Scotty Hills

Scotty Hills

 North Cowichan, British Columbia, CAN
SoloAmericanaSoul

"Northern Soul" artist from Canada's Pacific coast. Juno nominated singer/songwriter sounds like James Taylor and Marvin Gaye listening to Ryan Adams.

With one foot in his Northern roots, and one foot in the soul of the american mid west, Scotty draws from city blues and country soul; exhaling in an effortless style that is a sum of them all.

Band Press

Great Dark Wonder (U.S.) Interview/Review – Great Dark Wonder (U.S)

Last month saw the release of Scotty Hills’ latest EP, “Nature Girl,” a tour de force both musically and lyrically. Thoughtful and deep lyrics define the album, which also finds Hills exploring a variety of musical genres, focusing even more on the acoustic folk side of his talent than in his previous album, “Year of Septembers.”

From the wistful “Hope You’re in Toronto,” which opens the album, to the closing track “Won’t Be Back” with its distinctive pedal steel and gentle swing, the album is a terrific listening experience to which I’ll be returning again and again.

Scotty Hills was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions about “Nature Girl.”

Your music crosses a lot of musical genres – in listening to your previous release, “Year of Septembers,” I would characterize it as rooted in soul/blues, but with some jazz and folk mixed in. “Nature Girl” seems to me to be a continued exploration of the folk and acoustic sides of your writing, perhaps a little quieter overall than “Year of Septembers.” What specifically guided you in that direction for “Nature Girl”?

“Nature Girl” is kind of like, a modern man standing and witnessing his effect on the planet. From information overload, to the environmental elephants in the room. It’s more of a reflection on our relationship with our only tangible god, Mother Nature. Some call her Grandmother Nature. The last album was much more exploratory with genres and lyrical themes. This album is definitely a departure. For me this is a reflective five song collection which hints another full length, already in the works.

“Nature Girl” is meant to be calming and introspective. I hope listeners can relate to the theme of self reflection. I’m currently working on another handful of songs, which will further glue together a “sound.” Year of Septembers is very all over the place, with style and genre. The new material is more unified, making a stronger collective artistic statement. “Nature Girl” is a quick detour, for a walk by a quiet river, en route to the bigger picture.

One line of the press release for this album really intrigued me: “Listeners will hear an exploring songwriter, taking a deep look into the relationship between human nature and mother nature.” Per the last question, clearly you are unafraid to explore a variety of musical genres (and do so successfully), but I’m curious about how you see the relationship between human nature and mother nature – can you elaborate a bit on that?

I see a really thick line in the media, social media and otherwise. More than ever, we are divided by what we see on our phones. I see a lot of old, outdated industrial practices that have been poisoning water, destroying our forests, and polluting our air for far too long. At the same time, I want to reflect on my place and part in it all. I went to Detroit on a train while in the recording process. I was really interested in Detroit’s story. So much civic decay, but such resilient people. I was fascinated by the vast number of urban green spaces and gardens, amongst burnt out neighborhoods.

What are jobs without healthy food? What is money without balanced ecosystems? The title “Nature Girl” refers to how a cynical society views Mother Nature; as a little helpless girl. She gives, and we take, but it’s a mistake because in the end the little girl has more power than anyone’s ever known. But we can’t see it, because we’re too caught up in hyper consumption, fear campaigns, colonizing the moon, etc. “Nature Girl” is an offering to Mother Nature, while begging for her forgiveness. She also represents the feminine spirit, for which all men are in debt. So there are two themes that really are a metaphor for each other. At the same time, they are just a collection of individual songs.

I’ve listened to “The Answers” a number of times and I’m intrigued by it – not only by the metaphor of our lives as a “freshly dug garden” but in particular by the line about being followed by answers. I suspect that a number of us are followed around by questions as we seek their answers, but you’ve turned the metaphor on its head here. How do you see that interplay of questions and answers in life – which do you think we’re seeking, and which are seeking us?

