Regular readers will know we have featured the work of Scott Lloyd many times here at Marsh Towers.
Today sees the release of Scott's debut album and I am delighted to present an exclusive interview with the man himself.
Having reviewed your EPs and singles, it is exciting to see your debut album is now here. How long ago did you decide that one day you would get to this stage?
I guess it was always something I wanted to do. An album is seen as the hallmark of a musician and it’s what we use to define their career. I have always seen the day when I’d release an album, I just didn’t want to rush it. I have learnt and benefitted from taking my time with everything. I would hate to burn out too quickly and feel I haven’t given myself sufficient time to coordinate everything, from writing that amount of songs for an album and also having the structure around me to be able to record and release it properly. Both those things came about by having Aardvark Records sign me in 2018 and also meeting Mathieu, the producer on the album.
Tell me about the producer, Mathieu Garcia. How did the two of you come to work together?
Mathieu produced the album and also helped me at a time when I needed some realignment in life and my music. It was late 2017 and I didn’t know what to do next in terms of my career. I believed I had exhausted all my avenues with releasing and creating the recordings. Over the past five years I’d done the acoustic EPs, the self-released/recorded EPs, the backing band live recorded EP etc. and for the first time since I started releasing music seriously, I was lost for what to do or how to even do it.
So, Mathieu came at a perfect time. We met at an open mic night I was hosting in Manchester and he was wanting to play that night. We got chatting and I explained my predicament. He then explained that he had a home studio and that we could try a few things one day. So I said yeah, and then the following week or so I was at Mathieu’s studio and I was playing him a song I had called Looking Out To Sea. He loved it and that was the start of the album recording sessions really. However, at the time I wasn’t signed to Aardvark so the four songs we’d recorded were only meant to be released as singles and then possibly an EP, at best.
How did you make initial contact with the Aardvark label?
It was Mathieu’s encouragement that lead me to contact any labels at all. I was against it as I had had so many rejections in the past I came to the conclusion that it is easier to release things myself, which I had done previously. Also, the rejection was a bit of a downer to take so I wanted to avoid that. I tend to take things to heart too much, I believe, and because I was feeling at a loss anyway I thought I would avoid any negative setbacks. But still Mathieu insisted that the songs we had done were good enough to get me signed and be released on a label. So, with hesitation, I started researching some independent labels that could be interested. I contacted maybe six(?) labels, had two rejections and one positive reply. This was Aardvark Records.
They are an independent label based in Cornwall, which is where my wife is from and, also, probably seen as another spiritual home of mine. They said they liked what they heard and would get back to me after A&R heard the songs. After about a month of emails, I met up with them in Falmouth, Cornwall when I was visiting Graces family. They instantly said they liked everything about me and wanted to sign me, in so many words. It was a phenomenal feeling, I was close to tears as I left the pub we met in. To have someone express interest in what you’ve been working so hard for over five years was just glorious. It made me feel good and that I would be able to move forward from my rut. They are a really nice bunch of people. They wanted a run of singles and then an album from me, which I was very much up for!
The background to some of your songs is nostalgia, particularly with youth and families. Do you think these aspects are stronger in the North East than elsewhere or do you find them to be universal?
I honestly think they are universal. They must be. We are all human and think and wonder and remember things with the same emotions. Some of us are more soppy and emotional than others, me for instance. Being naturally romantic about places, memories, people etc. helps me to write in such a nostalgic way. But, the core feeling will be repeated through everyone’s lives, regardless of geography or background. I don’t like it when cities, towns, areas, countries claim to be better then anywhere else. Its all relative and justifiable to what you believe is good. It just so happens that I’m from a town with history and from a family that I can talk about, and like to talk about, because its what I know.
They always say write about what you know, and I believe that is true. Writing about what you know and believe in brings some depth and character to whatever your writing. This, hopefully, resonates with the listener and connects you to them. That’s a wonderful thing. But I’m just one person telling my story and everyone’s got their own to tell.
Can you tell me what sort of losses have you experienced?
Probably similar to ones that most people have experienced. That lyric from Down To Earth is not only about losses in a physical sense, such as family members passing away, but also losses in terms of moments and times that have passed. So a memory of a brilliant time or moment I had when I was younger, is now only a memory, but at one time it was a real moment and now its lost. Only lived in once and cannot be replicated. It’s about negativity, the whole song is, but then counteracted by what positives I have in life. The positive I use in that song is my wife’s smile, because I’m a soft bugger. It is about how we can always find something to worry about and be sad about but its not actually anything palatable that can harm us or is even something to worry about in the first place. It about looking at the positives.
