyond stages both local and international, his music has found its way into various movies, television programs and advertisements (Nike, Coke, Jaguar, and NASCAR ads have been propelled by his distinctive melodies), and his funky guitar work has led to collaborations with legendary drummers such as Motown’s Mel Brown and Bernard Purdie, AKA “the world’s most recorded drummer.” He’s played prime spots at major festivals across the U.S. and Canada, hit #4 on Billboard’s Tastemakers’ charts and ranked among the top performers on Jambase, peaking at #2 during the High Sierra Music Festival, where he stormed the stage.
Even more remarkable than Pemberton’s quick ascent to a superhero on the axe, though, is his second act. Most musicians are lucky to find their talent in the first place. For Pemberton, his love affair with his guitar received a rebirth following a bike accident that nearly ended his life and caused a traumatic brain injury, a life-changing event that would have grounded most artists. For Pemberton, it only fueled his musical drive. During rehabilitation, the guitarist rediscovered his gift, and emerged with a strong new vision as an artist.
Exploding back into the public consciousness stronger, sharper and more dedicated than ever, Pemberton released his eclectic debut, Sugar Mama, produced by Los Lobos sax player Steve Berlin and featuring a bevy of guest performers including legendary bluesman Curtis Saldago. Amazingly, Sugar Mama manages the difficult task of capturing Pemberton’s wildly ambitious live persona, jackknifing across genres with ease, using the frontman’s intricate musicianship as a glue that holds it all together.
A master showman who draws amazed stares when audiences realize he’s shredding without a guitar strap, Pemberton’s unique musical gifts and infectiously positive attitude come exploding to life, making the axe man and his band’s legendary shows on stages small and large come vibrantly to life. The music is hypnotic in its infectiousness — consistently challenging listeners while grounding it all in a familiar foundation of rock. Music is Pemberton’s domain. The stage is his home. And his door is always open.