Name: Boy Scouts aka Taylor Vick
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Current release: The new Boy Scouts album Wayfinder is out via -Anti.
Recommendations: The album Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying by Labi Siffre; The Broken Earth Trilogy by NK Jemisin for any fantasy book readers
If you enjoyed this interview with Boy Scouts and would like to know more about her work, visit her official homepage or her artist page on the -Anti website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing my own music when I was around 13 or 14 years old. I started dance lessons when I was 3, started piano lessons shortly after that, and loved singing for as long as I can remember. Music has played a big role in my life from the very beginning.
Experiencing my state of being shift through listening to music is, I think, what drew me to it.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Learning how to play other people’s songs was a big part of my development. I played a lot of Michelle Branch for a few years. I started high school and eventually, thanks to the internet, discovered artists that were making music that I really loved and weren’t famous. That changed the way I thought about creating and inspired me to write and share what I was making.
When I started recording on my laptop and discovered multitracking, and layering things like vocal harmonies, I felt I had finally discovered what I needed to activate my personal well of creativity.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Probably in countless ways I’m not consciously aware of.
While I’m writing a song or doing something creative, I don’t really feel a sense of identity … though a lot of what I write is inspired by personal experiences, during the creative process my beliefs about my identity are in the distant background. It’s like, if you are incredibly present in the moment, you’re not identifying with anything really, or thinking of yourself as present. You just are. If I’m lucky, when I’m being creative I have a similar experience of presence + lack of sense of identity.
My identity is a part of everything I do of course - but the less I get caught up in the descriptive details of that the better quality of life I have, for now at least.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
When I first began to write songs I felt hindered by my lack of knowledge of music theory. I didn’t stick with any instrument lessons for long enough to grasp more than the basic stuff. That used to bother me when I started to try to write music because I felt like I only knew a handful of chords. That frustration eventually led me to get more creative and make up my own chords or tunings and following what sounded good to my ear.
This gave me a different kind of musical confidence which I’m really grateful for, knowing that even though I don’t understand a lot of music theory I can always trust and follow what sounds good to my ear.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I still write all my songs on the guitar I bought when I was 16, my path really hasn’t changed all that much when it comes to instruments/home recording equipment. In high school I was recording with a built-in laptop mic and Garageband, and now I’ll record on Logic with a different mic and interface. Not a big leap really.
It wasn’t until 2017 when I started working with Stephen Steinbrink did the recording process, production, and overall quality drastically change. When I first heard the way my songs sounded when Stephen was recording and working on them with me it was a complete game-changer, and now totally motivates the choices I make when recording.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Not really, I think the way I write music today is still pretty similar to the way I started out writing music.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
These days I really love taking the bare bits of a song, the structure, chords, melody, and working the rest out with a trusted collaborator. I find that the song can turn into something so much bigger and better than if I would have made it completely on my own.
Tapping into your own creative energy can be so personal and intimate, but being able to create with someone else can be the most incredible and rewarding experience. I’ve also found that the less of a grip I have on a song or an idea as being solely mine, the easier it is to release whatever it was I set out to release when writing it.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I like starting my day with a little movement, either dancing while I brush my teeth or putting a song on and dancing to it right after I wake up. Or maybe it’ll just be some stretching. Then I make some coffee and either journal, read, or listen to a podcast while I drink it.
I definitely go through phases of being creative or not at all, sometimes months go by where I haven’t written a song. But if I’m in a creative phase, I’ll try and mess around on the guitar, maybe come up with a melody and lyrics, maybe track a demo of it, just depends. For the past 6 months or so I haven’t been creative in that sense but instead have been planning out album release stuff, like finishing up mixes, then masters, sequencing, album artwork, music videos, etc.
Music and other aspects of my life definitely feed back into each other. The last job I had was working at a music school, many of the friends I have are also musicians or people I’ve met through music, my brother is a musician, we grew up playing together and still do, music definitely permeates almost every aspect of my life.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Meeting Stephen back in late 2017 and starting to work on music with him definitely changed everything for me. I feel so grateful and fortunate to have a trusted friend in my life that I can share my ideas with and know with 100% certainty that these ideas will take a beautiful new form with Stephen’s involvement. And it will be stupidly fun throughout the whole process.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
In the past, I would most often write when I was feeling down or upset and would use writing as a kind of way to process that emotion.
That’s not to say that the ideal state of mind to create is to be sad, but I think being open and allowing yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling is important.
I also think that having the intention to create for the sake of creating is important for me personally. I don’t think I could be creative under pressure or with a deadline. I know some artists who thrive having these types of guidelines, but for me, it’s all about being in a state of allowing whatever to happen, without expectation.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I certainly have experience with the healing power of music and believe that there are many ways it can provide or lead to healing. To learn something about yourself or feel a sense of connection through a piece of music someone else has written can feel so validating.
I think we all strive for connection and to feel understood in this world.
I also think it can be incredibly healing to experience a shift in your state through listening to music -- music can relax, excite, make you cry, inspire, etc. It’s hard to say where the biggest need for music as a tool for healing is when I think of the world and the overwhelming amount of things that need healing here.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I would imagine that in order for something to be deemed as cultural exchange, there must be a dialogue between the creators and the artist imitating. What is it that artist contributing to the exchange?
I think the limits are in place for a reason – throughout history, people have stolen and benefited from the cultural traditions of others without respect or acknowledgment. There’s a responsibility to make sure you’re not contributing to further oppression, or benefitting from the erasure of culture. I think it’s a complex topic that definitely deserves more dialogue and awareness.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I’m fascinated by the connection between our sense of hearing and our memories. We can hear something and be transported to a completely different time. I also love the pairing of sound and visuals. One sense can enhance the power of the other one so beautifully.
These overlaps and connections show us how we can use our senses to experience in an infinite amount of ways.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
My love for music has been a part of me for as long as I can remember and has really informed so much of my life.
I suppose my approach to being an artist is to explore my own inner workings and to use my findings to hopefully continue my efforts on becoming a better person with the time I have here.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Feelings can be incredibly hard to express through words alone, music seems to reach a whole new place altogether where it’s easier to let go of trying to express something with words.