A release date is always a big deal. Here is a project that an artist has been pouring all of their hard work and attention into, and now it’s out for all of the world to enjoy. On January 12, that new release was Stay Off My Mind, the first EP from Scandinavian singer Skott. At around midday when I spoke to her, it’s safe to say a good portion of her fans had already listened to the four song EP at least once, if not multiple times. There was someone who had not listened to it yet, though: Skott. “I haven’t opened Spotify or anything because it’s a bit like I’m almost afraid of hearing it not as a project where I can change stuff,” she tells me early in our conversation. Emphasizing the “butterflies in [her] tummy,” Skott feels the same way about a big project as any of the rest of us do when we have to turn in an article, paper, or other big milestone we have to complete. Skott has enjoyed a meteoric rise into the pop zeitgeist with strong songwriting and great production, but she’s not afraid to say she’s still figuring things out in the world of the music industry of 2018.
Time is relative, and a year and a half can be both an eternity and a blip. While fans of her music probably feel like Skott has been in their lives forever, it’s a pretty short turnaround for a musician to grow into a star. That makes Skott’s rise all the more impressive, as a year and half is the amount of time she’s been a part of our musical world, releasing singles “Porcelain” and “Wolf” in June and July of 2016, respectively. When she released her first tracks, she wasn’t sure how they would do, saying, “I was super excited, but I didn’t know. I didn’t expect that it would get as much attention as it did.” Skott had no major label backing at that point, and had barely joined the online world at all. “I didn’t have Instagram or Twitter before releasing ‘Porcelain,’” she reveals, “I had heard a name, but I didn’t know what it was.” Skott downloaded Twitter the day before her first foray into releasing music. She briefly describes her original feelings towards social media as “scary and strange,” which is an incredibly apt observation of how wild the world of Twitter can be. It’s even wilder when one of the first people to tweet at you is Lorde, telling you that your song is “the shit.” Getting shouted out in a tweet by Lorde is also a good indication of the level of success of the first two singles, both of which took off online.
@skottpeace lady, porcelain is the shit ☁️
— Lorde (@lorde) June 17, 2016
While it took some adjustment, now Skott’s social media presence is a keen look into the artistry behind all of her music. A quick scroll through her Instagram account reveals much more than your average group of pictures. Skott routinely teases the release of her music by posting a ninth of the cover art every day until the single is released and the cover is whole. Scroll down farther and there are more collages that shift and morph as new pictures are posted. “I have always really liked painting and drawing and just been interested in art and beautiful things and compositions,” Skott says, explaining that she wanted her account to be more than just simple pictures.
That artistry and creativity comes through in Skott’s music as well. Each of the four songs on Stay Off My Mind fit together perfectly. For Skott, an EP release was a natural progression as an artist. It’s also a happy medium for her current career interests. She explains, “The goal has been since I put the first two songs out basically to release an album as fast as possible, but its so fun to release music so it’s been so tempting as well to just keep them coming and it takes so much time to create an album.” With a four-song EP, Skott dips her toes into releasing a longer project while still being able to release music on a shorter timeline.
While all of her songs are special to her, the EP’s lead and titular single “Stay Off My Mind,” is especially dear to Skott. Behind the shiny, happy veneer of the instrumental lies a tale of being unable to let go of someone, instead having them be a permanent resident in Skott’s brain. “It is about caring about someone a lot, and that’s a very positive, euphoric feeling,” Skott says, although the flip side is “the struggle that you can’t let this person go, it’s on your mind all the time.” It takes on an even more heartbreaking overture with the knowledge that Skott wrote it after a close friend passed away last year, leaving Skott unable to stop thinking about said friend. While Skott says she wanted the song to be bright to emphasize the love in her memories, she also says it can be bittersweet if someone gets stuck in that mind frame.
