Many factors have contributed to singer-songwriter Alison Scott’s choice of career. Supportive parents, who both majored in music, is one. “Until I told them to take a night off, they were at every one of my shows,” she says.
Scott also credits the strong K–12 music program in the Wayzata School District. “They kept me pretty busy over there,” she says. “Being exposed [to music] at a young age fueled my desire.” Scott, who says she “struggled with [not] look[ing] the leading lady part,” served as an understudy in several high school musicals, as well as a choir officer and soloist. She attended Elon College in North Carolina for one year and finished off her studies at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul.
At age 22, Scott earned the attention of Grammy-winning music producer and guitarist Kevin Bowe. Bowe was serving as a panelist at a local songwriting competition, where Scott took first prize. The two soon recognized a shared artistic vision, and since then, Bowe has worked with the young soul singer, co-writing and producing all six of her albums, from Wish On The Moon to the two-volume Hiding Under the Covers, to Scott’s biggest commercial success to date, Chinese Whisperers, released in 2010. That same year brought one of the biggest shows of her career: opening for Jon Bon Jovi at Xcel Energy Center.
Scott releases her music under her own personal record label, Alisco Records. While she dabbles in other genres to keep herself—or worse, her fans—from becoming bored, Scott says she always comes back to soul and notes that her musical preferences always have been inspired by people who were before her time.
Scott’s four-piece band includes Kevin Bowe on guitar, Peter Anderson on drums and the most recent addition, bassist Justin Rieken, who joined the band in 2013. Talented local musicians including Brian Gallager, Charlie Peterson and Tommy Barbarella have performed and recorded with Scott. “We are [a] really low-maintenance bunch. We’re really normal,” she says. “We’re all married ... [Before a show] we just sit backstage and chit-chat.”
Becoming a mother two years ago affected Scott’s availability and willingness to tour out of state. Consequently, the band’s touring radius has shrunk from national to regional venues, with more daytrips than weeks-long jaunts. “Before [Grace was born] we played 100 shows a year,” she says. “Now, in the busy summer seasons, we average eight to 10 shows a month, [including] corporate and private events.” Her main venue is Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, where she and the band play several times a year, as well as other local spots such as Hopkins Center for the Arts.
The less-demanding itinerary has allowed Scott to take on a second job as a private music teacher. She currently has about 30 voice and piano students, ranging in age from 4 to 78. She appreciates both ends of the spectrum: the kids for their “infectious enthusiasm,” and the adults because “they already understand basic math, which is a huge part of music,” she says. “Having to reiterate everything I’ve ever learned [has also] made me a better musician.” Meanwhile, Scott offers her pupils something many music teachers cannot: She shows them what it means to be a performing musician.
Her new album, Stone Cold Love, comes out next month and features the song “Waiting,” the first Scott has written for her daughter, Grace. While it was the singular joy of becoming a mother that inspired that track, Scott says that “heartbreak” has been the unifying theme of her oeuvre. “On Wish On the Moon, I had a lot of very personal songs about relationships that went south. But then I met my husband, Andy,” she says. “Now I’m happy and I have the family that I always wanted. No one wants to hear 13 songs about that!”
These days, Scott seeks inspiration from unlucky-in-love friends, as well as movies. “I try to put myself in someone else’s shoes,” she says. “I don’t think any one person’s life is interesting enough to only write about [their] own experiences.”
Alison Scott debuts her new album, Stone Cold Love, next month:
Dakota Jazz Club
1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.