I think the simple answers are right in front of us, but we don’t want to listen to them. They kind of hover over our head until we stop incessantly hunting them down. It’s about getting to enjoy the fleeting moments of clarity, and see that the simple answers are in the trees and in the dirt and the rain. I see popular science as a new religion, that often pacifies lessons hidden in nature. What if science is only capable of a singular paradigm? What if there is something bigger than we are able deduce through human ingenuity? What if the answers can’t be found in articles peer reviewed. What if we’ve thrown out our faith in mother nature, with the religious bathwater? The song is one big question, and it can only be answered when it’s our turn to go.

Scotty Hills

This album came in part from a long train trip between Seattle and Detroit – what are some ways in which that journey inspired this album?

It was very romantic, to travel to Motown on a train. I had so much time to think about what it would be like, and who I might meet. I knew I was in for a special time, because of my friend Tony Green’s role in the Detroit music community. Tony has been on so many classic albums, you just can’t count them all. What I didn’t know, is that Tony lived right across the street from Marvin Gaye’s house, where he shot the cover of “What’s Going On” in the backyard! It’s not every week, that I go without seeing someone of my own skin colour. So it was definitely a field trip. Tony treats everybody the same. If you’re hanging with him, you’re gonna go get lined up at the barber shop, and the barber will try to tell you about god. He will invite you on his porch for a “smoke” and tell you the whole story of Death Row Records, while you drink Tanqueray and orange juice. He’ll tell you about his years with George Clinton or Snoop Dog, or playing SNL with Tupac. He will prove to you, that he is Detroit’s ambassador.

Also, seeing the urban garden initiative, the green renewal projects, the downtown renewal, as well as some a lot of seedy bits, was more than inspirational.

Were there specific experiences from your time with the Perpetrators that have informed your career as a solo artist (positive, or maybe not so positive)?

I’ve always written songs and played my guitar, since I was 11 or twelve. I wrote my first song when I was 6 (“The Visit”). It was a great run that lasted 5 years, but drugs were creeping in more and more, and the direction was getting skewed. Sketchy managers, more drinking than creating. We made some really great music, but I was writing a lot of stuff that wasn’t going to fit with the band anyway. About a month after the split, I won a radio station contest and recorded Year of Septembers. The following year, the Perpetrators got nominated for a Juno Award and I went on that trip and had to bunk with my replacement. Awkward. Still, many many great memories with those fellas.

I know a tour announcement is forthcoming – any hints of whether you’ll be coming east or even south of the border into the US (we’re based in Pennsylvania)?

I’m working on a tour across Canada right now. I’m planning on going right to the East Coast. My next immediate tour plan, will include a U.S. run, from the North East corner, across and down to California, then up the west coast. I have been in talks with one of my favourite drummers of all time, who happens to live in Philadelphia. At this time he will remained unnamed, but he also tours with one of Philly’s favourite Acoustic/Soul sons. So with any luck, I’ll be in your neck of the woods this summer. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

~ L

Photo credit: LeAnn Mueller

Singer-songwriter on a roll after some soul searching in Motor city – Times Columnist

At one point during the recording sessions for his new album, Scotty Hills had a novel idea: Board a train and head for Detroit, the birthplace of soul.

The Cowichan Valley singer-songwriter began his train journey in Seattle. Four days later, he was casually playing music and chatting with his feet planted firmly in the Motor City, alongside two Michigan legends, including L.J. Reynolds of the Dramatics.

“I went there for some inspiration,” Hills said. “It was an exploration.”

He also spent time with an old acquaintance, bassist Tony Green. A bandleader who was a key contributor to records by Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Green lives in a house that sits across the street from where Marvin Gaye lived prior to his death. It was with that house as a backdrop that Hills and Green spent one afternoon, drinking beer and trading stories.

Hills said he could scarcely believe his good fortune.

“Tony still lives in his old neighbourhood, literally across the street from where they shot the cover for What’s Going On.”

The spontaneous trip is a reflection of Hills’ personality when it comes to music. His is a sponge-like approach: The Saskatoon native sails effortlessly between jazz, folk, country and blues. But soul music is the best description of what he does on Nature Girl, his new EP.

Hills will celebrate the recording with a concert Friday in Duncan at the Providence Farm Chapel. He will perform solo, and while that won’t give fans an exact indication of the range he displays on the recording, it will put the spotlight on his velvety voice, which bears a striking resemblance to John Legend, at times. Remarkably, that is but one weapon in his arsenal.

The 38-year-old, who is studying jazz part-time at Vancouver Island University, handles most of the instrumentation on Nature Girl, playing bass, drums and guitar (he also arranged string parts for two songs). It was a skill he developed during stints in various groups, dating back to when he was employed full-time as a teenage drum sensation.

“I grew up in the Saskatoon blues-jam scene,” Hills said. “That was my church.”

It was during one of those jams that he met blues favourite, Nigel Mack, who asked Hills to join his band for a U.S. tour. Hills initially said no, as he was burned-out from touring.

“I had seen and heard things that no young person should hear,” he said. Eventually, he agreed to play with Mack.

“I did three tours with Nigel, and each tour was three months — all one-nighters. It was a really busy time. I was 19 years old, touring with 45-year-olds, but I could keep a basic beat, so I was playing all kinds of shows. I got good enough that I was playing in Chicago, backing up some of my heroes.”

Hills could never really stay away. After moving to Winnipeg, he aligned himself with a band, the Perpetrators, that did seven years of hard touring. Though he was employed as a drummer, Hills wanted to be a singer-songwriter. He recalled feeling like “a drummer who took his guitar on the road,” which caused a rift in the group.

“I would never tune my drums or even look at my drums. Any spare time I had, I would be in the hotel room writing songs on my guitar.”

He eventually split from the group, only to find out, months later, that the trio had earned a Juno nomination for blues recording of the year — for songs he had co-written and produced. Hills was out on his own by this point, spurred into a career as a solo artist after winning a radio-station contest in Winnipeg.

“In some ways, I don’t know if I’ve ever been in the blues genre. I was always heavily influenced by the blues, but I never really felt like a 100 per cent son of that music scene. I had so much more going on in my head that I didn’t want to suppress.”

More extensive touring followed once Hills moved to Calgary. Five years ago, he gave up playing for “the oil-and-gas, after-work crowd” and settled in the Cowichan Valley with his wife. Nowadays, he’s pursuing a career in music with the same joy he once did, albeit without the pressure of his earlier days.

He has a stack of new songs, too; Hills thinks they will be suitable for an album he hopes to record this year. Nature Girl — equal parts country, soul and folk — has given Hills a new direction to pursue.

“I’m dumbing everything down and simplifying in the hopes of really constructing this next full-length and seeing how it can develop and build from there, rather than completely go into crazy amounts of debt trying to keep a band on the road.”

- Mike Devlin

Grant Stoval Album Review – CKUA

When Scotty "Rollin" Hills moved to the Calgary area this past August, he brought with him a wealth of talent and an abundance of musical experience. Though very much a young man, he's spent years touring across North America contributing drums, guitar and vocals to a wild array of musical projects that range from deep blues to noisy indie-rock. He brings some prairie soul from Saskatoon, his original hometown, as well as some of the visceral throb so characteristic of music from Winnipeg, where he spent a few years drumming and singing with Juno-nominated band The Perpetrators.

He also brings with him Year of Septembers, his freshly-released debut album! It brims over with a funky, breezy, soulful charisma, and finds Scotty very impressively handling most of the instruments (and songwriting) himself. Most strikingly, though, it's the voice! Names like Sam Cooke, Ron Sexsmith, Stevie Wonder, Junior Parker, or even Feist may come to mind occasionally, but Scotty remains effortlessly original throughout.

Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and now Alberta - he's hit the prairie trifecta! And we're that much richer to have him in our midst, to be sure.

Grant Stoval

















Grant Stoval Album Review – CKUA

When Scotty "Rollin" Hills moved to the Calgary area this past August, he brought with him a wealth of talent and an abundance of musical experience. Though very much a young man, he's spent years touring across North America contributing drums, guitar and vocals to a wild array of musical projects that range from deep blues to noisy indie-rock. He brings some prairie soul from Saskatoon, his original hometown, as well as some of the visceral throb so characteristic of music from Winnipeg, where he spent a few years drumming and singing with Juno-nominated band The Perpetrators.

