"You want to be able to live every moment that you can," says jazz singer Marilyn Scott. "That's what I try to write [songs] about - all the moments and situations that are around us."
On Ms. Scott's seventh album, "Walking With Strangers" (Prana), the smooth jazz singer-songwriter explores love, destiny, and living life to the fullest - and wonders, "Is there someone special out there for me?"
"I try to take [an idea] that might be ordinary," she says, "like 'Who's Looking For Me?' and say it in a way that we've all thought about, but hasn't been written about too much. You wonder, who's looking for you, and you have yet to meet. Don't you ever wonder that?" she asks pointedly.
Scott, who is single, also addresses compassion and harmony on her album. The Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance, an extension of the Jewish human rights organization based in Los Angeles, has chosen her song "No Room for Hate" as its 2002 theme song. Scott wrote the song five years ago.
"A lot of what you write isn't always going to be recorded at that moment," she says. "It's a continual process. You try to get the 10 best things that are happening right now in your life and hope that works."
The single "Don't Let Love Get Away" seems to be on the rise. In its first three weeks, it's getting heavy rotation on adult contemporary radio. "With new singles from a huge talent cluster including Michael Bolton, Enya, and Mark Anthony this week, that's an amazing accomplishment," says Scott's manager, Leanne Meyers.
The singer's velvety voice and soft rhythms on "Walking with Strangers" would be perfect to listen to during a romantic candle-lit dinner or cuddling in front of the fireplace. Her music lands on the smooth jazz charts, but features many flavors of R&B, blues, and Brazilian music.
Scott says she often thinks about passing strangers on a busy street - wondering where they live, who they are, and where they come from. Hence the album's title, "Walking with Strangers."
"There's so much energy walking down the street with each other because we're so close," she says. "We have so much in common with everybody on that street, on that boulevard. We could strike up an incredible conversation, and share a great deal of life together, but we won't."
Growing up in southern California, Scott attended music festivals and heard performances by Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, and Etta James, whom she counts among her many influences. Her career got going early: She was performing in high school at 15 and later in local clubs.
Over her 22-year career, she has recorded for several major record labels: Atlantic, Polygram, and Warner Bros. Now she's on Prana Entertainment, a label created by her manager, Leanne Meyers. Prana is a Buddhist term that means "life force."
So, why did she jump from label to label? "I don't think you have enough paper to put that all down," she says, laughing. But in all seriousness, "when you're just trying to make music and survive, and put some food on the table, and make the work that you do valuable, it's sometimes just very hard [being on a big label]," Scott says. "A lot of people's egos and their opinion of what is hip and happening can hurt a person's music.
"So you leave, or you get dropped, or it's always something that prevents your music from flourishing. A lot of musicians quit, and it's sad to see. A lot of good music is never heard."
At one time in her career, the record deals dried up. So Scott went abroad and marketed her music in Japan. "The Japanese audience really liked and supported many R&B-jazz musicians, and our music still got to be created because of the Japanese market. They're big supporters of who and what we've been about."
Since she signed with Prana, she feels more in control of her music. "You get sad about trying to understand the business, and those things make it harder for you," she says. "But the bottom line is, I love what I'm doing."