Through a career that spanned five full-length releases with his band Fat Opie, a struggle with a long-term illness and a career as a children’s book author and fine artist, Scott Mickelson has persevered. In 2015, Mickelson released his debut full-length Flickering which made the Grammy Ballot in two categories, “Best Folk Album” and “Best Roots Music Performance”.
Mickelson appears in numerous publications both nationally and locally including NPR Radio, Jimmy Lloyd Show (NBC), Huffington Post, CBS Morning Show, No Depression, Paste, Glide Magazine, PopMatters, TheBayBridged, Alternative Press Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, SF Weekly, and with the Folk Alliance. He also gained national recognition after winning a band search contest sponsored by MTV/7-Up with a prize of $15,000 and a song in the feature film Along The Way.
In the nineties, Fat Opie was managed by the legendary manager Elliot Roberts/Lookout Management (Neil Young, Tom Petty). While under contract in LA he had the opportunity to work side by side with Grammy arranger Jimmy Haskell (Steely Dan, Chicago, Simon & Garfunkel). At age seventeen he signed his first record deal with DSM Productions in NYC while playing infamous clubs like CBGB's. His colorful earlier years in NY included playing with Dave Van Ronk and receiving career guidance from Sid Bernstein (Beatles promoter).
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Mickelson has lived in the Bay Area since the 80’s. In San Francisco, Mickelson can be seen performing at the top venues including The Fillmore and Great American Music Hall. When not on tour, Mickelson produces from his Marin studio.
Mickelson’s second full-length record A Wondrous Life will be released in May of 2018. Unlike Flickering which featured more than twenty of the best musicians in the Bay Area, A Wondrous Life is truly a solo effort. On it, he was not only the producer and engineer, but also performed nearly all the tracks except drums/horns. A Wondrous Life leans more towards an Alt-Rock sound and is his finest work to date.
Mickelson has opened for acts that include David Bromberg Quintet, Matt Nathanson, Larry Campbell and Terese Williams (Grammy producer), Jim Lauderdale (Grammy artist), Griffin House, Nick Lowe, Dr. John, Smashmouth, Jonathan Richman, Peter Case and Rob Hotchkiss (from Train, Grammy artist).
If there were an instruction manual on how to survive the demands of the ever-changing music industry, Scott Mickelson could write it. Like a character in a John Steinbeck novel, whose work resonates with Mickelson, his experiences developed him as a person and are what create the story of his life as a musician. Being his own travel companion, Mickelson’s story follows him as he ventures down a long, dusty road, holding tightly to the bags he packed, and never letting go of them on each stop along the way. Mickelson moves from one harbor to another, each turning into a distant memory as his footprints trail behind him, a connection to each place he’s been.
It was 1982. The first promising stop on Mickelson’s journey started with a record deal in New York at age 17. His band was playing CBGB’s, Bitter End, and Kenny’s Castaways, a contract was signed, and two singles recorded. Then the contract was broken, yet a manager waited for them in Los Angeles. They played every high school and college in SoCal as well as infamous LA clubs like Madame Wong’s West and Gazarri’s. Their dues were paid. Then they signed two production deals, the second being recorded in Sunset Studios. Eventually, the band broke up. With a glimpse of the lonesome highway still ahead of him, he walked until he found something new: San Francisco.
It was the 90’s, and Mickelson’s band, Fat Opie, signed to Lookout Management (Neil Young, Tom Petty). They released their first CD and received the promise of being on Neil Young’s label and touring with him. Two records later, Fat Opie won a national talent search for MTV/7-Up. A live broadcast on MTV and $15,000.00 were supposedly theirs to be had. But the promise of touring with Neil Young - as well as the MTV broadcast - never came to be. Much like a bus changing its schedule without any notice, Mickelson and his band waited at the station for a ride that never came. With no ride home and pocketful of busted promises, Fat Opie called it quits. There he was again, alone on that road. Still gripping those bags, relying on his own two feet to move him forward down a path he could barely see anymore. This chapter in Mickelson’s career encompassed the rising action, the climax, and the downfall of his story all at once.
It was in 2003 that Mickelson was diagnosed with clinical depression, although he had suffered with it since childhood. Soon to be the father of a baby girl, his wife convinced him to go to art school. He remained traveling down the road as he walked towards another destination, a faint, approachable blinking light up ahead. He graduated, worked in Francis Ford Coppola’s art department, and got fired. He wrote and illustrated a children’s book called “Artichoke Boy” and signed a book deal before deciding to focus on fine art. Like any classic story, the main character meets someone who might provide a resolution to the downfall. Mickelson met this person at a one-man exhibition of his paintings. The gallery owner, a Fat Opie fan, asked the band to get back together to play at the opening.
It was 2010. After they played, Mickelson decided to put the paintbrushes down, pick his bags back up, and turn yet another page of the story of his life as a musician as he stepped back onto the uncharted path. Fat Opie recorded their record, Victoryville, received some great press, and Mickelson toured solo.
It was 2015, and with an all-new band, Mickelson released his debut full-length Flickering, which made the Grammy ballot in two categories, “Best Folk Album” and “Best Roots Music Performance”. He began producing regularly for other artists.
It’s now 2018. Every step, every success, every failure has led him to his magnum opus, the second full-length record A Wondrous Life. He explains, “My decision to do A Wonderous Life by myself rather than with a ton of other musicians wasn't based on ego, it was because I'd become so busy as a producer I had to squeeze my own work in whenever I could. A few hours here, late at night. It was out of necessity. I didn't realize at the time that it would enable me to explore a much broader range of skills that I hadn't yet tapped into or had not in many years.” Unlike Flickering which featured more than twenty of the best musicians in the Bay Area, A Wondrous Life is truly a solo effort. On it, he was not only the producer and engineer, but he performed nearly all the instrumentation on the tracks except drums/horns.
For Scott Mickelson, there is an ironic optimism in all of the roadblocks that have appeared before him. With each barricade he stopped, took a detour, and read the signs that ultimately got him back on track. That road still goes on for Mickelson. The book is not yet closed, and the dirt on his boots is a reminder of each step he has taken along the way, still clinging tightly to the same bags he packed.