Scott Alan is a man who needs no introduction if you follow musical theatre. If you don’t, well then jump on board! Fresh from selling out four shows at the London Hippodrome, Scott Alan is one of the top contemporary musical theatre writers in the world. He is known for writing soul-searching, honest, and mind-pondering music not only for the theatre world but also for jazz, pop and R&B singers. His incredible ability to write so openly leaves his audience members gutted as his words and melodic lines demand your attention – you can’t help but walk away a better person after hearing his stories. His journey has been a difficult one and although he has had to overcome many obstacles professionally and personally, he continues on a path of honesty and real life. I caught up with him to talk about his beginnings in musical theatre, his influences, how he started pitching his songs and much more!
Mindy Pack: How did you get started writing for Musical Theatre?
Scott Alan: I grew up on musical theatre. It has always been material that I have connected with. I really started writing when I was around 18 years old and didn’t land in the musical theatre world until I was about 23 years old. Once I got there, though, there was absolutely no stopping me.
MP: How would you describe your style?
SA: I see my work has a combination of theatrical and pop. I grew up on both theatre and pop music and connecting the two is just very comfortable for me. I will always have a very emotional side to my writing and it will remain honest so I can see where others would consider it leaning more towards the theatrical side. I’m totally ok with that.
MP: Who has influenced your style of writing? You used to work for Mariah Carey, do you think she’s had any influence on your style?
SA: Oh, I grew up on Mariah. I have idolized her way of writing with Walter for years and along with Diane Warren, that has had a great influence on my writing style. I don’t tend to write a hook as well as they do but I am still learning. Working with artists such as Mariah (when I was an assistant to Ricky Minor) was a blessing because it allowed me the opportunity to watch their style of work so close up. There is so much insecurity there and in a way that was such a treat to witness because you see that everyone is fearful of disappointing others with their work.
MP: How did you go about pitching your songs to top Broadway, West End, and pop singers? How did you decide who was going to sing what?
SA: I started with Shoshana Bean (Wicked, Hairspray, Recording Artist). I fell in love with Shoshana’s voice the moment I heard it. There is a funny story she tells on a YouTube video about our first meeting. She really didn’t want to give me the time but she did and the rest is history. I was fortunate enough for her to introduce me to some incredibly gifted performers when she sang my song “Home” live at a benefit concert. The rest is history, really. Performers approached me to work together and I wasn’t at a place to say no to anybody. Within a month my work was being performed at benefit concerts around New York and as their careers grew, so did mine.
SHOHANNA BEAN SINGS “HOME”
MP: Was the process any different when you approached these artists with the idea of writing specifically for them?
SA: I think every artist wants to believe that you’re writing a song tailor made for his or her voice but the truth is that I normally write primarily for myself. I call my music ‘therapy songs’ because I write when I need to release. There is so much of me in my work that it is really gratifying when an artist puts their own story into your lyric. It’s easy for me to listen to, too, because many of the experiences that led to my work are extremely painful.
MP: What is it you wish you knew before you started your journey as a musician?
SA: I wish I knew that it is ok to not read music. That it doesn’t define whether you are a writer or not. Early on I was very uncomfortable with that fact. I didn’t want to admit it but after seeing the long list of artists who also don’t read music (Joni Mitchell and Paul McCartney, just to name a few) I really started to fall into my role as a writer without needing to make excuses.
MP: If you could give any advice to future songwriters, what would that be?
SA: Trust your heart and never lie in your writing. Always find the honesty in the lyric. I would also say that it is totally normal to get to a place where you need to take a break from writing, planned or unplanned. Sometimes you have exercised all the emotion that your heart can withstand to release. Take a break. A writer writes. It will come back to you. It just may take a little time. The only harm that can be caused is your own self-doubt and fear.
MP: Who has been the most rewarding performer you have worked with and why? Who’s still on your wish list?
SA: Oh that is an impossible question to answer. I have had so many performers that have been a reward to me in my career and to single them out would be incredibly difficult. I am just very fortunate when it comes to artists who are able to emote music in the way the artists I’ve worked with can. I still dream of working with Tina Arena (an Australian Recording Artist). That is still my number one performer I hope to have lay down vocals to a Scott Alan song one day.
MP: What’s next for Scott Alan?
SA: I really don’t know. Life takes you on incredible journeys. Sometimes they are frustrating paths that lead to nowhere and sometimes they are beautifully mapped out. What’s next for me is still unknown. I used to be concerned by that and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still wonder what tomorrow is going to bring me but I’m getting more comfortable with only knowing ‘what is now for Scott Alan.
PENTATONIX SING “LOVE, LOVE, LOVE”
OLIVER TOMPSETT SINGS “LETTING GO OF YOU” @THE LONDON HIPPODROME
Scott’s latest album Anything Worth Holding On To is available on iTunes.