INTERVIEW: Canadian singer/songwriter Scott Helman talks ahead of his Boston, MA show
Boston tends to be either the jump-off point for tours for international acts or the finale and Scott Helman is pulling the former! Toronto born Helman is fresh off his European run opening up for Vance Joy and as he starts his US run in Boston tomorrow, he’ll be in the headlining position! If his latest EP, “Hang Ups”, is any indication of what’s to be expected tomorrow, Boston is in for a real treat. In speaking to Helman just yesterday, he spoke of the set being a little more stripped down than past shows and really letting the music speak for itself. Club 939 is easily the perfect venue for this and is sure to be a real treat!
In our chat, Helman spoke a lot about the writing/recording process for these new tracks and his approach to the studio this time around. As well, he spoke of his time in Europe with Vance Joy and hopes for the next few months. Find our chat below and catch us in the crowd tomorrow. Doors are at 8 p.m., and Oliver Jordan will be opening it up! Tickets are $13 prior, $15 at the door and can be purchased here. See you then!
Obviously, you’ve been really busy lately. You just finished the tour with Vance Joy in Europe, you’re about to start your second headliner this year in the US. How did those European shows go?
Yeah, I mean it was really cool. I’ve toured in Europe twice before but I grew up going to London as a kid since my parents are from England. So it always feels really good to play, I mean especially in the UK, but just generally in Europe because I was raised on a lot of that culture. So it feels like a home away from home. It was really fun and it was really nice big rooms and great crowds. I opened for Walk Off The Earth in Europe before and that was really fun but when you open up for an artist that just fits really well it’s just great and that tour really fit well for me. That whole team is great.
Perfect and then you start your next US run Friday here in Boston. It hasn’t been too long since you’ve been last here. You have these new songs out now, how have you been preparing for these sets?
Yeah, we’ve been incorporating the new songs. I’m a big believer in songs speaking for themselves and making an honest connection with crowds. I don’t include too many bells and whistles. At least in my music. I’m still trying to figure out currently how to minimize things actually which is funny because I think when you’re younger, you’re like ‘oh man I need all these things! I want the pyro.’ I think now I’m like I’ve been doing that for a while. Especially on our last headline tour in Canada, I had all those things that I really dreamt of having. And now I’m just doing more of the other thing. It’s kind of back and forth but we’re going to try to keep it a little more stripped down. And still involve those elements of my music that are like having my full band and stuff. But we’re definitely going to explore. Actually today we have this five-hour meeting where we’re going to suss out how different we want to make the set and especially with the new songs. I think a really fun thing is when an artist releases new material, you get to see it live and it’s slightly different from what you hear on the record. I think that just shows our creativity. So yeah, long answer!
That’s good though! And speaking of new material, I know you just released those three songs. The first new music since your debut album, “Hotel de Ville”, was released. When did these songs start coming together for you? When did you really start working on them?
Something about these songs on this last EP, it was the fastest turnaround I’ve had at all as a professional musician. I really went from having it done in the studio to having it in the world within a couple months. It wasn’t really a lot of waiting around. Which feels really good because I think I’m just getting more confident as time goes on. That’s a really special thing to feel as an artist because usually, you don’t feel confident at all. I just think it’s better too because the music is so fresh for me. I’m really talking about stuff that’s going on in my life right now. Like for example, ‘Lifeguard’ is a song about empowerment. I think a lot of the things that are happening right now in terms of women’s rights and the entire conversation about what does it mean to be a man in a relationship with a woman and how can I best be supportive and stuff. I think it’s a super important thing to discuss and that was in my head and I think it came out in the music. I’m just excited since I feel so passionately about those songs and now I can go on stage and play those songs. I don’t have to go on stage and play all my old songs and have like four new songs that I wish I could play right now because they’re not out, so that’s really fun to me.
