Photo by Chris Payne
It sometimes feels that in the cut and paste pop world we live in, the art of the song is lost in a swirl of synthesizers and auto-tuned production tricks. But, thankfully, there are a few young artists out there whose goal it is to come to the table with something to say and create a unique voice for themselves. Rather than allowing radio formats and flavour-of-the-month styles dictate who Scott Helman is, it is his deft pen and soulful voice that defines his sound.
Born and raised in Toronto, Scott’s parents filled the house with music but it was a steady diet of 80’s pop that didn’t really connect with him. It wasn’t until one rainy day at a friend’s cottage that Scott had the musical epiphany that set him on his way.
He learned how to play guitar and he started writing songs, trying to find his own voice. For his birthday, a friend bought him some time in a studio to record a couple of demos. Terry Mosenberg, who was to become Scott’s manager, arranged the studio time, loved what he heard and encouraged Scott to write and record some more songs. Those demos led Scott to a performance in the offices at Warner Music Canada where, sitting on a stool with his guitar in his lap, he filled the room with a voice that stunned all that were there.
*Bio from Scott’s official website
Emily Koopman: I wanna start out by saying that watching your videos makes me super happy. You always look like you’re having such a good time, and it’s incredibly infectious. What’s your favourite thing about performing — be it in studio, in front of a camera, or in front of an audience?
Scott Helman: Thank you! I’m glad you enjoy them!
Each platform has different pros about it. I love performing for an audience because it gives me a chance to communicate directly with fans, and people who are hearing my music for the first time. To me it’s the purest form of communication. There’s no misunderstanding, to twisted words, and a complete sense of connection, which is really special, and usually pretty damn fun!
The studio is a time for writing, introspection and exploration for me. It’s where I consider myself a creator, which is extremely important to me.
I’m still getting used to performing in front of a camera, to be completely honest…! But it’s fun nonetheless, because it’s music.
Emily: How would you describe your sound?
Scott: I know it’s corny, but my sound is me. I like to be honest with my music, and I like my art being the closest representation of myself possible. I draw inspiration from everything, but compile it into something I can consider an extension of myself.
Emily: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Scott: Sure! Both my parents are Jewish Brits who moved here to Canada in ’95. Then I was born. My grandfather does all the ancestry so you’d have to ask him, but I believe there’s a dabble of Portuguese somewhere down the line!
Emily: What is the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in the music industry thus far?
Scott: Managing personal expectations, keeping humble, making art as much as entertainment, all the things that come along with being in a public sphere. The music industry is a weird, complex, colorful environment and I think you have to keep good, real, hard working loving people around you in order to enjoy it. Nothing drastically crazy though. I’ve been lucky so far.
Emily: Is there a particular artist you really admire? Or maybe a songwriter you draw inspiration from?
Scott: So many. Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, Bob Marley, Paul Simon etc etc. But, recently I’ve been loving Hozier a lot, I think he is an incredible singer and poet. Also, although I’m not a huge rap listener, I’m a pretty avid Mac Miller fan, and I just found this record “Live From Space,” where he performs his songs with a jazz band, and it’s super cool. I love innovative stuff like that, it keeps me on my toes.
Emily: What are five of your favourite things in the entire world?
Scott: My family and friends, good tea with good honey, comfortable beds, learning, and music.
Emily: What are some things you hope to accomplish before you’re 25?
Scott: I set personal goals and general goals I think. Like, I want to live in a perfect apartment or house at some point. Someplace where I can paint and make music. I also want to play for more and more people, so I set those kinds of goals as well. I like to keep some of them a secret, ya know. My straight answer is: too many things!
Emily: I read that you grew up listening to 80’s pop. (I did too!) Do you have some favourites?
Scott: Well, my parents did, and so that was kinda the music they listened to. I was more into 90s stuff, stuff that was around, until I discovered all my heroes…
But, I love The Cure, like a lot. They’re usually my winter soundtrack, along with The Smiths, some Joy Division, Dinosaur Jr., etc..
Me and my brother did recently have an epic dance session to Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf” though…! It made my Dad very proud, as I think I remember him saying: “I feel like I’m in a time machine right now…” followed by a few “oh my god’s” because we were dancing quite foolishly. (I think there was wine involved).
Emily: You released an EP, Augusta, back in October. But when can we expect a full length album?
Scott: Not sure exactly, but keep your eyes peeled. It’s coming.
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