A Chat With: Scott Helman
Scott Helman is no stranger to Montreal having lived here and playing many shows around town. I caught up with Scott the day after his gig with Ria Mae in the city. We spoke about relationships, what happens off camera, Friends and much more!
You’ve been touring a lot, how has that been?
Good! Yesterday was the third show, we’re just getting in the swing of things but not really cause our bus broke down so we had to make a bunch of stuff happen really quickly but its been good. The shows have been amazing and all of the stuff we go through in the day, the shows make up for it cause they’re so fun.
In one of your tour videos you said you can now take the record to really singing it; how did you make that step from making it to really performing it?
The last tour was really fun and it was really cool to start singing it and feel that energy from people who like the record. After coming off that tour there was some things where we were like ‘we can make this show a lot better and actually make it a show’ and so yeah, we really made it an adventure for people to watch and that’s really fun. That’s how I feel about the album, as much as they’re individual songs, I feel like they flow and there’s a story and I wanted that to come across on the stage.
You guys have been documenting everything, how did you come up with that idea and why?
Yeah, I don’t know, I think I just like to be real and I think people connect with that more than not, and I think that’s just who I am as a person and I know my fans want to see where i’m at, what i’m doing and its just fun. Half the fun of touring is the goof balling the 80% of the day and I want to share those fun things with my fans and you know, i’m doing this thing where in certain cities we try to go to charities or go to some really cool dude that’s doing something great and if we can make content that’s raising awareness about the awesome people that are doing great things that’s awesome.
That’s sick, like the prom you guys went to
Yeah in Slab City! That was really fucking awesome, one of the best nights i’ve ever had.
That’s so fun that you get to travel and experience those things
Yeah it's really cool, those people are really amazing. Like everyone in Slab City is there because something shitty happened to them or they’re running away from something and I know that the whole idea of running away, some people are like ‘you’re a loser for running away from your problems’ and some people find it romantic-I think the cool thing is that the people who are running away they’re all running away to one place, they’re all runaways and they make this beautiful home. A lot of the people there-something fucked up happened and they couldn’t go to their prom and so there’s like 80 year old people going to prom because they never had a prom and it's the most amazing thing.
Can you tell us something that wasn’t documented that happened on tour?
Yeah, we don’t document the partying.
Any crazy party story?
The MMVAS are always a total shit show because everyone is so high energy when you leave that award show and like just generally that whole night. I can’t think of anything specific that I can share but yeah, I should have a go-to story to answer that question. I mean like off camera things, losing our bus was the craziest thing that’s happened to us so far on this tour. Also, in the No Way Jose video I just put out there’s a scene that’s shot and we were walking in the Old Port and there was this restaurant and this really cute girl was the hostess and I was like ‘i’m gonna play this song for her’ and she was like ‘who are you’ and I was like ‘Scott, can I sing this song for you’ and she said sure and all these people were having dinner and I just started playing the song and it was really fun cause this girl was kinda like 'I really like this but I don’t know how to deal with this situation’, it was funny.
You moved here to write your album, how has the city influenced you?
I like coming here because I feel like people in Montreal they don’t make art for shitty reasons, artists here are artists because they really want to make art and that’s a really inspiring thing to be around and it really helps me get the bullshit out of the way and get me into what I actually want to say so that was helpful. It was a good thing to come to a place where people respect creating music, I mean any place that Leonard Cohen likes, I like too. There’s so much great things that go on here and the real punk DIY attitude about this city is really cool too, its just less bullshit here. I love Toronto, it's my home but people here are straight up, I like that.
The album is a huge love letter, especially the last song House Key, can you tell me more about that song?
Well I think the album-I felt like I had to figure my shit out a little bit and I think once you turn 21 you’re kind of like ‘okay I need to get my shit together a little bit’ and I think also, you look at older people and the people that are functional, it seems like they went and dealt with stuff. If you don’t deal with stuff its gonna come back so you have to address it, so I felt like being in a relationship with someone was the perfect reason to figure out my shit because this person is going to rely on me and i’m going to rely on them and we have to be the best people we can be for each other. If shit goes down I got myself together and if something happened to her or if she needed something from me, I have to be there for her and I think that, that takes a bit of reflection.