Mental health is a subject trying hard to emerge from taboo status to something that should be brought out into the open. Have you, personally, suffered from such problems and is writing songs on the subject more difficult than writing about (for example) love?
It is probably as easy as writing about anything else you’ve experienced. Like I said before, if you know about it, write about it. It is easy to write about something you’ve been through or are going through as long as your writing is honest. I struggled with anxiety and depression over a few years recently, as most people do. So, writing about it helped in the way that I could make it real, because when its inside your head its not real and is inexplicable, that is what makes it so hard to talk about, I believe.
People struggle to talk about their mental health because you can’t put it into words, it’s just too unfathomable to describe. You feel you’re arguing with yourself constantly, trying to distinguish from your mind and reality. I have learned to deal with it by going out into nature more. Actually seeing the world for what it is. Leaving your mind behind you and just experiencing things as they are in the real world. Walking, bird watching and gardening are my new favourite things. Hello 30!
Your inspirations are stated as being a combination of Lennon and McCartney, Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and Bruce Springsteen. Do you find it difficult to avoid trying to mimic their style and tone?
I guess it is only natural that my influences will come out in my music. Sound-wise or lyrically. Although, I honestly don’t worry about it, I just do my own thing. Writing songs as I do, if something sounds too much like another artist I will tweak it or discard it. I do find it hard to listen to new music though. I feel like I can easily do something similar by mistake so my mind naturally rejects it. I don’t want to sound like anyone, obviously that’s impossible but if I just tell my own story then that is enough. No one has that story but me.
If you could play just one song from the album to introduce someone to your music, which would it be?
I think they all say something about me and my music in different ways. I really like them all and I couldn’t be happy with how they sound and come across. But, the one song which I think does tell my story perfectly, lyrically and musically, would be Looking Out To Sea. I think that song is the backbone of the album and really gives the album a new depth. It comes about halfway through and just seems to fit so well. It’s wholly autobiographical. The first few verses and choruses were written very quickly, probably in one day or so. The outro and ending took a lot longer. All in all it was a few months trying to make it perfect and listening to it now I think it is just that. There is not one word or note I would change. I am hugely proud of that one.
You will have experienced a large variety of audiences over your years of gigging. It is essential experience for any performer and only the strong can make it through. Do you still encounter any hostile or disinterested crowds or are things generally much better now you are becoming increasingly successful?
I feel a lot more comfortable in who I am these days, so its naturally easier to be myself and express what I have on stage now. When I started I think I felt like I hadn’t earned my stripes, like it was my apprenticeship before the real thing. At first perhaps I was mimicking my idols and trying to be something I wasn’t, maybe that’s not true but certainly along those lines. The audiences now are great, they always have been, but now I feel like I connect with them more. I love acoustic gigs, they are so intimate. It feels like I can literally communicate with the audience through my songs. Its really nice. I am supporting a singer called Pete Macleod on 10th June at Jimmy’s in Manchester, and that will be acoustic. I am really looking forward to that one.
After completing the album, do you find yourself dry of ideas or is it a case of the creative juices just keep on flowing?
The music certainly isn’t an open tap, but its always trickling. I always have songs I’m writing or have just written or unfinished songs that I can go back to. At the moment its slightly less so as I am so close to the songs on the album its hard to write fresh and new material while they are so much a part of me. I know that as soon as the albums out I will be brimming with ideas and writing full on again. I don’t worry about the droughts, the music always comes back.
What can we expect from you over the next couple of years?
I am certainly wanting to do more gigs, acoustic or full band. There will hopefully be a summer album launch gig in Manchester but that’s just an idea at the moment. While I’m with Aardvark I’m hoping to get at least two albums out, I may go back through my older EPs and record them with Mathieu and do them justice. I recorded all but one of my old EPs myself so I think I would like to hear those old songs rejuvenated a bit. They are certainly a part of me so I can’t discard them. At the moment, I am happy, musically and in my life. So going forward I think I will just do what I always have done, which is to just let things happen.
Scott Lloyd, thank you very much!