I recently had the opportunity to interview Scotty Inman, baritone for Triumphant Quartet, www.triumphantquartet.com.
DJM: You grew up in Southern Gospel, as the son of a professional singer, Clayton Inman (and see, Mr. Inman, I kept my word and put your name in the interview, and I did spell it correctly, too). Did you know from childhood that you wanted to do this, or was that a later development?
Scotty: Absolutely not. I was an athlete; my goal in life was to be a major league baseball player. And actually, up until my senior year of high school, I actually had colleges—junior colleges, more so—that were offering me baseball scholarships to come play.
But at a youth camp in my senior year, I got my call to ministry. And honestly, my passion for wanting to do sports completely left. My parents were like, “Are you sure? This isn’t just a passing fad?” They were trying to make sure, since it was all I did for seventeen years. Then I decided I wanted to sing for a living, so I left it all to come sing.
DJM: So you joined Poet Voices in 2001. Was that your first quartet experience, or were you in local groups before that?
Scotty: I was very lucky—that was my first one. The only two groups I’ve ever sung on stage with in my life are Poet Voices and Triumphant.
I’d never sung in my youth. My first audience I sung in front of, I was seventeen years old. That’s the first time, and I’m 27 now. So I’ve been singing in front of people for 10 years. It’s been a fast journey.
I will say that my dad being involved in music did help get me that first position. And I’m not naïve to that. But I think that when I got there I was able to learn a lot.
DJM: Was Turn To the One the only Poet Voices recording you were on?
Scotty: We actually did a CD called Timeless, a table project, that a lot of people loved. We did a lot of old Suwanee River Boys songs, a couple of old hymns… To this day, a number of singers I know tell me they love it. It was just a great CD.
DJM: Did you join Triumphant Quartet before Poet Voices came off the road, or did Poet Voices retire and then you joined Triumphant?
Scotty: Poet Voices announced their retirement. My father and I were going to start our own trio. Right about that time, three guys in our hometown were going to start their own group, and they needed a baritone and a lead. The rest is history.
During the last three months of Poet Voices, when I was home I was beginning this group, and here we are.
Phil Cross, Dale Brock, and I did the last concert together. Josh Simpson and Tim Duncan had to go ahead and move on, since the groups they were going with needed them. But I was lucky enough that our group did not start until after the final concert. So it was very special to be there.
DJM: Was singing with your father something that you had in mind that you wanted to do, or was it something that just worked out when Triumphant started coming together?
Scotty: It was definitely I immediately thought would be neat. He’s traveled my whole life, so to get to travel with him…I kind of get those years back, in a roundabout way. Now we spend a lot of time together.
So it was something that I always thought would happen, but I never thought it would be at this magnitude. But it’s been a lot of fun.
DJM: So do you sing baritone because both groups you’ve been with have had long-time, established lead singers, or is there something about singing baritone that you specifically wanted to do?
Scotty: Great question. And me being a student of great singers, I believe, there’s no doubt in my mind that my ultimate goal is to one day be able to carry the lead position.
I’m taking vocal lessons until the present day. Just because I have a full-time job in music doesn’t mean that I’ve arrived, cause I haven’t. I took a lesson last week. When my final note is sung, I want to still be the best I possibly could be.
A lot of people say, “Just go up there and sing.” And there’s a lot of truth to that, but there’s also a technique, something that’s more pleasing to people’s ears, if they hear a tone in your voice that makes them say, “I like that.”
You know, Glen Payne up until his dying day took vocal lessons. I mean, if Glen Payne took vocal lessons until his dying day, then I need to take about three a week!
DJM: Of the songs Triumphant has recorded over the years you’ve been on the road, which one would you point to as most likely to be an enduring classic—the sort of song other groups will sing after you’ve retired?
Scotty: Now as far as ones other groups will sing after we’re gone, I’m not sure if this fits that mold or not, but “He Is” and “The Old White Flag” are songs we can’t not do.
“Don’t Let the Sandals Fool Ya” is the one I think is more likely to get sung by other groups down the line, but as far as our group’s classic songs, I think at this point, “He Is,” “The Old White Flag,” and maybe “The Great I Am Still Is.”
DJM: What are some highlights from Triumphant’s new CD, Everyday?
Scotty: My favorite song is “Somebody Died For Me.” I tend to be a sucker for story-songs. I enjoy songs that take you from point A to point B, like that. I think it’s the most powerful song on the CD, hands-down, and not because I’m singing it! The words alone—it’s one of those songs you don’t want to mess up with your voice!
