Juno nominee Scott Helman on tattoo-worthy lyrics and being like Peter Pan

By Jessica Cecchin

At 15, many of us were still trying to figure out how to survive high school let alone deciding on a career path, but for Canadian singer-songwriter Scott Helman, that decision came easily when he was offered a development deal with Warner Music Canada.

Now, Scott’s career is taking off as his first album, Augusta, vies for Best Pop Album of the Year and the 20-year-old competes for Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the 2016 Juno Awards (April 3, CTV). The “Bungalow” singer will also take the stage at the Canadian awards show.

But despite this whirlwind of opportunity, the singer knows that it’s not always going to be easy. “At some point down the line something is going to happen and it’s not going to go your way,” Scott tells Hello! “I think what really makes someone great is when they’re able to take that failure and change what you did wrong or just forget about it and try to move past it.”

Our friends at Fido hooked us up with behind-the-scenes access to Scott's Spotify recording session in Toronto, where we chatted about his inspiration, tattoo-worthy lyrics and why he keeps Peter Pan top of mind.

Scott Helman won the first-ever Spotify Emerge Program.

Congratulations on winning the first ever Spotify Emerge Program. How did it feel beating out 12 other Canadian artists? The part of it that was really nice was that it came from the fans and people listening and supporting. When I was a kid the only artist I would really go out and stream a song so that it would help them win a contest or go do something or vote for the GRAMMYs or something because I wanted them to win were artists that I really really cared about. So the fact that there’s even one person in the world that likes my music enough to do that is really an honour.

Who do you look up to musically? Ray LaMontagne was a big thing for me. There’s a great band called the Raveneottes that were really cool... I saw them when, I must have been 15 and they were coming to Toronto and they did this session in Sonic Boom, which is a vinyl store here and they did it in the basement. I remember as a kid being like, “Oh my God.” They weren’t a huge band but they just meant a lot to me at the time. And I was sitting right in front of them in this tiny basement in a record store. I was like, “Wow, I’m a part of this experience with this artist, this band that I’ve been listening to forever that’s so intimate and that’s so outside of the norm,” and that’s what’s kind of happening here [at his Spotify Session]. These fans get to be a part of something that most people don’t get to be a part of when it comes to music.

If you could get a tattoo of any song lyric what would it be? I was going to get the lyrics from “Shelter from the Storm” by Bob Dylan tattooed on me, but I decided not to because I just forgot about it I guess. Those lyrics are probably some of my favourite. I wouldn’t get this tattooed but my favourite lyrics right now are from a Paolo Nutini song: “In love I was created and in love is how I hope I die.” I think that’s a nice line. So yeah, I think that one might be a nice thing, I don’t know. I have Lord of the Rings Elvish tattooed on me so at this point it doesn’t matter.

Scott’s debut EP Augusta is nominated for Pop Album of the Year at the 2016 Juno Awards.

Congratulations on the Juno nominations! How does it feel to be nominated for two Juno Awards? It’s like really nuts…[The Pop Album of the Year nomination] was not expected at all. I actually heard about it and then I had to go on stage and play “Bungalow” and I was like, “what’s going on.” That was a real shock to me and I don’t think I’ve really processed it fully.

Any favourite memories from recording Augusta? It was this one week where I wrote “Machine,” “Bungalow” and I think “Tikka” in four days with my producer and another lady I write with, her name is Simon Wilcox, and I remember I was on the way home and something just happened. I don’t know if it’s good or it’s bad or if it’s weird but whatever just happened in my life, something’s going to change... Simon said,, “It’s like you’re standing on, there’s a cliff in front of you and you’re standing on top of it and the bottom is where the song is and all of a sudden you’re like ‘how am I going to get down there?’ And all of a sudden you’re looking up at it an you’re like, ‘I have a song now.’” I don’t even remember the weekend, I just remember it was mental because we were all hopped up on junk food and it was like rush rush rush, go go. So that was a really special thing.

What’s the best advice you have ever received? I think it was, “make sure you never stop being Peter Pan.”… It’s hard to stay focused on being a kid and remain inspired and have the ability to see the world through the innocence of wonder and amusement. The second I stop doing that I have to turn off my phone and I have to go do something fun or I have to go experience something new.

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