14 Dec Music Monday: A Conversation with Scott Helman
In October of 2014, MUSE interviewed a young and still relatively unknown artist named Scott Helman. He had just released his first EP Augusta and sat down with one of our contributors to talk about the creative process that led to that album. Here we find ourselves just over a year later with another opportunity to talk with Scott, only this time he’s toured nationally and internationally and has an MMVA nomination under his belt. He spent the summer playing music festivals across the country, and is currently on tour with Matthew Good. His band is made up of Callum Maudsley on guitar and Julian Psihogios on drums. Few artists experience this much growth within a year, especially so early in their careers.
Over pizza, we talked about songwriting, love, war, and the environment, and he tackled all of these subjects with the same unreserved passion that has undoubtedly been a driving factor is his success. As we spoke, it quickly became apparent that although this year has been an incredible ride for him and his band, he remains humble.
MUSE: How’s the tour been so far?
Scott: It’s been really good! I’ve really enjoyed being back in Canada, touring and playing for fans and stuff, it’s been fun.
MUSE: So who are you on the road with; how did you guys all get together?
Scott: I knew Callum and Julian in high school. We weren’t really friends, but then I needed to put a band together and I just Facebooked them and was like “What’s up” and now we’re friends!
Callum: You’re alright.
Scott: We’re actually lovers. [Laughs]
MUSE: So were you in other bands before this?
Scott: Not really, I mean I jammed with people but I always like writing by myself and I was kind of a loner when it came to music, cause it was kind of my space where I could just be myself, and explore what I wanted to do.
MUSE: So your debut EP Augusta was released just over a year ago, and you’ve said you’ve started writing for album #2, Is the new album going to be in the same vein as Augusta or are you going in a different direction?
Scott: I think I’ve grown a lot in the last two years and I think that, you know, a lot has changed, so I think that the music would naturally follow suit. And I mean I look back at Augusta and I’m really proud of it, and I’m really proud that I wrote a record that I feel represents me as an artist. But that being said, I think I can also grow from it and I think that’s what I’m gonna do.
MUSE: Where do you do most of your writing?
Scott: Well actually, most of the writing for the last album I did at my producer’s cabin in his backyard in Ridgeway, Ontario, which was pretty cool. Sometimes though I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll have to like run home and grab a pen. I’ve written songs on the side of the road before, that’s how one of the new songs on the album was conceived. I was listening to an Arcade Fire song and this song idea just popped into my head and I had my guitar with me, so I just sat down on the side of the road and wrote the song.
MUSE: Do you write more about things that have happened in your own life, or do you take more of a fictional storytelling approach to songwriting?
Scott: I think it depends what I’m going through, I mean like for “Bungalow,” there was no bungalow. But that was a metaphor for me, you know, I’d just gone through a breakup so I just wrote this love song and it was about how, when you’re really in love with someone, it doesn’t matter where you are, when you’re together it feels just like, insane. So in some ways the song is fictional but in other ways it really describes what I was going through at the time.
MUSE: So I know you’ve said in interviews that you paint, would you ever consider integrating that into your music career and designing your own merch or doing an album cover?
Scott: Yeah I mean I do like big, weird, fucked up abstract paintings but yeah I think I’m gonna try to do a lot for the next album, I think that’s the next big thing I wanna do just cause it’ll be fun.
MUSE: Okay last question, do you want to talk a little bit about your project Solve the Solvable?
Scott: So basically my manager asked if I wanted to get involved with any charitable causes or initiatives, and I was like yeah!
MUSE: So you just started your own!
Scott: [Laughs] Yeah pretty much, because I just feel that like there’s so much going on in the world, and while we’re trying to solve like climate change and poverty and world hunger… we can also focus on immediate local issues that are more attackable I guess. I just think that it’s about time that we come together to fix things, because no one’s gonna do it for us.
MUSE: Do you think that artists have an obligation to use their influence and voice to advocate for change?
Scott: Yeah I think everybody has an obligation for activism, I don’t think it’s just about being an artist. I mean sure, when you have people listening to you, you have an obligation to try to enlighten people or at least create an environment where people can enlighten themselves, but I think everybody has an obligation at this point.
MUSE is so grateful for the opportunity to sit down with Scott and his band, along with watching them play to a jam-packed Ale House right afterward. We can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for them!
To listen or purchase some of Scott’s music, visit here.
Paige Guscott, Online Reviewer
Images: Courtesy of Warner Music Canada