Born as Michael Scott on 14 December 1958. He was born and raised in Edinburgh. Scott was interested in music from an early age. At age 12, after the family had moved to Ayr, he began a serious interest in learning guitar. Soon Scott was playing in school bands and formed the band Karma with a friend named John Caldwell. In 1977 Scott entered the University of Edinburgh, studying English literature and philosophy. Scott would later arrange poetry from William Butler Yeats, Robert Burns, and George MacDonald for The Waterboys recordings.
Scott became interested in the United Kingdom punk music scene, and began writing for fanzines, eventually starting his own, Jungleland. Scott was especially interested in the music of The Clash and Patti Smith. Together with Allan McConnell Scott formed the band The Bootlegs, changing to Another Pretty Face in 1978 when Caldwell and two other friends joined. The band signed a contract with Virgin Records, was featured on the cover of Sounds magazine, and toured with Stiff Little Fingers. Virgin, after receiving a demo tape from Another Pretty Face, released the band four months after the signing. The band eventually came to the attention of Nigel Grainge, founder of Ensign Records. Grainge signed Another Pretty Face to the label, and the band moved to London, changing its name to Funhouse (taken from the name of The Stooges’ album Fun House). Scott had become dissatisfied with the band. He later described Funhouse’s sound as “similar to a jumbo jet flying on one engine”. Scott began working on solo songs and recordings, a decision that led to the creation of The Waterboys. A December 1981 session at Redshop Studios formed the beginnings of The Waterboys’ first self-titled album.
The Waterboys’ membership has changed a great deal throughout the group’s existence. Anthony Thistlethwaite, Karl Wallinger, Kevin Wilkinson and Steve Wickham all made major contributions, but Scott describes the band as his project. Between 1983 and 1993, the band released six successful albums, particularly ‘Room To Roam’ (1990) and ‘Dream Harder’ (1993): both albums peaked at number 5 in the UK albums chart. The band’s biggest hit was ‘The Whole Of The Moon’, peaking at number 3 in the UK singles chart in 1991.
In addition to the albums he released with The Waterboys, Scott released solo albums. The first was ‘Bring ‘Em All In’ (1995), followed by ‘Still Burning’ in 1997. His solo albums were positively received by critics but sales were significantly down from Waterboys releases. Following the commercial failure of ‘Still Burning’ in 1997 Scott was dropped by Chrysalis Records and decided to revive the Waterboys name to achieve wider marketplace exposure.