When we interviewed Scott Helman three years ago, he was a young Torontonian on the rise after the release of his EP, Augusta, and his major label debut. There were a few consistent themes from then that persist to today. His inspirations such as Leonard Cohen, his enjoyment for songwriting and his talent all remain.
One of the most curious things since our interview three years ago, however, is his development as a person. It is obvious that Helman has grown in a positive way and matured over the years leading up to his first major studio album, Hotel de Ville, released on May 12.
“At the time, I felt like everything was given birth from art. I felt that art was the starting point of everything. I know I’m being super conceptual, but I felt that art was the point and that everything was the result of it.”
These larger concepts are continuously on Helman’s mind when looking back at his development.
His main inspirations have continued to lead him towards the history of music and its influence over the decades, and ponder what songwriting means to him and the world as a whole. This internalization of ideas and the perspective he has as a successful artist has changed his thoughts about music and the industry as a whole.
“Now, after having been a songwriter and artist for enough time, I feel like it’s the other way around. Life happens, then art is the byproduct, and that’s when art is beautiful is when it is the soundtrack and not the focal point.”
This comes through in his newest album. While most of the tracks are upbeat and enjoyable to listen to no matter what the mood is, there is almost always a double meaning or hidden depth to it. It works with a strong balancing act. He incorporates his own life and uses art as a way to process it, think about it and work through it. His continued idealism feels natural in his songs despite these larger, heavier considerations.
“If I make a song where those things exist strongly, I feel like I’ve succeeded. … I definitely feel like that is a central focus of my music to make that a reality.”
Over the years, he has received Juno nominations and success on a national scale across Canada, but seems to remain grounded. He has been involved in an organization called The Global Class where he talked with students in Durham, Zambia and St. Petersburg, Russia about music’s influence around the world. His microsite called Solve the Solvable continues to promote the exchange of ideas on how to take local action to contribute to global issues no matter how big or small they may be.
Despite all of this, the music will always be first.
“I think music is always there for you, and that’s why it’s so beautiful.”
He plays at Club Absinthe on June 8.