Indier than Indie
Published 7:01 pm Saturday, September 22, 2012
You’re not likely to forget Alison Scott once you hear her.
The Minneapolis singer has a boistrous, soulful sound that carries tones of 70s rock and an incredible depth of meaning and emotion: And she’s coming to Austin.
Scott received an Arts Tour Minnesota Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board that allows her to embark on a multi-theatre tour throughout Minnesota and Austin’s Historic Paramount Theatre is one of those stops on Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m.
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“We’re making seven stops, and none of them are in the Twin Cities,” Scott said Tuesday. “My booking agent Elisa Wright came to us wanting to pitch us for this grant. I’m pretty floored that she did all this hard work.”
The tour will also feature two stops in Duluth, and shows in New York Mills, Winona, Mankato and Staples.
Several of the shows are in cities that have size to them and are used to getting shows of this caliber, but New York Mills and Staples aren’t your typical stops.
That isn’t deterring Scott who says some of her best shows come in small towns.
“Every time we go to a real small town I’m scared because I’m afraid the population is so small nobody is going to come out,”“ Scott said. “In the Cities you have several bands, but if you go somewhere like [small towns] you’re the only band going on. You really end up having really great crowds.”
Growing up musical
It’s not hard imagining Scott growing up in a musical household. Scott and her two siblings were always surrounded by music in some fashion or another.
“I’ve kind of been one of those people singing since I’ve been in the womb,” Scott said. “My mom was a voice major in college and my dad was a classical musician in college. At 2 or 3 I can remember singing with them in the car, learning to sing harmony.”
Scott herself went on to pursue classical studies and musical theatre and admits not turning to contemporary stylings until reaching her first year at Elon College in North Carolina.
Her first commercial release is 2008’s “Wish on a Moon,” and it wasn’t your typical introduction to music.
“I hadn’t even had a band before,” Scott said. “I was completely new to the scene, and I was thrown in with my current business partner, Kevin Bowe, who is a Grammy-winning, platinum record song writer. I was with studio musicians who had 15-20 years on me.
“It was very intimidating,” Scott continued. “But they were all really wonderful and nurturing and they helped me through the process. I was so proud when I finally had the record to release.”
Overcoming the stage was Scott’s next hurdle, especially when your first gig is your CD release party.
“It was scary, and I was very nervous,” She said. “A lot of musicians are musician’s because they love the glory. I love making music, I love being in the studio. Being on stage isn’t real natural for me.”
Independent of indie
In a very technical definition, Scott is part of the vibrant and growing independent music scene in the Twin Cities, but she isn’t specifically a part of that trend. She’s well known and her band is getting a growing following that has expanded outside the metro area.
Scott is fond of looking at what her and her band is doing as being “indier and indie,” a statement that speaks more on her place in the indie music scene.
“The [Twin Cities], it’s very indie rock heavy, and I’m not an indie rock musician; and I think I’ve been discredited a little bit because I sing soul music,” Scott said. “I don’t get a lot of love with the media and press in town.”
That’s not an indictment on the bands themselves, stating that she’s friends with many of them. “We’re truly doing it all on our own, getting in front of as many people as possible as often as possible.”
Lack of media exposure hasn’t hampered Scott and the band that much. In a way it gives them more determination.
“I think it has made us really resilient,” Scott said.
The work Scott and her band are putting in may be paying off as she’s starting to see more openness to something other than rock.
“The last six months, I’ve started to notice a little more opened minds, just to the point I think the energy is changing,” Scott said. “Hopefully it will continue.”
Music and words
Trying to nail down a genre for Scott is like containing lightning in a bottle. There’s soul, 70s rock and jazz elements fused together in a unique take on soul music. Her voice soars and soothes and her lyrics are never hard to figure. They tell a story that can be as personal as the music itself.
“I’m heavily influenced by the 70s, but we dabble in a lot of genres,” Scott said. “It’s hard labeling what we do, and we prefer to mix it up rather than be one of those bands that sound the same.”
Some of her taste in music can once again be traced back to her home growing up.
“My father was a fan of true song writers,” Scott said. “I listened to their music and I was definitely one of the last kids to rebel against my parent’s music.”
But it works. Scott is able to weave her own style into what influenced her growing up, especially vocally where her strength of music harkens to personal favorites Aretha Franklin and Etta James.
Her love for the past has also translated into two cover albums, aptly named “Hiding Under the Covers,” and “Hiding Under the Covers, Vol. 2.”
This isn’t Scott entertaining like a cover band at a bar. This is a band performing songs they truly love. The band also takes cares with each song they do.
“Doing covers for me is kind of like walking a tight rope,” Scott said. “You have to change it enough so you’re not copying the original, but you can’t change it so much that you’re wrecking the song. I love doing them because I like seeing what we’re coming up with.”
Lyrically, on those albums that aren’t covers including 2010’s “Chinese Whispers,” Scott displays an ability to cut to the truth of the matter with very little subterfuge. Everything is there for the listener, taken from real life either from her point of view or things she has witnessed.
“It’s both of those things,” Scott confirmed. “Usually when I sing it’s my therapy and it always starts with me. It just has to mean something, and sometimes it’s easier for me to write outside the box. I can see what it’s like for them.”
Scott’s emergence in the Twin Cities and Minnesota is taking her further and further each day. The band works tirelessly, spending much of their time on the road when performing.
That hard work has transferred to over 12,000 units sold, but listening to Scott talk about her music and the work she and her band are doing, it’s easy to see she has her sight a little further.
“I don’t have any aspiration of being the next Britany Spears,” Scott said. “I don’t want to fill stadiums, but I would like to fill theaters nationally.”
What’s Alison Scott listening to?
Wilco and Aqualung.
“What Wilco does for me is awesome,” Scott said. “The songs are great. Musically they are very good. “Sky Blue Sky,” is probably my favorite.
“The Aqualung singer just has a real cool voice. I love Magnetic North, and they have a classic background like I do but it still mixes with modern music.”