The son of musician Wayne Scott, James Darrell Scott was born August 6, 1959, on a tobacco farm in London, Kentucky, and moved as a child to East Gary, Indiana. He was playing professionally by his teens in Southern California, later living in Toronto and Boston. He attended Tufts University, where he studied poetry and literature. Finally, he relocated to Nashville to get into the country music business. In the first half of the 1990s, he appeared on albums by John Lincoln Wright, Catie Curtis, Hypnotic Clambake, Peter Keane, Duke Levine, Suzy Bogguss, and Randy Travis, singing and playing banjo, Dobro, guitar, bass, and pedal steel. In 1995 alone, he was on records by Guy Clark, Kate Wallace, John Berry, Marcus Hummon, Doug Stone, and Martina McBride, and he began to get recordings for his songs. Hummon and Scott co-wrote "Honky Tonk Mona Lisa," which appeared on Hummon's All in Good Time and on Doug Stone's Faith in Me, Faith in You (and was later covered by Neal McCoy); Scott and Hal Ketchum's "An Ordinary Day" was sung by Maura O'Connell on Stories; and Scott and Tim O'Brien's "Daddy's on the Roof Again" was on O'Brien's Rock in My Shoe.
In 2002, Scott appeared on albums by John Cowan, Guy Clark, Elizabeth Cook, Little Big Town, Montgomery Gentry, Steve Earle, and Ty Herndon; he also produced Clark's album Dark. "Long Time Gone," the advance single from the Dixie Chicks' chart-topping, multi-platinum album Home, was a Scott composition that had first appeared on Real Time; it crested at number two in the country chart, and it earned Scott a second Grammy nomination, this one for Best Country Song. Another Scott-written hit was Darryl Worley's cover of "Family Tree," the title song from Scott's second solo album, which appeared on Worley's album I Miss My Friend and reached the country Top 40 as a single. And Scott received the dubious honor of being parodied by country comedian Cledus T. Judd, who mangled "It's a Great Day to Be Alive" as "It's a Great Day to Be a Guy" on his album Cledus Envy. Scott was named ASCAP's Songwriter of the Year for 2002.
In 2006, Scott appeared on albums by Casey Dreissen, Rascal Flatts, Doug & Telisha Williams, John Cowan, and Johnsmith. "Simple Man," a song he wrote with Hal Ketchum, appeared on John Corbett's self-titled album. The Cowan album, New Tattoo, featured "6 Birds (In a Joshua Tree)" and "Drown," both co-written by Scott and Cowan, and a cover of "With a Memory Like Mine" by Scott and Wayne Scott, originally heard on Real Time. Sam Bush recorded Scott's "River Take Me," a song from Theatre of the Unheard, on his album Laps in Seven. And Johnsmith's Break Me Open included a cover of "Love's Not Through with Me." On June 27, 2006, Scott released The Invisible Man, his first album of newly written material since Family Tree in 1999. Scott returned in 2008 with Modern Hymns, a collection that featured interpretations of other songwriters' classic tunes. He then returned to his own muse on the two albums that followed, 2010's Crooked Road and 2012's Long Ride Home. A couple of collaborations with Tim O'Brien followed -- 2012's Live: We're Usually a Lot Better Than This and 2013's Memories & Moments -- and in 2015 Scott issued Ten: Songs of Ben Bullington. The next year saw the release of Couchville Sessions. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi