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When I was a freshman in high school, this little show called “Gilmore Girls” premiered on the WB. My super-strict Chinese mother only allowed me to watch one hour of TV during the school week, and that was the hour I chose. I would lose myself in Stars Hollow, in Rory and Dean, in Lorelai and Luke.
If you had told my 14-year-old self then that I would still be watching “Gilmore Girls” 17 years later, or that I would become a writer just like Rory and get to interview Scott Patterson, the actor who plays Luke, I would have … well, I probably would have fangirl-ed like any teenager.
As a 31-year-old, I tried to conduct said interview with a dash more professionalism, but let’s be honest: I was fangirl-ing inside more than a little bit!
A Return to Musical Roots
The reason I spoke with Scott is because he is a musician in addition to being an actor, and he’s visiting Fresno Monday, July 17, with his SMITHRADIO Atomic Love 2017 Acoustic Coffee House Tour. In a testament to how eager Fresno fans are to see him, the two shows at Yellow Mug Coffee sold out almost immediately, though you can still buy tickets for two meet-and-greet sessions that include a selfie, an autographed photo, and an opportunity to get memorabilia signed (details here).
Scott has been playing music his whole life. In fact, before he booked the role of curmudgeonly diner owner Luke Danes on “Gilmore Girls,” he was playing paid gigs in coffee houses in Los Angeles. Post-“Gilmore,” Scott has returned to his musical roots, forming SMITHRADIO with a group of friends.
“We started jamming around and rehearsing, and I thought, ‘This is fun,’ ” Scott says. “I booked some shows on the East Coast. We played some gigs. A good amount of people showed up. We had a great time.”
Smaller Venues Offer a More Intimate Setting
The band released an EP recently, but between money and logistics, putting together a full tour has been a bit tricky.
“I decided I was tired of waiting for the lawyers to agree on things … I need to get my music out there, and I want to connect with my fan base,” Scott says. So he came up with the idea for a more intimate coffee house tour.
Scott is bringing along just one other guitarist and playing in front of a smaller audience of 50 for each show when he comes to Fresno, so the vibe will be a little different than a typical SMITHRADIO show. Having written more than 500 songs in his life, there was a lot of music to choose from for the set list.
“I’m trying to balance the set so that there’s some good rockin’ stuff in there and fun stuff and dance-y, clap-along stuff, along with heartfelt ballads,” Scott says. “There’s a song I wrote for my son that’s very meaningful to me. I know I’m going to miss him like crazy, so I’m going to sing him a song every night I’m out on tour.”
Songwriting From the Heart
It’s clear Scott is very passionate about songwriting, and he doesn’t shy away from important subject matters. He shared with me how affected he was by the death of singer Chris Cornell in May, and how it led him to write a song from the point of view of Cornell’s daughter.
“I have to be really moved to write a song,” Scott says. “It’s a better song if it really impacts you. It’s not so much [about] the audience.”
He also has a song called “Forgotten Hero” on SMITHRADIO’S EP, written from the point of view of a soldier who has returned from war and is having trouble adjusting. A portion of proceeds from downloads of the song, as well as sales of a “Forgotten Hero” hoodie, will be donated to a PTSD charity.
“I had an Iraqi war vet come up to me in an airport and just cry and hug me and tell me how his sniper platoon in Iraq watched ‘Gilmore Girls’ all the time to escape the hell that was around them,” Scott says. “And I was just so moved from it.”
Talking “Gilmore” and More
Scott is looking forward to getting out and meeting more fans throughout the coffee house tour. At the end of the day, he enjoys the life of a musician more than that of an actor.
“What I was doing for a living was sort of pretending and living in this make-believe of Hollywood, and it’s so disconnected with the rest of the world,” he tells me. “I prefer the music. I own it, it’s mine, it’s my creation. I guess you could say the acting—you create a character, but he’s really sort of created for you, and you just kind of inhabit it. It’s an interpretation. It’s not a creative skill; it’s an interpretive skill. I’m not saying it’s not satisfying, I just—I’m not that guy. I’d rather be me and share my music and create.”
That’s not to say Scott isn’t absolutely grateful for the years he spent on “Gilmore Girls.” And though in many ways, he couldn’t be more different than his character (a friend pointed out to me that Luke would never let people take selfies with him), Scott has always felt a deep connection with Luke from the very beginning.
“I read that script and thought, ‘There’s nobody that could play that role, that’s mine,’” Scott says. “I would be pissed if anybody else played that role. I owned it right away. Some roles are inside you … That’s what Luke was like for me. I know this guy very intimately. I know him well.”
The audition felt easy for him, but he didn’t expect to get the part. He has a certain amount of humility when it comes to the biggest role of his career.
“I worked my ass off to be in a position to be lucky, but luck plays a big part in our lives, more than we want to acknowledge.”
Returning to Stars Hollow last fall for the Netflix revival series “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” was a treat as well. For Scott, it was fun and easier the second time around. The original series was canceled without warning. Eight years later, the cast knew, “maybe this would be the last time, so we were sort of savoring each moment.”
A Gilmore-Like Passion for Coffee
Scott does share one thing in common with his beloved Gilmore girls: a passion for coffee. The internet went wild a couple of weeks ago when he happened to mention at the end of an interview with WealthManagement.com that he is starting his own coffee line, Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee. The story went viral, and his phone started ringing off the hook.
“The people that I have been talking to in the last week just has blown my mind, and it’s fun,” Scott said. “The coffee business is a lot of fun, and the people involved in the coffee business are really good people, and I am just having an absolute blast bringing this to market. I love coffee. I drink too much of it.”
He told me he doesn’t have just one way he likes to drink his java. It might be black coffee in the morning, a latte in the afternoon, and an espresso in the evening. He believes that drinking coffee—perhaps much like listening to music or watching a beloved TV show—is an important experience.
“Coffee is an emotional thing for people,” he says. “It’s kind of like wine in that you attach so many good memories and so many feelings to a good cup of coffee. I’m just excited to be a part of that world.”
Scott promised to send word to me as soon as Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee is ready to hit the market. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to meeting him in person when he comes to town next week so I can add another to the series of great memories he and “Gilmore Girls” have given me over the years. I’m sure many of you will be right there with me, coffee in hand, ready to show Scott the love. And he’s sure to show it right back.
“I love the whole idea of being in a coffee shop and playing music and sharing a part of my life with people who are highly caffeinated.”