Alex Scott on singing, songwriting and her band Fake Cascade!
Alex Scott, originally from Prince Albert, SK, has been living and teaching in North Vancouver for the last 6 years. She has a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from Capilano University (2017) and a diploma in Contemporary Music and Technology - Vocal Performance Major from Selkirk College (2009). I spoke with her over zoom about song-writing, her band Fake Cascade and teaching music. What follows is a transcription of our conversation.
C. What would you like to tell the readers about your background and how you got started in music?
It’s such a funny question, how you got started in music because ever since I’ve been conscious I’ve been into music. It’s always been part of how I’ve enjoyed myself even as a 2 year old, 3 year old and 4 year old. I just always have loved singing, and you know being around music, listening to music. I remember being a little kid and going through my dad’s cd’s and listening to things and finding songs that I liked and wanting to show my friend even at 5 years old. I’ve just always wanted to be around music and start doing music. So I guess I started as most people do with piano at 6, voice lessons at 8 you know, soon after. Then I started writing my own music. I started writing lyrics at 12 and started trying to play guitar and that took of few years of me trying and being like “this really hurts!”. By the time I was 15 I could finally take the pain of the strings on the fingers. So, then I was self-taught on guitar and started writing songs and performing songs, performing originals. Yeah, I was interested in song-writing, even as a little kid playing, and I think most people do this. I think coming from watching a lot of Disney movies I would narrate my own imagination games through song. You know make up songs and sing them. So, I think I’ve been writing music longer then I’m conscious of, just because when you’re a kid it’s a game. Yeah so I think I’ve been interested in song-writing for a long time.
C: Cool. So it’s been like a staple or maybe a main-stay throughout your life.
Yeah and it’s been very much like an ebb and flow, and I was actually writing about that today in my morning pages, a la Julia Cameron. I was writing about how tied song-writing is to my mental health. Somehow I always forget it! Like I’ll write a song and I’ll feel great and a month will go by and I don’t write anything and you know I’ll feel less in touch with myself, less confident, more inhibited and then as soon as I start getting that urge to write and create again I start feeling better! So, it’s like why am I not doing this?! Why am I not making this a practice like I do with meditation and these other things that I do for my mental well-being. Somehow song-writing hasn’t become quite as much of a diligent practice as I… not think it should be, but you know it would be beneficial.
C: I know you as a really strong song writer. So that kind of leads to my next question which is about your band Fake Cascade. I know that’s where you share a lot of your original music. So I guess I’m wondering how you guys connected and how having that collaboration influences your songwriting.
A: That’s a good question. So, Andrew Wilson a drummer from Cap and Derek Maroney the bass player, we were involved in the church band for St. Andrew’s United, we were the summer band. I think we started doing that in 2017 and then basically in December of that year, 2017 Eli Davidovici asked if I wanted to play a show at the Gold Saucer in January of 2018 a month later. So, I asked Andrew and Derek since we had already been playing together, Do you guys want to do this? So that’s basically how it happened. He asked me to play a show and I was like do you guys want to play the show with me. That was sort of the start of the band. It was a little bit happenstance in a way. And then after that, I think it was for that show that we played at the Gold Saucer. Eli’s band Moondle played and that’s where I first met and heard Carey Campbell guitar player and I really liked his playing and so I just messaged him. Do you want to play with us? And it became a band! And how has that influenced my songwriting? I think that it’s influenced my song-writing in that I’m able to hear songs more or imagine what the band would do when I’m writing so in that way I think that it’s changed the genre in which I write. Because I can imagine it more fully realized. Whereas when I don’t have the players in mind I sort of feel like I need to realize the song myself so in that way it veers more towards folky, you know like something that’s more stripped down and can kind of stand on its own. Whereas when I know I’ve got drums, bass, guitar I’m able to leave that space and know that it’s going to be filled and so in that regard, I’m able to explore genres that are more RnB, Rock. Something that would be harder to pull off just by yourself. So I think it’s changed my writing in that way.
C: Cool. You mentioned song-writing workshops so that and Fake Cascade they’re some projects that you’re working on. Are there any projects that you’re passionate about? Or could you go a little more into the song-writing workshops.
A: So for the song-writing workshop I did offer it as a 2 part series in the fall and then in the spring of this past year so fall of 2019 and spring of 2020 in February. I’m really glad that I scheduled that one for February so it didn’t get cancelled and that was able to be finished. The participants were able to realize their songs. That would have been really hard to do online in the way that I formatted it. So basically in the fall we covered the basics, so the first day was idea inspiration getting into lyric writing. It was once a week so the second week was lyric writing, song form and just really getting more into editing so taking all the ideas from the first week and solidifying, refining them so that the following week we could put them to music. So that was chord progressions melodies and putting them together. So that was the three weeks in the fall. Then in February the first week we basically were editing. We were practicing together and refining it, making any adjustments adding extra sections if need be, like adding a bridge or adding a pre-chorus just to round it out. The second week was talking about arrangement we did more editing as well, but more band arrangement, how to write a chord chart, how to write a lyrics sheet and all that and talking about tempo, how to count in a band. So preparing them for the final week which was bringing in Fake Cascade so bringing in Derek, Andrew and Cary. So the kids, or actually they were teenagers all got about a half hour to work with the band. We recorded it with a little zoom mic to give them a little demo. It wasn’t a super high-quality recording but gave them something to refer back to or use. Yeah so that was really fun! (12:52)
C: Nice! Awesome!
