Canadian pop star Scott Helman will be firing up the Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza mainstage March 1st.
As part of the 52° North Music and Cultural Festival, Helman hits the stage at 7:30 p.m. followed by The Strumbellas at 9 p.m.
Since the May 2017 release of Helman’s full-length album Hôtel De Ville, the four-time Juno Award nominee has chased a relentless schedule in support of the record and its infectious, terrifically-crafted singles Kinda Complicated, Ripple Effect and the gold-certified PDA.
His latest single, Hang Ups, was released last Fall.
Reflecting on his early years, Helman, who was born and raised in Toronto, recalls being something of a misfit as a younger guy in he school system. But one day, his trajectory would change dramatically when he learned there were schools where artistic expression was a primary focus.
“I think part of it was that I was a pretty weird kid,” he explains with a laugh during a recent interview.
Due to a struggle with ADHD, he found it pretty much impossible to sit still through childhood, he said.
“I remember I met this kid when I was in about Grade five. We had mutual friends, and we were driving back from cottage country and he was saying how he went to an art school.
“I was like, there are schools where you can just create art? I remember from that day on, I begged my parents that I really wanted to go to an art school. It sounded like heaven to me,” he said. “I’d be able to be with kids who liked art and music, and I could just more be myself. I found that you can make art, and be cool and normal and be accepted. So that was a big deal for me,” he said.
It was also around the time he was nine or 10 that he landed a guitar for Christmas, and something clicked.
“I just fell in love with music. My parents were like, ‘Well, as long as he’s doing his homework and not getting into too much trouble, it’s fine’.”
Not too much time passed before it was crystal clear Helman was a gifted kid. He landed a development deal with Warner Music at 15, already writing his own songs and carving out a niche for himself.
“It was awesome, because it could have been them giving me a bunch of songs and saying, ‘We want you to sing these and turn them into hits and make you a pop star’.”
But they largely let Helman do his thing.
“I think they really felt like this kid wanted to be a singer/songwriter and a respected artist and he wants his own path. So they gave me that option which was really cool.”
It’s a rarity, and was especially then, where labels were keen to ‘create’ artists who could in turn churn out the tunes, ever in search of those elusive hits.
“To be given the opportunity to be my own artist and follow my own path was a total gift.”
It was in 2014 that Helman essentially launched his career with the release of the track Bungalow as the first single from his debut EP Augusta.
In 2015, he also beat out 11 other artists to be the first to win Spotify Canada’s Emerge program and in early 2016, he topped the Teen Vogue list of voices to look out for that year, according to his bio.
As to songwriting, it’s about focusing squarely on those things that specifically inspire you.
“If your heart is not there, and you aren’t stoked by an idea, it’s probably not worth sticking to. But it’s hard to say, because I’ve been doing it for a long time. There is a lot of discipline in knowing what inspires you and what moves you, and then trying to turn that into a craft.
“I prefer to co-write – I don’t really like writing alone. I find it depressing. I believe music is essentially a shared artform; it’s how we communicate with each other. So I like to write with people – it just kind of breeds that excitement.”
As to performing, Helman admits with a laugh that he has always enjoyed entertaining others, so it wasn’t a difficult transition. Yet it can be challenging singing songs that tap into vulnerable, personal lyrical territory.
“You are opening up your heart and showing it to people – that’s a really scary thing. So that is something that is very hard for me. But having amazing fans that reciprocate that love is a very special thing.
“I’d encourage any artist to really follow their hearts and really speak to what is happening in their lives. Once you do that, and you see that love reciprocated, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s really what drives me, and it’s the reason I go onstage in the first place.
“Music has the ability to reach a primordial part of you. I also think that when you are going through a really tough time, the most beautiful, happy, serene song can bring you to tears.
“There is such a mystery to the artform.”
Meanwhile, all 52° North entertainment is free to the public and hosted, as mentioned, at the Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza.