Abigail St. Clair Thomas interviews musician and artist Scout Paré-Phillips

 

ASCT
Do you find inspiration comes to you differently now than it has in the past?
S
Music has always poured out of me whenever I’m going through a hardship in my life. With photography, it’s always been the opposite; I need to be at ease in order to focus and create work that’s worth while. They both kind of fall into their own rhythm in that way. For the past few months my focus has actually been textiles work — dyeing fiber, weaving, leather garments — so that has yet to settle itself among the other fields I work in.

 

 

ASCT
How does your work reflect you?
S
Well, a lot of my photography is self portraiture, and my music is very honestly about my life and relationships. So really I’m just putting myself out there as plainly as I can. I think it comes from me being a very introspective, independent person. I need a lot of time alone. So communicating myself to people through my work is necessary.

 

ASCT
If you could only remember one thing, what would it be?
S
There is a story that I think exemplifies my family and childhood pretty well. We lived in a tiny log cabin near Albany and my dad, who was a Marine in Vietnam, went out to hunt most mornings before dawn. He took it very seriously and was very good at it; my mom always used to say he looked like he was going to war when he left the house in the morning. One morning around breakfast time I was playing in our living room — I was probably around 3 or 4– and my dad came in through the garage in all of his gear and asked me for my little yellow ball. I remember being confused and it took me a moment to find it. I gladly gave it to him and he went out. A few minutes later I heard the his old Chevy truck start up and I remember my mom and I going out through the porch to see what was going on. He’d hung two deer he’d killed by their feet from my swing set. There was a chain going from one of the deer’s necks to the trailer hitch of his truck. He drove off very fast, skinning the deer instantly. He’d used my little rubber ball to anchor the chain under the deer’s skin. My mom was mortified that I’d seen it. I thought it was just great.

 

ASCT
Favorite body part?
S
A man’s hands.

 

ASCT
Who or what has influenced your work the most? Does it depend on what you’re making? Why or why not?
S
The simplest answer to that would be my father. He was a successful country singer when he was my age and is definitely the person that put that music in my blood. I grew up with him singing Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison all the time and playing guitar in the basement.

 

ASCT
What is the last thing that made you sweat?
S
My boyfriend.

 

ASCT
What are you reading?
S
I just picked up Blood Meridian again by Cormac McCarthy probably for the third or fourth time. Every sentence in that book rolls off your tongue so thickly, like syrup. Any McCarthy novel is great material to be reading while writing songs.

 

ASCT
What do you keep by your bed?
S
In New York, there’s normally an ashtray and a fan. In Baltimore there’s a Fornasetti candle and a whip.

 

ASCT
What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received?
S
I don’t really think I’ve ever gotten a “bad” gift, necessarily. Nothing hurts more than someone forgetting to give you a gift, though.

 

ASCT
What makes something timeless?
S
How people remember it. Nothing is actually timeless, people perpetuate things.

 

ASCT
Any new artists intrigue you?
S
I think Kelsey Henderson is an incredible painter. The colors are all really pale without being washed out, which is why I’m probably attracted to them. She paints mostly friends, mostly people around her age, so the work ends up being a pretty accurate contemporary portrait of youth, both in style and content.

 

ASCT
How did your band, The Sterling Sisters, get its name?
S
George, the other singer, and I were smoking after one of the first practices. At that point, I think only Raised You in the West was written. That was the first song we wrote together. Well, that The Sterling Sisters wrote together — George and I had been in a noise band with each other before that. It was late at night and we were tossing ideas out there. We wanted something that would convey an old fashioned country “family band” feel.

 

ASCT
How is your solo album “Fields of Ash” different from the work you’ve done with The Sterling Sisters? Is anything similar?
S
When I write for the band it’s a totally different process than my own music. During high school I trained in singing opera for a few years, as well as music theory and song writing with another teacher that grew very dear to me. I’ve always written folk music but it wasn’t until that teacher, Jonathan Elliott, pushed me to incorporate my operatic voice into my personal music that it really flourished. Before that, I was just singing like a breathy little girl, like a lot of modern folk singers make themselves sound like today, even though I had a huge voice I used in the arias I was singing in my classical training. In my opinion, if you’re doing something that just anyone can do, you need to find something else to pursue. Everyone has something inside them that is unique to show the world, you just need to keep looking for it. So, from that point forward, my solo music has evolved around this voice I have — this big, barreling soprano voice– and become something a little more special than just folk music in order to incorporate it. “Fields of Ash” was the first song I wrote on the autoharp. Normally, in the song writing process, every single one of my songs begins with a vocal melody. All I’ve really got is my voice; I’ve never excelled at playing any instrument. Fields of Ash started with a chord progression. My boyfriend and I were playing around with an antique autoharp I’d bought on a whim for $20 and the chords to the chorus came to be. I wrote that song as honestly as I could about him — about us. We’ve never had an easy relationship. I poured — and sang — my heart out on that record for him. I hope other people are able to hear that in it.

 

ASCT
Do you remember your last nightmare?
S
My dreams are always very vivid but completely mundane. I always confuse them with real memories. I think my nightmares generally have to do with not being able to find people I care about, or losing people. I’m not sure what my last one was.