Coffee with Friends

This week I sat down with Scrappy Jud Newcomb for some coffee and chatted over the challenges he has been facing during the pandemic in Marfa. Scrappy is a musician, a guitar player and a record producer.  

Anett Gabriel: What’s your day like?

Scrappy Jud Newcomb: It’s good, started out really good. Enjoying the weather, and later I’ll drive to Austin, where I registered to vote.

AG: What’s your favorite thing about Marfa?

SN: In the late nineties I started to come out here a lot to spend time and write. And I remember getting out of the car and hearing no man-made sounds at all. There was just this moment that I could hear from miles away, I could hear the silence. I realized the silence, and it was like this great medicine healing thing that I had not had in my life for so long. I was feeling transformed by it. The great wide open, the soul music and the Milky Way. All my favorite things. Marfa is changing somewhat, but the quiet is so important for me. About Marfa in particular, I love the community, my neighbors and it’s not as random as it used to be, which I miss. But I miss that and love the aspect of more personal freedom and more respect and inspired randomness.

AG: When did you move to Marfa?

SN: I bought my house here in 2013. My friends Ronnie and Suzy lived out here and they found me a place. And because of the kindness of the owners, they were able to owner finance it for me. Then I lived here full time from the summer of 2014 through 2015. And then I ended up back in Austin more as a home base and I come out to Marfa just any time I get a project or just have some time. In between times, I was renting out my place, and this year I came back and everything in my life changed.

AG: You’ve been an active performing musician. What changes are you facing during the pandemic?

SN: About 75 percent of what I do with my time is to play either live music or in rooms full of people. So everything in my life changed, and March 14th was the last kind of normal club show that I played.

For one thing, I couldn’t be in a better place than Marfa. I have so many good friends here and pretty much as soon as the bottom dropped out from live music, my friends Rebecca and Jean Marc from the Waterstop were in the process of working and opening the bar next door. They knew the situation I was in and they hired me to paint a lot of the interior of the bar, and I still have credit for food. And then my dear old friend Fran Christina, a great drummer, hired me to do all kinds of stuff and through that I ended up having a lot of work that really kind of saved me. I had so many tours and shows fall through, and one of the ways that my life has changed is doing a lot of work that I haven’t done since I was 20 years old.

And it’s really an emotional time and also having life just sort of stopped in its tracks. It’s been really challenging. I kind of learned it through the years, when things get hard, you just have to keep fighting harder for the things you’re believing in. And keep fighting for things that are beautiful to you, and rock ‘n’ roll music is very beautiful to me. I’ve been listening to more music than I have in a long time and going back to records that meant so much to me when I was 14.

AG: What’s your favorite song of all time?

SN: That’s so hard. But I would say, one of them that it hits me on a physical level is the song “Tumbling Dice” by the Rolling Stones, from their 1973 album Exile on Main St. There is something about that song that always works some magic. But you know a good song for this time is Tom Petty’s “Refugee.” It’s a very good song for everybody to listen to. It will make you feel better immediately, which all good rock ’n’ roll music does. We need rock ‘n’ roll more than ever right now.

AG: What is your most memorable performance?

SN: Well, there are thousands of great nights that I had. Some big ones: I was in a band with Ian McLagan, a swinging London rocker, and we did open for the Stones in Zilker Park in Austin, in front of 50,000 people, which was a great time. Also with a band I was in in the nineties called Loose Diamonds, we had this magical show in the town Pistoia, Italy. It was a bill with us, Joe Lilly Band and Bob Dylan’s band. And the show was in the town’s square and people were hanging out of the windows and the whole plaza was filled with people. It was so much fun.

There are so many great shows, and you could probably drop me in 1997 on a Tuesday night and there is every chance that that would be the most fun show.

Marfa resident Anett Gabriel interviews local artists, business owners, friends and neighbors in her monthly column.