Key to the Highway: The Scooches

Interviews Key to the Highway Series

The Scooches photo from their website

Americana Highways’ Key to the Highway series

Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road for music. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Nick Russo and Betina Hershey from the Scooches (formerly Banjo Nickaru and Western Scooches).

Americana Highways: How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?

Nick: I grind beans and make myself espresso first thing in the morning! More recently I’ve been drinking Kicking Horse decaffeinated beans, making a delicious espresso with plenty of creme!

Betina: In the morning I fill up my huge metal bottle with water and electrolytes and happily drink it (3-4 cups).

AH: What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road for music?)

Betina: I loved the one room place I stayed in while on tour in New Orleans, in the French Quarter. It was dark, dank, and felt so old, so mysterious. Plus, I could walk right out of my door and be in the midst of such music, revelry, and colorfulness.

Nick: The first hotel I stayed at while touring through Siberia, Russia, with The Anastasia Rene Quartet, was so unique, I felt like I was in an older sci-fi movie! The hotel building itself has this very retro “cement” vibe with this enormous lobby with a high ceiling and the rooms have vintage rotary phones! I have fond memories of practicing guitar in that lobby on a big couch and ordering coffee and interesting Russian foods!

AH: If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is? And why?

Nick: Depending on my mood; I’m torn between Sly and The Family Stone greatest hits, J.S. Bach ‘Inventions,’ Ali Akbar Khan, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Mamady Keïta and Sewa Khan!

Sly’s groove is so deep, the tunes are so well crafted, meaningful and soulful; advocating diversity, inclusiveness, peace, love and fun! J.S. Bach for his ingenious perfect counterpoint and compositional genius. The depth of Ali Akbar’s rhythm and creating a mood. Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles for their pure soul and Mamady Keïta for his deep sense of polyrhythm and rhythm complexities.

Betina: Argh, I don’t think I could listen to one CD for the whole trip. I like variety! My own mixed up playlist with Stevie Wonder, Edie Brickell, Aretha Franklin, Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” something new I find on Apple Music or Spotify, and then silence, because then my own melodies can stir up and come out! But usually Nick chooses the music.

AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?

Betina: My paper journal and pen, for list making, journaling, and drawing. And sometimes a small, smooth rock to hold when I need some grounding and peace.

Nick: My classical guitar! Unless it’s a flight, then I need my Yamaha Silent nylon string guitar.

AH: What is your relationship with food? How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?

Betina: I grew up intolerant to gluten, milk and eggs, so I love to find an Indian or Thai place and order something with rice and veggies. I also look for any healthy, artsy bistro with fresh fruits and veggies, salads. Ooh, and I’ll break my food restrictions to try something unusual and specific to the area (but no walnuts or pecans!)

Nick: I try to eat healthy, leaning towards being pescatarian and avoid fried foods. However, when I’m on the road, I try to go with the flow and pick the most healthy option! Indian food is my favorite but I’m also open to new foods (within reason), especially when traveling to different countries. Any healthy dish with vegetables, tofu and rice sounds good!

AH: If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?

Nick: I absolutely want to pause time and live in Japan again! Years ago I performed in Japan for 3 weeks and I fell in love with the many beautiful sites, Buddhist cemeteries, Japanese culture, the language, the food and especially the people.

Betina: I loved San Francisco, and even moved there for 9 months. Austin, TX had a mellow and creative vibe. Asheville, NC… I have a soul sister songwriter friend, Heidi Lynn Anderson, living there, it’s earthy, creative, full of fresh air and mountains. I love it there. Anyplace in Italy… I was on tour there with West Side Story, and the food was so fresh, the streets were charming, the people friendly.

AH: What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?

Betina: Make time for your own personal daily rituals. Mine are writing, doing a little yoga, maybe even finding a place to go out swing dancing.

Nick: Be kind to everyone, feel empathy for every person, animal (except mosquitoes) and plant, be flexible, patient, understanding and willing to go with the flow.

Find more information and tour dates for the Scooches here:

See other Key to the Highway interviews here: (click here for: Vince Herman Jimmy Smith  Ben Nichols Bruce Cockburn Charlie Musselwhite Nicki Bluhm Jim White Danny Barnes  Patterson Hood Jerry Joseph BJ Barham Rodney Crowell Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt  Sarah Shook & the Disarmers Sadler Vaden )

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