He also brings with him Year of Septembers, his freshly-released debut album! It brims over with a funky, breezy, soulful charisma, and finds Scotty very impressively handling most of the instruments (and songwriting) himself. Most strikingly, though, it's the voice! Names like Sam Cooke, Ron Sexsmith, Stevie Wonder, Junior Parker, or even Feist may come to mind occasionally, but Scotty remains effortlessly original throughout.

Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and now Alberta - he's hit the prairie trifecta! And we're that much richer to have him in our midst, to be sure.

Grant Stoval

















Year of Septembers Review in Belgium – www.rootstime.be

“He was the first drummer of the Canadian Perpetrators and made his recent comeback (although that’s what I am guessing he’s saying, Scott – it was a poorly written sentence!), but in the meantime Scotty also made his own CD, and a real good one! Totally different from the Perpetrators, but oh so good! Pure old fashioned sounding soul, that reminded me immediately of what the Impressions did and later Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield brought to us, add to it some rock influences as in “Really don’t Know”. Scotty Hills already proved in the one song that he was allowed to perform by the Perpetrators, “The Gas and the Clutch”, that he has a great voice. On his debut album “Wonderland Urgency”, he has 11 very beautiful songs, in which Scotty’s voice is the center piece. The Rhodes piano from Marc Arnould, is also a great contribution to the creation of the beautiful ‘blue eyed’ soul album. I already mentioned Curtis Mayfield but also the sound of the later Hall & Oates, you’ll definitely find it back in the recordings, especially in the background choirs which Scotty mainly does by himself. Especially the incredibly beautiful song “Simone” comes under that category. A song that I will listen to many more times, rest assured! Just like “Tell me What You Want”, another great song. Totally along the same line as the old Impressions recordings and the Paramount sound is “Writings in the Sand”, heavenly trumpets and violins, just like they should be and beautiful sixties background vocals, truly enjoyable! I had never expected, that this drummer of a full fletched blues and rock band had crooner capabilities in him. But with the Nat King Cole classic “The Very Thought of You”, he created a very sugar sweet version of this song, of which I never expected that I would really enjoy the taste of it and then … what a smart song with that voice of his. When this extremely sympathetic guy a few weeks ago handed me the promo copy of his brand new CD, I could have never imagined that it would contain this kind of music. Music that is so totally different from what he does with the Perps. Although I had my suspicions after he traded places with Jason during the Perpetrators concert in Verviers, when he grabbed the famous “Dr. Boogie” guitar, and started one of his own soul songs, the strong sounding “Roller Coaster Love” (see picture). I totally didn’t expect that I would actually enjoy this CD, but I have to admit, I’m loving every goddamn minute of it, Scotty!”
(RON)

Year of Septembers Review in Belgium – www.rootstime.be

“He was the first drummer of the Canadian Perpetrators and made his recent comeback (although that’s what I am guessing he’s saying, Scott – it was a poorly written sentence!), but in the meantime Scotty also made his own CD, and a real good one! Totally different from the Perpetrators, but oh so good! Pure old fashioned sounding soul, that reminded me immediately of what the Impressions did and later Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield brought to us, add to it some rock influences as in “Really don’t Know”. Scotty Hills already proved in the one song that he was allowed to perform by the Perpetrators, “The Gas and the Clutch”, that he has a great voice. On his debut album “Wonderland Urgency”, he has 11 very beautiful songs, in which Scotty’s voice is the center piece. The Rhodes piano from Marc Arnould, is also a great contribution to the creation of the beautiful ‘blue eyed’ soul album. I already mentioned Curtis Mayfield but also the sound of the later Hall & Oates, you’ll definitely find it back in the recordings, especially in the background choirs which Scotty mainly does by himself. Especially the incredibly beautiful song “Simone” comes under that category. A song that I will listen to many more times, rest assured! Just like “Tell me What You Want”, another great song. Totally along the same line as the old Impressions recordings and the Paramount sound is “Writings in the Sand”, heavenly trumpets and violins, just like they should be and beautiful sixties background vocals, truly enjoyable! I had never expected, that this drummer of a full fletched blues and rock band had crooner capabilities in him. But with the Nat King Cole classic “The Very Thought of You”, he created a very sugar sweet version of this song, of which I never expected that I would really enjoy the taste of it and then … what a smart song with that voice of his. When this extremely sympathetic guy a few weeks ago handed me the promo copy of his brand new CD, I could have never imagined that it would contain this kind of music. Music that is so totally different from what he does with the Perps. Although I had my suspicions after he traded places with Jason during the Perpetrators concert in Verviers, when he grabbed the famous “Dr. Boogie” guitar, and started one of his own soul songs, the strong sounding “Roller Coaster Love” (see picture). I totally didn’t expect that I would actually enjoy this CD, but I have to admit, I’m loving every goddamn minute of it, Scotty!”
(RON)

