Looking over the official soundtrack for the 2016 film Hell or High Water, Texas-born blues, punk and country musician Scott H. Biram sees he is in good company.
“They had an ad for [the soundtrack] one time,” he said during a recent Oklahoma Gazette interview. “It had pictures of Townes Van Zandt, Waylon Jennings, Ray Wylie Hubbard and me. I was like, ‘Well, one of these things doesn’t belong.’”
Hell or High Water, directed by David Mackenzie and starring Jeff Bridges, was a recent Best Picture Academy Award nominee.
The movie, which is partially set in Oklahoma, was scored in part by Australian post-punk legend Nick Cave and features Biram’s 2005 song “Blood, Sweat & Murder.”
Biram might feel out of place among the blues, folk and outlaw country icons his music shares some of the film’s runtime with, but a long-lived career has earned him a reputation as one of music’s hardest working and most consistent acts.
The frequent road warrior performs 8 p.m. April 26 at VZD’s Restaurant & Bar, 4200 N. Western Ave.
Aside from sharing a soundtrack with names like Van Zandt and Jennings, Biram recently has been earning praise for his own work.
His newest album The Bad Testament, released Feb. 24, has earned accolades from both critics and fans.
Biram is known for his diverse stylistic background and as a one-man band. Bad Testament’s liner notes credit the musician for all the vocals and instrumentation, including percussion, harmonica, keyboards, synthesizer, tambourine and acoustic, baritone, bass, classical and resonator guitar.
Biram’s tunes have also been featured in TV shows and commercials, including Dog the Bounty Hunter and Sons of Anarchy. His rough-and-tumble aesthetic visually and aurally contributes to his allure.
He said he always considers it an honor to be included in a show or movie.
“But not as cool as going to the mailbox after that happens,” he said, wryly referencing the royalty checks that follow.
The Bad Testament was recorded in about 18 months, and studio sessions were squeezed in between Biram’s hectic touring schedule. He said he does not typically go after any type of theme or concept in his albums, but for this project, he knew he wanted something gritty — a throwback to his 2005 release The Dirty Old One Man Band, considered by some to be one of his best.
One Man Band — Biram’s debut on the Chicago-based roots rock label Bloodshot Records — was recorded somewhat hastily.
However, this time around, he said he wanted a fuller sound. He diligently recorded multiple instrumental layers before piecing them together in the studio.
“I always do a lot of overdubbing and multiple tracks,” he said, “but other than having friends come in and putting drums on one song, I’ve never gone and tried to record a full-band sound on there.”
The resulting record is proof to many that the gruff, 43-year-old honky-tonk hero still delivers the goods. Performing and songwriting has always come naturally to Biram, who said he wrote his first song in the ninth grade.
Lyrics tend to arrive during sleepless nights as his consciousness wavers between the realms of dreamland and the real world.
“I guess being half-asleep and writing songs works the same way as shooting heroin does for other people,” he said.
Taking a breather
Little time usually passes between Biram’s concert dates, but in 2016, he forced himself to take several months off from touring. He was between booking agents, and the relentless grind of live shows took a toll on his overall enthusiasm.
“It was a really good decision on my part because I was getting kind of burned out being on the road all the time,” he said. “You need some real inspiration sometimes. You can’t just write songs about your booking agent and your manager.”
Biram used his time off to rekindle his love for playing guitar. In the past, he pretty much only picked it up in the studio.
“For a long time, it was just like my work, so I didn’t mess with it so much,” he said. “I’ve learned more in the last three months since we started hitting the road again than I have in probably 10 years on guitar.”
He played it so much, in fact, that he developed tennis elbow and now has to incorporate stretching exercises into his tour routine.
Biram said he could see himself taking longer breaks between records from now on to re-energize.
“I miss out on so much stuff at home because I’m always on the road. It’s really nice to be able to participate in some of the things I don’t get to normally,” he said. “I’ve been pretty much putting records out consistently since ’99 or 2000, [but] I don’t ever wait so long that someone is going to forget about me.”
A lot of people picture Biram as a whiskey-slingin’ desperado, and while that image was true for a time and to an extent still is, his home life in recent years has been calm.
The Bad Testament’s drinking anthem is an ode to, of all things, red wine. However, Biram said he sticks to silver tequila on the road because it helps him avoid unmanageable hangovers.
“At home, my Zen is cooking and gardening,” he said. “We don’t go out to bars too often, so I just drink red wine at home.”
Biram quietly tends beloved pet chickens and homegrown peppers and tomatoes while in his Austin, Texas, homestead. Gardening is among his favorite hobbies.
“The very last day before we left for this tour, I hauled ass to Home Depot to pick up some plants and rake out my garden,” he said. “I got it planted right before I left.”
Scott H. Biram
8 p.m. April 26
VZD’s Restaurant & Bar
4200 N. Western Ave.
Print headline: Book of Biram, One-man band Scott H. Biram delivers his Bad Testament to Oklahoma City.