Things are “Better When” you listen to Séamus Scanlan. 

Today we are heading out west with our headphones on to sunny California. There we find, who I like to consider, the Ben Howard of the states. His name is Séamus Scanlan and he seems to have a knack for creating soul-feeding, musical masterpieces. Though Séamus resides in San Diego, he is a born and raised Philadelphian. Which continues my “East Coast produces all the musical gems” theory. I found out about Séamus in 2019 thanks to, what was then, the LumberYard recording studio. Séamus was a frequent visitor of the Yard and there he worked with Nik Bruzzese and Ace Enders. When I started listening to his music he had just released his track “Better When” and after one listen his lyrics and vibrant melodies had me finding peace and calming I didn’t know I had inside myself. His lyrics tug at the heartstrings as he seems to keep everything very personal, which in turn brings comfort. It’s almost as he’s captured the thoughts we constantly battle inside our minds and he then says them( sings in this case) out loud for us through his music. He has released a handful of singles since 2019. Starting with one called “Maybe Tomorrow”. This track hooks us with his poetic flow and easy-going melodic sound that he continues to live with all his music. We jump to his most recent track  “Tacony”. And it is one that hits very close to home. Literally. Tacony is also his first release after he joined the Common Ground Collective family, an LA-based label that Séamus signed with last October. While last year was very challenging for a lot of bands and artists there seemed to be glimmers of hope that found their way and helped artists like Séamus shine through.

I had the pleasure of sitting down virtually with Séamus and he was awesome enough to answer a few questions pertaining to his new music, the West Coast, Tacony, and Taylor Swift. 

Now you were born and raised in Philly, correct? When and why did you decide to change scenery and head to the West Coast? 

Yep, I grew up in a neighborhood called Tacony. I did my undergrad in west Philly and lived and worked in South Philly up until 2015 when I moved to California. The why is more of a why not? The big thing I remember was turning 28 and thinking, shit, I might never live in another place. And so I shared this thought with my therapist at the time and she and I went to town on fear and some really funny dreams I was having (Kelly Slater told me I had to move, basically) and I came out the other end having sold 75% of my stuff and cramming the remainder into my 1999 Chevy Lumina (may she rest in peace) and setting sail for the west coast. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a heavy obsession with Seth Cohen and The OC in my teenage years; I’m certain that had something to do with it.

You come from a coast where a lot of music greats, in my opinion, from a lot of different genres have emerged. Who are some of your biggest influences?

Philly/NJ/Mid-Atlantic had so much going on when I was younger, especially for emo kids. I remember sitting in homeroom in 2003 and this kid Adam sat next to me asked me if I’d ever heard of The Early November. I said no, and he handed me a burned copy of The Room’s Too Cold. That was the first major “this band is for me” feeling I had. I was already warm on that musical path thanks to blink-182, then New Found Glory, and then bands like Northstar and Rufio. But once I got a hold of TEN, it was on. I wonder how many people, regardless of age, feel this way about their teenage years, but the music just landed on the most fertile ground it could have. Back then, I was listening to bands like Saves The Day, The Used, all the Drive-Thru bands, and discovering myself a bit through something that felt uniquely my own. I’d go to shows (at the Troc (may she also rest in peace)) and realize this is so many other’s things, too, and that felt really cool. My most honest friendships grew in and around this music; it’s hard not to fall in love when you’re learning your own language to it. Today, my music tastes have expanded a bit but I still love the music I grew up on. Presently, I’ll reach for nothing, nowhere. on most days. That guy rocks. Weirdly, I bought my first Paul Simon record in 2020 and it’s definitely on my top 5 most played over the last year. I’ll round out with This Will Destroy You, Claude Debussy, and Oscar Peterson. I’m not saying I sound like any of these folks – but these artists speak to me most clearly so I couldn’t deny it, either. 

2020 was obviously very difficult for us all. The music industry suffered immensely and is still struggling. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as an artist? Were there things you did to keep the creative process flowing? 

The isolation has stunk the most. I played my first ever performance in December 2019, and my second in January 2020. So I was barely getting going when it all went away. I don’t know if the human and artist can be separated, as far as what we struggle with and manage. My anxiety has definitely worsened over the last year and that certainly has affected how I think about my music. I think not having a community of people to interact with regularly, to share doubts and fears, and have them vented out and related to and validated has been a tough consequence. On the flip side, I’ve had to be more honest with myself on where I’m at on any given day, and call the shots in the absence of perceived expectations. That’s a good thing because I can get in my own way a lot. Being the only one getting in the way, though, you start to realize you just don’t need to do that to yourself.  I will say: keeping my rehearsals going early on was a good call. Every rehearsal, I practice my songs first and then mess around for an hour or so. And almost every time, I stumble onto something new that feels cool. And if it stays cool over the next few weeks, it might be something I flesh out into a song. So, having a few of those moments to bring into the studio kept it feeling alive, for sure.

Last fall you signed with the label Common Ground Collective. Which, congratulations by the way! Very exciting and very well deserved. How did this signing come to be? Was it something you had been pursuing?

Thank you so much! Yea, I was listening to my Discover Weekly playlist and a band called Overgrow came on. I really dug the sound and was in the habit of checking the details on musical releases, and saw Common Ground Collective’s name at the bottom. So I googled the name, found their website, and just sent them an email saying I liked one of their bands and think I might be similar enough that maybe they’d like to listen. They didn’t respond for a couple of months, but I also didn’t expect them to, so it was a nice surprise when their response came through. Honestly, getting a response was an incredibly validating moment. We had a meeting over zoom, got on really well, and shook hands on a licensing deal. Honestly, I hadn’t been pursuing a label too pointedly. However, I was at the point where I’d released a handful of songs on my own and was feeling like I owed it to my songs to give them the most potential they could at their release. I bet it’s a familiar feeling to newer artists, where your first song is received well because friends and family are like, no way, you can sing?! This is great! But by the 4th or 5th time it sort of feels like they’re over it. Which is fine, the internet is wild and overwhelming. I just didn’t want that feeling to discourage me from continuing, so recruiting CGC’s help was an attempt at that. They’ve been great so far and the other artists in the label are so sick, so it just feels cool to be involved with them all, in a sense.

You gave us your new single “Tacony” last fall which was released through your new label. You then ventured back home for a bit over the holidays and from what I recall paid a visit to the studio and worked again with Ace Enders. Can we expect to be hearing something new from that visit in the near future? Are there any plans for a full length?

Yes!!! We’re working out the logistics, so no dates yet but there is an album on the way. I’ve got a handful of new songs that will be on the album, as well as re-releasing the earlier songs as part of that. Working with Ace has been a cool and challenging part of my ride. He’s helped give life to my songs that I could never have done on my own. But also, I grew up a massive fan of him and his band, so sharing my own creations has forced me to face some real vulnerability, and I’ve hit the deck a few times for sure. But I get back up each time, too, and every time I do, I feel stronger as an artist and human. So, I couldn’t be more grateful for what these sessions have offered me.

Now, let’s talk about Taylor Swift. If you could only listen to one T-Swift album for the rest of your days which one would it be and why?

1989, probably because it’s the one I know the most words to. Cruel Summer is the jam, though. I don’t know how that one got missed so badly?

There is no doubt there are remarkable things ahead for this talented gentleman. Until then, give him a follow, share his content, listen to “Tacony” and waltz in the evening. 

Article by Kristen Hernandez

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