“Stay Off My Mind” hold another big first for Skott: her first sample. If you listened to “Stay Off My Mind” and thought the beat sounded familiar, you have a keen ear. The track samples Swedish trio Peter Bjorn and John’s 2006 track “Young Folks,” a song you have definitely heard the music to even if you don’t know the song by name. With a chuckle, Skott describes the process of arriving at the sample as “a happy accident.” “Stay Off My Mind” was written during a jam session, and Skott remembers “the chords and baseline and everything came kinda all at once.” Drums were absent during that session, so the song still needed that component. When thinking about songs with the emotional tone they were looking for, “Young Folks” came up on a whim. “For fun we just sampled it, that beat, and put it in the production. It was perfect for the song, it was too perfect, so we didn’t want to take it out,” Skott says. Thankfully Skott knew Björn Yttling from the band a bit, so a quick ask to him was all that was needed in order to secure the sample and complete the song.
Jamming is just one of the ways that Skott goes about writing a song. “My usual way for me to write by myself is I write on a piano,” she says, although once again that’s not always the case. Skott says that sometimes she creates a beat that she likes and moves from there. For a much different start, Skott reveals that she also has an old accordion that she brings out from time to time, although she says with a laugh that she’s not the best accordion player you’ve ever heard. When it comes to the lyrics, Skott says that they more often than not come after the music, saying “it’s more about expressing something I feel and when I find that I can explain what it is.”
That sense or feeling also comes into play with Skott’s music videos, which align both thematically and stylistically with both the song and the artwork they’re attached to. Skott says “Usually I have some kind of visual for the song, any song I have. It can be anything from just one color to a whole story.” From there, she wants to match the entire visual aspect to that initial idea (within budgetary restrictions, she jokes). Nature plays a large part in both Skott’s artwork and music videos, and this is no coincidence either. “The things on this planet that makes me most emotional is actually waterfalls and water that is moving, so like streams,” she says with an air of reverence in her voice. “I get really euphoric from that. And I like hiking and being in the forest.” Using the “Glitter and Gloss” video as an example, Skott explains she always saw “ice and snow” along with “heavy vehicles or motors,” which turned into the snowmobiles and frozen tundra seen in the video.
Of all the firsts that Skott has experienced in the last year and a half, from first single to first music video, none have been more nerve-racking for her than her first live show. Skott performed as part of SXSW 2017 in what was a series of shows that were her first live appearances in the United States. “I wasn’t even sure if I was going to like performing on stage because not all artists do,” she remembers of the show. Thankfully for all of us, “it turns out [she] really, really like[s] it.” Skott describes performing live as the final piece of her process, starting from the moment a song comes into shape to the moment she “delivers” the song to her fans on stage. That being said, the nervousness never goes away, and in a way she doesn’t want it to. Perfectly summing up the sensation of anyone who has ever performed for an audience, Skott says “Sometimes I’m like ‘I’m never going to do this again after this show.’ And then right after the show I’m like ‘when can I do this again?’
The answer to her last question is later this year, when she will be joining fellow pop star MØ on what will be Skott’s biggest tour to date. “I think out of all the pop artists if I got to choose who I got to go on tour with, it would have been MØ,” Skott says. The tour isn’t the only big goal for Skott this year. “[The goal is] totally to get the album out. I really wanna get it out in ’18,” she says eagerly. Alongside the album, Skott is still trying to find her work balance as an artist. Mirroring the work/life balance we all strive for, she explains “I need to find a good balance where I can go, so I can still get into the music completely but still be able to tour or do shows.”
Figuring out all the ropes of a new career is difficult no matter who you are. It applies to accountants just as much as it applies to ascending pop stars. With a collection of stunning singles, a fantastic EP, and an overwhelming amount of talent, Skott is well on her way to putting all of the pieces together. With a major tour and an album on the way, plus a year and half’s worth of more songwriting skill, adoring fans, and social media savvy, 2018 could be the year that everything clicks for Skott. You’d be wise to watch out for when that happens. There will be no stopping Skott when it does.
Featured photo credit: Peter St. James