As far as what I think is the hit from that CD, it would be “When the Trumpet Sounds.” Live, for lack of a better word, it smokes. I knew when the track was cut, even before our voices were on it, “Wow, that thing has got a groove to it!” And it just does. I think it’s going to be our live / radio connection, hopefully—something we haven’t had to this point.
DJM: Is songwriting a long-term interest for you, or a fairly recent development?
Scotty: Yes, it’s definitely a long term interest, something that I want to expand greatly in the next three or four years.
The Kingsmen are cutting a song of mine right now, “When It’s All Said and Done.”
DJM: Is that the first cut you’ve had by a group besides Triumphant?
Scotty: Oh, no—Legacy Five did “Know So Salvation,” and the Kingdom Heirs just cut a co-write with Dianne Wilkinson, “When the Story of My Life is Told.”
I tend to lean more toward traditional Gospel quartet music, mainly because it’s kind of a lost art. At this point, a lot of songs being written are more progressive, which I love, but there’s a need for that traditional style, and that’s where I’m getting a lot of my cuts at this point.
I’m excited about the future, and yes, I’ve got a lot of songs in the works!
DJM: Neat! In your opinion, what makes Southern Gospel music Southern Gospel, as opposed to some other genre?
Scotty: Honestly, it’s the message in the songs and the hope it brings to people.
Also, I think it’s power harmonies. That’s something other genres don’t have.
You know, I love all genres of music, but I truly think some of the best singers in the nation are in this industry. Lack of publicity is a reason why people don’t know it.
Put these singers against anybody in secular music. Make them stand on stage with just a floor monitor, no special effects, no pyro and smoke and mirrors—closed-eye blind test—and I think people would pick the Southern Gospel singer a lot of the time.
DJM: If you were to assemble a dream quartet, with or without yourself singing lead or baritone, who would you pick to sing with you?
Scotty: I love this question!
I’m not going to put myself in it, because I’m not in my dream team quartet.
DJM: You could be the emcee.
Scotty: I’m going to be the manager!
This is not typical, but I enjoy all their voices.
My tenor will be Pat Hoffmaster, from the Blackwoods in the 70s. He passed on, but he would still be a legend today if he was still singing.
My lead and baritone may be switching off on each other, because they’re both baritone/leads. Duane Allen and Jack Toney.
On bass, Tim Riley.
I think that would be different than anyone else’s quartet you’d ever hear, but it’s my dream team!
DJM: And since most of those singers are passed away or off the road, who would you name from current Southern Gospel singers, other than members of your current group? You can put yourself in this one if you want.
Scotty: No, I’m still going to keep myself out of it.
Mark Trammell is the ultimate baritone.
Aaron McCune on bass.
I’ll put Terry Franklin on tenor and Bill Shivers on lead.
DJM: Bill Shivers is a singer’s singer—I’m amazed at how many other singers name him. Mark Trammell, too. Jumping topics, where do you see Southern Gospel going in the future? What do you think an NQC 25 years down the road might look like?
Scotty: My concern is that you hear a lot about needing to go after the young people—and I agree with that—but I think there’s something that makes Southern Gospel Southern Gospel. There’s a classiness that’s involved, there’s a polish that’s involved. I think if you become something you’re not—if Southern Gospel doesn’t stay true to its roots—we’ll lose our genre.
I think people enjoy artists that stay true to what they are. Young people are not going to go hear someone who is trying to sound like one of their favorite artists in another genre when they can just go hear that artist. That’s my opinion. As a young person, if I’ve got a Southern Gospel group who’s trying to be NewSong or Point of Grace, I’m like, “I’ll just go hear Point of Grace or NewSong.”
Will there always be Southern Gospel fans? Yes. That was the debate 20 years ago, and we’re still here, and in some ways flourishing even more than we were then. I think 20 years from now—when you reach a certain age you need a certain music to listen to, and I think the contemporary volume alone will bring people to another genre.
DJM: Any other thoughts or comments?
Scotty: We’re just now a year and a half into being on the road full time, and it’s been an overwhelming response from people. We’re excited about the future, and hope that the same guys you see on stage that started the group seven years ago will be the same guys you see on stage seven years from now. I think that’s the key to our success. All five of us know that there’s strength in numbers, and you’re only as good as who you’re with. The key to our success is keeping God first and sticking together as a group.
Our website is www.triumphantquartet.com. You can find anything you want to find on there, dates and all.