A: So now I’m basically trying to develop a condensed version. I’ll do the first 3 weeks of that, so the basics. Lyric writing, melodies, chord progressions, idea creation that’s what I’m trying to develop in my online program so that would be three 1 hour sessions and instead of breaking it into 3 weeks I’m doing Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So that they have a day to let in soak in and hopefully write. And I guess it will be a little more informative and a little bit less collaborative just because it is going to be online. They are shorter sessions I think than when I offered it in person because I was kind of going to each student and working with them individually the sessions were about 2 hours long. This is going to be a bit more condensed. The other workshop that hoping to offer or that I’m kind of working on developing if there is interest, is song mastery. So basically how to really learn a song and master it quickly. So there is going to be techniques for learning the melody so sirening and mirening the melody so that you’re not trying to learn the melody and the lyrics at the same time and analysing the lyrics and really getting into the story of it. Often times I find as singers we can sing a song and unless we’re a little more invested in it we might not be consciously thinking what is the actual message of the song, what is the feeling, what am I communicating.
C: Yeah it can be easy to sing a song and maybe sing it well but miss some of the deeper things or things that you might really connect with.
A: Yeah exactly. It’s the difference between an authentic performance and just singing a song. I’ve been going into something else I’ve been studying for the last few years which is Estill technique. Through Estill I’ve learned a lot more about vocal technique and vocal anatomy and what are the mechanisms of the voice and all the intricacies. So bringing that into the Song Mastery we’re gonna talk about really getting into the nitty gritty the vocal performance of the original artist. So what vocal quality are they using, what onsets are they using, going through if there are any complicated runs, how do you practice runs, how do you master those and then beyond that. So basically how to really get into the details of the song. After you’ve done that then bringing it into your own personal performance. So for instance, say the singer was belting the chorus the first time and they were belting it every single time. How would it feel to sing it softly how would it change the message of it. What’s your interpretation of it how can you either alter how you’re singing the melody or the actual melody of the song, the length of the notes just to make it your own. So that’s the jist of the Song Mastery, just getting into the details.
C: That’s cool. That kind of answered two questions in one. It covered the projects you’re interested in and my next question which was about what types of classes or learning opportunities you offer. I know you’re teaching at a couple of places. Is it Harmonia House?
A: It’s Harmonia vocal studio confused with Harmony House which is a different studio. I have some friends who teach at Harmony House. I’m at Harmonia which is owned by Kimberly Markarian she is a local North Van teacher and I’ve been working there since 2015 with her. Lauren Tivadar is also there. It’s not a physical studio. I also teach for the North Shore Music academy. I offer voice lessons and piano lessons. In terms of studying or projects I’m also working towards my figure proficiency in Estill. It’s part of the Estill voice technique and it’s the first level of certification. I will hopefully be testing for that at the end of June. It really has changed the way I teach, the way I hear the voice and my understanding of the mechanics of the voice is so much greater now. I’ve done the course 3 times now and because it is so much information in 5 days, the first time I found it really interesting but so much went over my head. Everytime I do it I get a more concrete understanding and am able to communicate with my students a lot better rather than just having them mimic a recording or having them mimic me. I’m able to explain if you want this sound here are the techniques that you do to achieve that or if they’re having strain or constriction I know the techniques to counter that, to alleviate that feeling. I would highly recommend it as a course.
C: Nice! What album do you have on repeat now or maybe an all time favourite album?
A: An artist that I’ve been super obsessed with the last couple of weeks is Arlo Parks. It’s kind of funny I’ve been obsessed with individual songs lately. She has an EP that came out this year. I don’t remember the name of the EP right now but there’s only 2 songs on it. The first song is called Black Dog I believe and the second song is called Eugene. The song Eugene I’ve been super obsessed with and have been listening to it over and over. I was really into Frank Ocean’s singles that he put out. Cayendo, I was super into that. Also the Weekend’s new album, I really liked the last half of it so going from Blinding lights to the end. The album that I keep going back to in last year or so is by Nao it’s called Saturn. Her voice is incredible. She worked as a studio background singer and a voice teacher. She’s got a really unique voice and an incredible range. I was really into Anderson Paak this year and….I feel like I’m forgetting one when we get off call I’m gonna be like oh I can’t believe I didn’t mention that.
C: There’s always so many. It’s hard to boil it down because there’s so much music to listen to.
A: Yeah and I go through phases I guess because I also really like podcasts and audiobooks. I’ve gotten into audiobooks during quarantine so some of it isn’t at the top of my mind cuz I went through a heavy music phase in late April and early May and then since the end of May and this month (June) I’ve been listening to books and podcasts so it’s not quite top of mind. Oh wait actually I was also really into an album that is more folky I don’t remember the title of album (Love letter for Fire) but it’s a duet album by Sam Beam(Iron & Wine) and Jesca Hoop. The whole album is duets and it’s so beautiful.
C: Next question! Is there a fun fact or something random you’d like to share?
A: Self Isolation songs. That was really fun to do. You can find those saved in the highlights on my personal Instagram page. It’s me singing songs but also a bunch of friends singing and posting a song everyday based on the daily themes that I made up. We did that for a month. It’s pretty fun. I haven’t looked back at them in a while so maybe I’ll do that. A nice collection of songs.
C: Cool! I know you have a bandcamp page for Fake Cascade. Where else can we find you and your music online?
A: Good question. There’s the bandcamp page. We’re on Spotify, Itunes. We’ve got some stuff on youtube just our songs. We do have a live video that we did with Rachel Studios Media on Youtube or you can find it on the facebook page. So yeah we’ve got a facebook page as well and an Instagram @fakecascade.
C: Thanks for agreeing to do this.
A: For sure! My pleasure.