Jackson Scott is a rare breed, somehow suited to occupy both ends of every spectrum he refuses to bisect. His last show at New Mountain attracted a few dozen fans, but indie aficionados peppering the globe know his twisted take on psych-rock from praise in Pitchfork, NPR, NME, etc. He’s a soloist who wants to collaborate more, a recluse who’s dedicated to the local scene, a lyricist who drowns hard-earned victories beneath his own breath, a would-be filmmaker who picked up a guitar. With over 116,000 streams at press time, Scott’s most popular song on Spotify could only be titled “That Awful Sound.”
Although the tangle of discrepancies makes the musician himself a fascinating subject, his work comes propped up by a magnetism all its own, particularly recently released sophomore album Sunshine Redux. At his best, Scott embellishes simple, dissonant guitar parts with spacey effects that leave the ears squinting for answers. His more melodic songs are at once disturbing and attractive, chaotic and elegant. The young musician brings an impalpable evocativeness to the basics when he wants to.
“I’d say I’m a bit more focused on the sound than the technical elements that go into it, but I always love trying to get better in that regard too,” he says. “The perfect synthesis of technical ability and creative ideas is the ultimate thing [but] some of my favorite stuff is very, very simple.”
Accompanying Scott’s unassuming arrangements is a penchant for vocal manipulations, most notably those not requiring an electronic device. Split between intentionally breathy moments, sung-to-a-child lullabies and wholly indecipherable croons, Scott’s voice is as distinguishing as it is volatile.
“I really like the total endless possibilities of any voice,” he says of these man-made effects, adding that he looks up (or makes up) lyrics when he can’t understand the singers. “In some songs [my voice] is a bit more direct, but in some, I do like when it’s embedded in there. [But the lyrics are] definitely as important to me as the music.”
Although Scott aptly warps listeners’ grasp of time with loops and layers aplenty, his compartmentalization of songs is even more uncommon. Sunshine Redux‘s opening track “Woodworkk,” for example, is an inexplicable 10-second crescendo and “Steal Me” another seconds-long ambient question mark. Most recent single “Ripe for Love,” however, crams no less than four distinct chapters into a six-minute adventure. The strategy, Scott says, is that there isn’t one.
“I enjoy the concept of a song being a completely open ended idea,” he says. “You could have a straight verse-chorus-verse song that’s like two minutes or a Pink Floyd-style song that’s 20 minutes with eight minutes of ambiance. There’s really no rhyme or reason to the idea of what a song is.”
Scott’s anything-goes tunes, although predominantly recorded with a 4-track in his North Asheville abode, have no business remaining there. Luckily, by the sounds of it (and by the looks of his upcoming tour schedule), they won’t.
“I’m really just happy to be in Asheville, and I’m happy to be playing music with friends,” he says, crediting the local no-judgment aura. “People are going to like stuff. People are going to not like stuff. And that’s kind of irrelevant to what I’m trying to do.”