The Baseball Project ready to take a swing in Mass

BMS talks with vocalist/guitarist Scott McCaughey

, Contributing Writer

They say that love is a universal language, but for Scott McCaughey and his band mates in The Baseball Project, baseball serves as their universal language. Whether playing in minor and major league ballparks across America or festivals in Europe, The Baseball Project keeps audiences engaged with songs about America’s favorite pastime.

This week, The Baseball Project will make their way to New England for a series of shows including a pair of shows in Massachusetts this weekend. Before they hit the field, err stage, Boston Music Spotlight spoke with McCaughey about music and baseball. Oh, and he may root, root, root for his West coast teams (Oakland A’s, Seattle Mariners and the San Francisco Giants), but he’s in agreement that our beloved Red Sox will make it to the World Series this year. “Like everybody else, I think it’s going to come down to the Phillies against either the Sox or the Yankees,” he says from the road.

Boston Music Spotlight (BMS): How are things going on the road?

Scott McCaughey (SM): Well, they’ve been great. We’ve had some incidences recently with [guitarist] Peter [Buck] hurting his back which isn’t too great but otherwise the shows have been phenomenal. We just got back from Europe and we finished there with an amazing festival in Croatia and played a festival in Italy too and had a great time. Earlier when we went out we did Spring Training with Peter, which was amazing. Then Mike Mills sat in for Peter on the last tour, which was great and we went to so many baseball games. We had shows every night pretty much but we still managed to get to all these different ballparks and do all kinds of things both at the minor and major league level and it was incredible. It was so much fun.

BMS: I’m so jealous. I may have to go on the road with you guys.

SM:  Yeah, you should [laughs]. It’s fun. Unfortunately we didn’t get to go to Fenway. We were going to but it was the day that the Bruins were in the Stanley Cup and they moved the Red Sox game from an evening game to a day game. Otherwise we would have probably been able to see some of it, but it didn’t happen.

BMS: Have you not been to Fenway?

SM: Oh I have, yeah.

BMS: Okay, I was going to say…

SM: I’ve been to maybe four or five games, which is pretty good for a guy from the West coast [laughs]. I’ve seen some pretty great games there. It’s a great ballpark.

BMS: The songs that you guys are singing are all based on baseball. Do you think that people need to love baseball in order to love The Baseball Project shows?

SM: I hope not. Well, definitely they don’t need to love baseball to love our shows because you go to a live show and I don’t think it’s all about the lyrics. It’s about seeing a band rock out and have a good time and we definitely do that and also at our shows we play other songs. We do play songs from Steve’s career with the Dream Syndicate and his solo records and we’ll play Minus 5 songs of mine and so we do add other things in there, although it does focus more on baseball, but we play other songs too. I think the shows are so much fun and are so rocking that you really don’t need to be a baseball fan at all. And I like to think that you don’t really need to be a huge baseball fan to like the records. There’s things about the records that you probably wouldn’t understand if you don’t care about baseball but I like to think they’re good songs in their own right that tell a story about a certain person or people that it goes a little beyond baseball.

BMS: And if you’re playing over in Europe, I suppose they’re familiar in a certain sense, but they are probably just there to hear the music.

SM: They just have to like the music. But then I wonder what someone from Croatia thinks when they go see the Eagles or Death Cab for Cutie. Do they know what they’re singing about? [laughs]

BMS: That’s always the interesting part, I think, for you guys as musicians touring all over the world, going to these places where the people may not know a lick of English but they’re there and they’re enjoying the music. It must be so mind blowing in a certain sense to know that they might not know anything that you’re saying or singing about but they’re enjoying the show.

SM: It is. It’s really great. And this festival we just did in Croatia we had thousands of people singing to Ted Fucking Williams. It’s pretty cool.

BMS: How is playing music similar to playing baseball?

SM: That’s a good question. In a way, we feel the way an aging veteran would in baseball. Still hanging on and you still think, “this could be my big chance if I have one big year, I could go to the World Series”, even though you’ve been doing it for a really long time [laughs]. And maybe you never become a $100 million man or whatever [laughs], so in that way I guess it’s sort of like it. And you also are performing for people. Baseball players do perform in front of large crowds. I’ve performed in front of some really large crowds and some really small crowds [laughs]. And anyone who’s played baseball has probably played when there are ten people in the stands too so…

BMS: You have played for huge audiences and then the smaller crowds. Do you think that playing smaller venues gives you a greater appreciation for the fans and the music you’re playing?

SM: In a way it does because you’re face to face and you relate to them on a personal level. When we play our shows in clubs, in between our sets or after our show we hang out and talk to people, so that’s a lot different than if you’re playing Rocking Rio with R.E.M. and there’s 150,000 people out there. You can’t really do that. You can’t just go out and hang out with them. It just doesn’t work. I really like the immediacy of the small venues and clubs – both as a musician and a fan. I just like going to see in bands in clubs.

BMS: What can people expect from going to The Baseball Project show?

SM: They can expect to hear some rock music played with great spirit and abandon. And they’ll see people on stage having a whole bunch of fun and I think it’s pretty infectious.

Touring in support of their new album, Volume 2: High and Inside, The Baseball Project will play the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Friday and the Beachcomber in Wellfleet on Sunday. More information is available on the band’s official website.

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