By Keith Sharp
When Scott Helman heard about the sickening attack on Ariana Grande’s fans at Manchester’s MEN Arena Monday May 22nd his mind flashed back to the November 13th 2015 Bataclan massacre in Paris France which killed 90 fans at an Eagles of Death Metal concert.
“I was devastated to see what happened in Manchester (22 fans killed), said Helman who is in the midst of promoting his debut `Hotel DeVille’ album release. “What happened there was a painful reminder to me of how I felt when I was playing in Vancouver on the night of the Bataclan massacre. “I had about 30 minutes before I went on stage, I was reading the reports on what had happened and I’m bawling my eyes out.”
“What amazed me was that despite what had happened in Paris, the Vancouver venue was still packed with people, it was so surreal,” he continued. “So I played my set and I made “Machine” my last song. I said a few words, there was this silence in the room and then one solitary voice yelled out `Fuck ISIS”
“I don’t have the answers to the world’s problems but what I do know is that every time people congregate together and create positivity and love, then that feeling can’t be defeated, “he allowed.
Chat with Scott Helman and you are impressed with a young man who reflects a maturity well beyond his 21 years. In a move that’ almost unheard of at a time of discovering talent on social media, Warner Music Canada made the virtually unheard of move of signing the 15-year old Toronto native to a developmental contract.
“I was fortunate to get involved with a record company that is as much interested in creating artists as they are creating moments,” Helman noted. “At 15 you have no idea what you are going to write about but they put me with people like Thomas Salter and Simon Wilcox and they allowed me to develop and find myself.
The label’s patience was rewarded when an 18-year old Helman released a seven-track “Augusta’ debut EP which featured one major hit “Bungalow” plus a couple of other solid tracks with “The Sweater”, “Lion” and Cry Cry Cry”. “The learning curve was a long one but you want to take the time to be the artist that you see yourself being.”
The real eye opener for Helman when he set off on his first concert tour, opening for Walk Off the Earth on dates that took him through North America and Europe before touring Canada opening for Matthew Good. “You are so used to being in a recording studio, playing for like 10 people and then you’re out on stage singing to thousands of people, it’s quite an adjustment,” Helman allowed. “But the biggest adjustment was travelling on a tour bus with eight sweaty men and saying “Like Bro, you’ve got to take a shower man!”
Naming ‘Hotel De Ville’ after a street in Montreal, where he started writing the sessions, (and where he pursued a female interest) Helman continued to establish a strong rapport with Salter and Wilcox which resulted in the 12 tracks which constitute the new album.
The record’s lead off single “21 Days” came as a result of co/songwriter Salter suffering from a nightmare after taking a dose of Nyquil. “He was telling me about this bad dream he had about being attacked by Zombies, about scrambling his wife and kids to safety and that the world would be destroyed in 21 days,” explained Helman. “So to break the tension, I picked up a guitar and started to sing “In 21 Days, when the Zombies come” Simon (Wilcox) was there and he said, “Hey that’s good, play it again,” and before you know it we had written the song.”
The video for the album’s second single “Kinda Complicated” was shot on location at Slab City, a unique commune in the California desert which attracts Vietnam Veterans, homeless people and other drifters and depicts Helman interacting with these colourful characters. “It was a great experience but on second thoughts the song “21 Days” might have been more descriptive of that environment.”
Helman, who will be promoting his new release with club dates in Ontario, Quebec and Edmonton his month ( Toronto indie-electro duo Featurette is the opening act) before appearing at iHeart Radio West Fest in Calgary July 8th and London Ontario’s Rock the Park festival July 16, is thankful that he got that time to apprentice in the studio and find himself instead of just being a one-hit wonder, flavour of the year.
“Augusta” was my declaration of figuring out who I was and releasing a record which I had been working on for three years,” Helman explained. ““When I got together with Thomas, everything just clicked. I felt my brain go bump! He said `that’s how you sound, that’s what your lyrics feel like. This is who you are. It was all these influences and input from Thomas and Simon which allowed me to progress and record Hotel DeVille”
“I decided early on that I wanted to be an artist that created music that reflected who I am as a person,” he concluded. “I’d rather take the time to craft something that has longevity, rather than experience five minutes of fame. I don’t want to be successful with music that I don’t feel deserves it.”
For further information on Scott and his future tour dates, link to www.scotthelmanmusic.com