And for those songs, I know you worked with the same producer for two of them that you did “Augusta” and “Hotel de Ville ” with, and then another producer for the third song. Do you think the process still changes? You talked about how it was a really fast turnover so that’s maybe the main change but when it came to writing these songs and recording them.
Yeah I’ll be honest, it did. I felt progression. I think the really wonderful thing about my career so far is that it’s continuing to grow and get bigger. There’s obviously lows in all careers, but I definitely feel like I keep looking back and go ‘okay, cool, this is going well!’ Doing what I’m doing, and the hardest conversation you have to have with yourself is a) you don’t want to fix something that’s not broken or b) you want to get better. We walked into the studio, I mean I spent time with my producer and I write with a lady named Simon Wilcox as well who’s a great friend of mine. So yeah at this point, I feel really confident. When we went into the studio this time, it’s the same thing that I was saying about my live show. I don’t want to try to fix something that hasn’t been broken. We just wanted to try to just get better. With this EP, I really walked in and was like, ‘I know we should write great songs and I know we can write songs like this but let’s write a song that’s not like that. Let’s write a song that’s never been written before’. And that just ended up being this big banger that I was super proud of, ‘Doestoevsky’, when it was finished. I feel like we really hustled in that session. We were doing all the math, we weren’t letting any mediocrity fly, anything that wasn’t perfect we were just throwing out and starting again. That was a really hard song to write. I really feel that ‘Dostoevsky’ is the best song I’ve written yet. I’m really proud of it, walked through the fire with it. I work with people who are my heroes so it was nice to walk out of there and knowing that we did a good job was a pretty good feeling.
Then you’re still a relatively young Canadian artist. You are coming here, you’re making the effort to go to Europe. Considering how supportive the Canadian music scene is, maybe advice to bands to come here, to make that risk, to make that jump?
I mean I’m still new doing it so I probably don’t have the best advice but a couple things. I mean, A) it takes a while. But I don’t know if I’m equipped to advise because I’m sort of still on that path where I’m in that race and I’m battling it out. Most of the people I’ve talked to it’s all about time. Like A) Doing great things takes time and I think sometimes when you’re an artist, it’s really easy to look at other artists and be like it happened to him in two years or it happened to him in eight years! Why isn’t that happening for me but then I look at my career and go well it took a while but what I have in Canada is so special. I want the same kind of career in another country so I’d rather put in the time and have it take a while and do something worthwhile rather than have a flash in the pan success and then be somewhere that I don’t want to be in three or four years. So I think that’s really important and I think also just keep going back. Like any other artist I love, it took Bruce Springsteen like three albums to have worldwide success. It took Bob Marley forever, I think it took Prince a couple tries. It’s really easy to look at the world and go, this is what I don’t have. Especially when it comes to the Internet and Instagram and all this crap, that you’re looking at all day. Take a step back and look at other peoples’ careers. Morgan Freeman wasn’t in a movie until he was like seventy something. Definitely taking my time and doing it my way.
Perfect then to maybe end it off, as I said before, you’re about to start this US run of dates in Boston on Friday and we’re pretty close to the end of the year. What are some goals or focuses hitting 2019?
Yeah, I’m really excited about things that we’ve been talking about lately. I haven’t really been in the studio for a minute. I’ve just been kind of itching to create so I’ve been doing some things outside of music that I’m really excited about. I don’t know what’s going to come of it but I’ve just been exercising my creative process in other areas. I’m sure I can’t divulge much more information than that right now, about what I’m going to do with all of it. But yeah, I’m getting back into the studio after Christmas so I’m going to be writing tons more music. So there will be more coming! And I think I’m going to take more risks. I’m pretty confident in saying I’ll have new music out pretty soon because I really want to exercise that thing of like ‘Make a song, give it to people’ and see what happens instead of picking out the perfect ones. I really just want to get songs out there so yeah stay in touch! And then for shows coming up, well obviously we have this tour, but there’s definitely going to be more touring soon so just keep your ears and eyes peeled.
Featured Image by Brittany Farhat