I want to make music that’s good and makes people think and want to dance and feel things and give them value. I want people to know that they are important and that they have valuable and important things to say. Everybody is free to express themselves.” – Scott Helman
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.
“I’d heard a lot of music already, but I’d never listened to The Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd,” says Scott reminiscing about that seminal moment. “We stole a couple cigarettes from his mom and found the album in his dad’s vinyl collection. I remember just staring at the cover. From the moment it started we were speechless. I was amazed at how moved I was by the lyrics. I remember thinking, ‘I want to spend the rest of my life trying to make something half as good as this.’ It was kind of a crazy moment.”
From that moment on Scott became a sponge going back and listening to everything that had only been referenced before – the Beatles, Dylan, Young and on and on. 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.
Encouraged by Ron Lopata, Warner’s VP of A&R, Scott went on a writing spree that produced a plethora of songs that began to define a sound that he could call his own.
“When I would say ‘I don’t know, I’m not comfortable or it’s not me,’” says Scott, “Ron would say just trust me and do it and you can tell me if you don’t like it after. At first I would go home and think, I don’t know about this and then after a week, I’d go ‘this song rocks.’”
“I think the reason some people can find pop music boring is that they think that one song serves one purpose. Sometimes you want to kick people in the ass a little bit. A song like “Cry Cry Cry” is about a relationship but not everything is good and the bridge reflects the other side so there had to be distortion on that guitar. I think it’s important to keep people interested and to keep the world of music an interesting thing.”
Scott continued to develop his craft even as he recorded. Producers such as Tawgs Salter and songwriter Simon Wilcox helped push Scott discover new sounds and ideas locked up inside, allowing him to bloom as an artist.
“Writing songs is like trying to figure out how to put a puzzle together. You struggle to put the pieces together and then you find the one piece that seems to make sense of everything else. Lyrically, the songwriters I worked with were an inspiration. Simon Wilcox was amazing. I don’t know how she does it every day,” marvels Scott.
“There are some songs you write because you want to write a song and there are some songs you write because you have to write a song. “Somewhere Sweet” wasn’t me trying to craft a song. I had come home from work, having just been fired. I hated my job and needed to escape everything and just wrote this really nice song.”
In the midst of writing and recording, Scott started to assemble a band so that he could start trying out the new songs on stage. His first recruits were two old high school friends, guitarist Callum Maudsley and drummer Julian Psihogios.
“This kid we knew had a whole stereo system and a situation going on with mics in his garage,” recalls Scott. “He didn’t play anything but he was super emphatic about music and that he could record it. So we all went over to his house one day to play music. There were some other players there that were really good but I noticed that Julian and Callum were just exceptional and I made a note in my brain that I want to make music with these guys.”
Julian had played with bassist Taylor Everard and so he became a natural fit to join the band. Rounding out the group is keyboardist Ezra Jordan who comes with his own musical legacy as the son of songwriters Marc Jordan and Amy Sky. Once the band was together, they wasted no time in getting their sound together and stretching out Scott’s songs on stage where he proved himself to be a naturally dynamic performer.
“There are a lot of great artists that are really honest with their audience. Regardless of whether or not I like them, I respect them and that is what I am striving for. I want people to know that I am honest with what I am saying. I want people to enjoy my music as much as I do.”
Scott Helman’s tracks