So, that House Key song is-actually the way I wrote this song, when I was on tour with Walk Off The Earth, their trumpet player, I just needed something to do so I had him give me trumpet lessons. I was pretty bad but I got okay enough that I could play melodies and I wrote the melody to that song on the trumpet and then I just had a trumpet recorded on a voice memo and went to my producer being like ‘I like this, what do we do with this’ and so he started playing these chords and I started singing that melody and yeah wrote that song. And yeah, I just wanted to move in with my girlfriend and it was scary but I think it was such a beautiful thing like you move in with someone and I don’t know, I was like ‘has anyone written a song about this yet? I guess not’ so I did that.
And you did move in?
Yeah I did, I got her house key… well we got each other’s house key. And you know what it was, I had my apartment in Montreal and she had hers and going to each other’s apartments, it was freezing fucking cold and walking from like Hotel De Ville and Saint-Joseph to wherever she was like, Rachel and Saint-Laurent, so it was like ‘why don’t I just live here’ and once you’re inside with that person you love it feels like your home anyways. So yeah, I also really like Friends. I was watching that episode when Phoebe gets her house key from Paul Rudd or whatever and I was like ‘that’s cool’ I love that show.
Any favourite episode?
Oh my god, I’ve watched that show from start to finish so many times. I really like the episode where Joey throws Ross into the fridge, that is the funniest shit ever! When he’s trying to get the money for the fridge and he throws him and he’s like ‘DUDE!’ and Ross is just like ‘What the fuck man’ hahah I just really like that scene. The last episode is a classic too.
Yeah, all the thanksgiving episodes are really good too!
Yeah when Joey gets his face in the turkey hahah
What music inspired you to write?
I really like this band right now called Alvvays, they’re awesome. That album they just put out is perfect, so good! I just like honesty in music, if I feel i’m being told some real stuff then I like it. I grew up on singer songwriters because that was my way-I feel like if someone wants to be a rapper-the cool thing about hip-hop, it’s such a versatile genre in the sense that anyone can do it. Especially now, if you have a microphone and a beat you can make music. So when I first got a guitar, I would listen to Ray La Montagne, Damien Rice or Neil Young, it was like ‘I can do that because all I need is a guitar’ that’s really the base of what I do. So, that’s where my roots are, but I really like alternative. So, Alvvays, Arcade Fire all the time, and so many more.
Can you tell me something about a song on the album that no one knows?
Hm, Gas Light because its about someone but I don’t want them to know and it just doesn’t matter but I feel like when I sing that song now, I feel like that song is about Donald Trump actually. That guy just gas lighted the shit out of America. I mean he just lied to them, there’s a lot of things I don’t agree with but that doesn’t mean its invalid how they feel and if they wanted to vote for someone like that, that’s fine but my problem with it is that he’s just lying to you, he’s not going to do those things so I feel like thats messed up. That’s also something about growing up, you realize some people are manipulative and you don’t wanna be around those people and that’s something I had to learn-especially as an extrovert, I always wanna be friendly with people but there’s gotta be a point where you realize you don’t wanna be with that person because they make me not a good person.
I feel like Kites is about Saint-Laurent though. If people aren’t from Montreal they don’t make that connection but the way I wrote that song, I think I was in my hotel room and one of my friends just finished an exam and was like ‘dude let’s get rowdy’ and I was like okay! I was sitting there trying to write a pop song and it wasn’t working so I was like let’s do it. The thing I took away from that night is that our generation is stressed out man, so stressed out all the time! Everybody has that one friend that’s gonna get blacked out tonight and its like ‘why dude you’re fine’ but they’re not and they have so much to do and I kinda just wanted to make a song for those people so they can feel that it's okay to do that cause it's okay to shit-faced, it's not okay to get shit-faced everyday but it's okay.
Red or white wine?
If anyone could cover one of your songs, what and who would it be?
Lorde and Ripple Effect
Toronto or Montreal?
Montreal, NO! Toronto! Fuck, both.
Listen to Scott Helman HERE
Photos by: Kaylee Seyfert