Championship Inspired Tune – Calgary Herald, July 1, 2009

It's Tuesday afternoon, and over at McMahon Stadium the Stampeders are getting ready for opening night and defence of their 2008 Grey Cup championship.

Pressure?

Sure. But it's nowhere near the level of tension a mere few blocks away at Calgary recording gem Night Deposit Studios, where local R&B, funk and soul singer-songwriter Scotty Hills is putting his final flourishes on a track that he hopes becomes very much a part of the team's season.

"I just can't wait to be done, and say, 'Here's a gift for you,' " says Hills, while waiting for Stamps receiver Nik Lewis to arrive and record a vocal part for the song.

The two-month consuming cut is the appropriately titled Home of the Champions, a slick, original R&B number inspired by Lewis and other Stamps' players drinking from the Grey Cup the day after their win in a bar where Hills performed regularly. The "home of the champions" part was a touch the singer ad libbed into one of the songs from his acclaimed album Wonderland Urgency. "Before you knew it, half the bar was standing up, clapping, singing along," says Hills. "I couldn't get it out of my head for two weeks."

He apparently wasn't alone, as Lewis, after spending winter back in Texas, serenaded Hills with the chorus the next time they saw one another.

"I've liked Scotty's music for awhile," says Lewis after arriving at the studio for his takes. "I'm just proud to be a part of it."

The finished cut will be sent to the Stamps--as soon as this morning--in hopes that it becomes part of the pre-game ritual, perhaps a crowd-rouser the team could take the field to.

And who knows--come Labour Day, not only might it inspire the home side, but perhaps antagonize our neighbours to the north --they formerly known as the City of Champions.

"I hope so," he says.

mibell@theherald.canwest.com
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Frank Litorco reviews – FFWD Magazine

"Scotty Hills's debut scores with an earthy sophistication that's a throwback to an era decades ago, when real musicianship, melodies and lyrics dominated the AM. To say that his recording sounds dated couldn't be further from the truth, however, as his inspired concoction of blue-eyed soul, country twang and straight-up guitar pop manages to be timeless and quite contemporary at the same time.
Abundant highlights fill this recording like a Christmas stocking. Its title track flashes with bluesy, neo-soul brilliance augmented by soaring guitar licks and the kind of falsetto harmonies that would make D'Angelo proud. Other songs such as "Simone" and "The Beach" showcase Hills's raspy vocals over quiet storm rhythms. The genre juggling that is in full display on the CD is a real treat, yet Wonderland Urgency sounds effortless, as though the respective styles were always meant to be assembled, like pieces of a puzzle. The only urgency here is the need to run to the store and grab a copy of the CD, or even better, see him play his songs live.

Frank Litorco (FFWD magazine)

Desert landscapes, seedy bars, and a Johnny Cash-style outfit are the immediate visuals of Scotty Hills sparse video for “Won’t Be Back.” But there’s no need to bemoan the lack of flash as Hills hits the chorus. Smooth, with just the faintest twang, there – Grey Owl Point

Desert landscapes, seedy bars, and a Johnny Cash-style outfit are the immediate visuals of Scotty Hills sparse video for “Won’t Be Back.” But there’s no need to bemoan the lack of flash as Hills hits the chorus. Smooth, with just the faintest twang, there’s an inescapable hint of James Taylor and a mellowness that can be savoured all night long. – Eleni Armenakis