Interview With Songwriter & Vocalist Scott Warren
Scott Warren is a singer/songwriter living in Los Angeles, California via Saint Charles, Missouri. He’s produced and released three full-length records and several EP’s as a solo artist and with the band Signal Hill Transmission. Songs from those records have appeared in numerous film and TV projects like NBC’s “Harry’s Law,” The WB’s “90210,” Fox Atomic’s “The Rocker” and the FX show “The League” to name a few. He also co-composed the opening logo music for Miramax Films and the soon to be released film “When Angels Sing,” starring Harry Connick Jr. and Willie Nelson. Scott has been receiving some rave reviews here on AirGigs for his vocal services, and we were super excited to sit down and pick his brain about various subjects.
You can find Scott’s AirGigs services here:
Can you share a few of your main influences as a songwriter and vocalist?
My earliest memories are of hearing bands like The Beatles and Eagles on the radio. That sensibility has stuck with me all these years. In high school I was heavily into classic rock and current bands (at the time) like Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction and Smashing Pumpkins. The angst-ridden years! In college I got into a band called Uncle Tupelo (now two bands, Son Volt & Wilco). This led me down the path of their influences. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Doug Sahm. I guess at the heart of it all, I connect with great melodies and lyrics. That said, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ray Davies (of The Kinks) are my faves.
What are some of the different roles (i.e. things like session musician, songwriter, producer, teacher, etc, etc) you play in your current musical career?
I’ve done all of those things at various points! Haha. My path as a musician has always been about being open to trying new things. If someone asked if I taught guitar, for instance, I’d say “yes” and figure out how to do it. I said “yes” to a lot of musical related things. Some I didn’t enjoy that much, but at least I now knew what I didn’t want to do! What I’ve come to realize is that there isn’t necessarily one path to “making it” as a musician. At least not for me. Focusing on the things I’m good at (and enjoy) are really what I’m into these days. This includes the vocal work and production I do through AirGigs, my film/tv licensing pursuits and making music for the art of it.
Aside from guitar, do you play any other instruments?
Guitar is my main instrument, but I also play lap steel and mandolin. I have a few other toys around the studio that I tinker on a bit. These usually come into play when recording. Trying to lay down an interesting texture or musical bed, for instance.
Tell us a bit about your experiences fronting the band Signal Hill Transmission from 2002 – 2009.
The band experience was great. I moved to Los Angeles in 2000 from Saint Louis, MO with the intent of making music. After playing solo for about a year, I got together with a friend and started the band. We played out as a duo (vox, guitar, drums) for a year and then met the other guys (guitar, bass). This really filled out the sound and rocked things up a bit. Comparisons ranged from Wilco to Fountains of Wayne. Two full length records and a handful of EP’s followed with the final release coming out through Dave Matthew’s ATO Records label. Overall, very proud of our accomplishments.. One of the things I’m most proud of is that we stuck together for seven years. No lineup changes. We’re still all friends to this day.
I really enjoyed listening to your original music (scottwarren.bandcamp.com)…great songwriting, and a fresh blend of rock, americana and folk sounds. It would be great to know how you approached the production of your solo albums?
Thanks for the kind words. The first solo record was started while still with the band. I’d written these tunes over the years that didn’t feel like Signal Hill Transmission songs so as the band took a break at the end of the year in 2008, I got together with a buddy and recorded them. My friend was house sitting for a guy that had moved down to Mexico for work. We basically cleared out the house and turned it into a recording studio, having friends come over to play on both of our records. That was a great experience. In terms of how I approach things now, I’m moving toward releasing a couple songs at a time. I’m still very much an album guy, but I don’t want to go two plus years between records anymore. This year, for instance, I’m going to release at least a song per month.. At the end of the year, I’ll put together a cohesive group of tunes that feels like an album. It’s kinda the same process as with previous records, but more out in the open, I guess.
When did you start to get into music production, and what prompted it?
I started to get into production when I got a Tascam 8 track in college. I loved tinkering around with that machine.. Creating little worlds for my tunes to live in. This led to a Roland VS880 (digital 8 track) and then computer-based Protools. From the first Signal Hill Transmission record through now, I’ve always been involved with production. Honing that skill and learning more about mixing and recording is an ongoing thing for me. I learn more with each new recording.
Tell us a bit about your studio (i.e. the studio you use for AirGigs sessions), gear and approach to tracking vocals.
My studio is in my house. I live in a somewhat rural area near Los Angeles called Topanga with my girlfriend and our two dogs. Artists like Neil Young, Jim Morrison, and Lowell George (of Little Feat) have lived here. It’s a really magical place. Peaceful and Quiet, but close enough to the city for when you want to get out. When I’m working on my own stuff, I generally just do whatever feels right. Working on other people’s songs is a little different. Most of my work through AirGigs is vocal related so I’ll download the reference track and live with it for a couple days. When the melody starts to stick, I’ll try laying it down. Usually at night. I work better at night. I’ll usually send a verse and a chorus to the artist to see if we’re on the right track. After that I’ll lay the rest down. My vocal chain begins with my voice (haha), into a Telefunken AK47 Microphone, followed by an API channel strip (mic pre, compressor, eq), into an Apogee Ensemble, connected to a Mac using Logic. The sound is clear with a lot of headroom, but colored slightly with a little mojo from the API strip. I love my setup.
Are there certain types (genres, styles, etc) of recording projects that you prefer working on, or feel best suited for?
Singer/songwriter, alt country, indie folk/pop/rock, and alt rock would be my wheelhouse. At the moment, I’m most into singer/songwriter with ethereal type elements (feedback, tremolo, haunting vocals, etc).
Can you tell us a bit about how you got into doing music for TV & Film?
Yes, the band licensed some songs to a few TV shows and movies along the way. We had a really nice placement in the reboot of 90210 that got some attention. Also, the movie “The Rocker.” It paid well, so I decided to keep going down that road. Recent projects include half of the score for a movie called “Angels Sing.” Willie Nelson and Harry Connick Jr were in that so it was a thrill to write music for their scenes. Also, co-wrote the opening logo music for Miramax Films with a buddy and have several other tv show placements. It’s a challenging/highly competitive game, but cool when something comes through.
Any exciting current or upcoming projects that you care to share?
I’m looking forward to the release of an album that I produced/recorded by singer/songwriter Chris Mathieu. He’s a mix of Cat Stevens and Damien Rice. Very cool songs. Also, excited to release some of my own work. Finally, I’m looking forward to working with more artists on AirGigs. In my few months on the site I’ve met some great, talented people and have gotten a chance to sing on some really cool songs. It’s fun helping to make someone’s vision come to life and I hope to do more of it in the coming year.