A few months ago, Jackson Scott was just Jack, the drummer/guitar player/occasional singer for local psych-rock-shoegaze group Sin Kitty. That all changed on Feb. 26 when Scott’s song “That Awful Sound” premiered on Pitchfork. Since then, the song, hosted on Scott’s SoundCloud page, has logged more than 80,000 plays. The rapid success left many people shocked, including Scott. “I knew that some blogs were talking about it, I wasn't really sure how far it would go, though,” he said. “I was pretty surprised.”
So how did this 20-year-old former UNCA student go from a relatively unknown entity to opening for Deerhunter and signing to Fat Possum Records? Well, for one, he took the focus off of his schooling and on to his songwriting. “[I] devoted every waking hour for about six months [to] recording an album until I thought that it was complete,” says Scott about his upcoming album, Melbourne.
After posting it online, he began sending out the link to every blog and label he was interested in. With no PR or management team behind him then, this tactic could have left his work lost in the wasteland of artist emails. But something about Scott’s work rose above the clamor.
Before Scott was in Sin Kitty, he made his own music. He learned to play the piano when he was 8, then drums and guitar as a teenager, and started recording his songs in high school. Scott left his hometown of Pittsburgh to go to UNCA, where he met the other members of Sin Kitty and began recording demos in his dorm.
Even after the Pitchfork piece and Fat Possum (which will put out his debut this summer), there’s still only one press photo of Scott. His Tumblr features a single Polaroid and his SoundCloud hosts two songs. It doesn’t seem to be part of some carefully crafted persona. It’s more an attempt to let his music speak first.
Like many lo-fi luminaries before him, Scott’s recording techniques are simple on the surface. While he mixes in GarageBand, the recording itself is done using a Tascam 4-track recorder, the standard for most home recording of the past few decades. Introduced in 1979, the Portastudio allowed for cheap, DIY recording to cassette tapes and has been used by the likes of Animal Collective, Wu-Tang Clan and even Bruce Springsteen. But it’s the intimate works of John Vanderslice, Jeff Mangum and even groups like Television Personalities with which Scott’s sound has a real kinship.
“Sometimes I'll get into a really obsessive songwriting mode where I will write a bunch of songs at once, then some take longer … often I write songs on guitar by messing around with different chord structures and trying to come up with some euphoric melodies over top of them,” Scott says of his process. “I really love pop songs. I really love dark songs, too.”
Scott shies away from the singer-songwriter label, but it’s apt. Despite the instrumentation or production flares, the key to artists like Scott is the songs. The individual voice, the lyrics, the delivery. Scott keeps things unique. Hence his rapid success, to blogs and critics touting him as the next big thing, to a management and record deal, and a tour supporting Bradford Cox’s Deerhunter, another musical and spiritual influence. “I'm going to tour throughout the rest of the year,” Scott says of his upcoming plans. “I really want to go to Europe. Then I want to come back to Asheville and record another album.”