5 Questions for Skarlett Woods on her new single and more

Skarlett Woods has an unique sound and a wit to her songs. She has a January residency in Fargo and other shows coming up in St Cloud and Superior WI. I enjoyed her answers nearly as much as I enjoy her music!

Close to You is such a lovely song and I hear you wrote it for a songwriter’s contest. Does that change the songwriting process? (And did you win?)

Hello Ann, Thanks for having me on the Mostly Minnesota site and I’m delighted you like my new song. I was actually working on another song, “The Untold Story of Roseto” that I wanted to bring to the Dylan Fest Songwriters Contest in Duluth and couldn’t quite figure out how to put the concept of that song into a story, so I ended up writing a completely new song, “Close To You” (Braver These Days) a week before the contest. Procrastination defiantly played a roll in that particular songwriting process. Normally, I would have just presented a more practiced/established song to bring to the contest, but I wanted to go out on a limb and challenge myself. I often find sometimes that forcing myself into stressful or uncomfortable situations promotes a growth to my artistry and musicianship that I would have not discovered had I just ‘played it safe’. Luckily, it was a winning song that evening.

You have a blended jazz folk sound that’s unique. How does being from Central Minnesota impact your songs? (I love the mention of Minnesota in I’m Right Here!)  And how does your time in Oregon fit in?

Being raised in Central Minnesota was often lonely and isolating, especially being queer. I found a pocket of solace when I joined the 6th grade choir. There, I discovered the magic of the voice. Being one of the kids in school that got bullied, choir became a safe space for me. I was selected to sing a solo in front of my entire middle school. After that performance, the students that bullied me stopped. It was like my singing voice became a tool that protected me. I continued singing in choirs all through school and developed a love for harmony and all the possibilities within. Chorale Composer, Eric Whitacre introduced me to minor seconds- harmonies with dissonance, which defiantly influenced the writing in many of the songs in my debut album. I fell in love with choral music when I lived in Central Minnesota.

Shortly after graduating from High School and Community College, I moved out west to Oregon. Oregon became the place where I discovered so much of myself. I felt free to become someone. My confidence flourished. For the first time in my life I had a sense of community and belonging, and with that gave me the courage to make bold decisions, one of which was to pursue a career in music.

Can you tell us about your big bike tour in 2012? The cause is worth sharing but also, did you listen to certain music? Did you compose songs in your head? That is so much time in your head it must change how you think.

After high school, a friend introduced me to the writings of Henry David Thoreau, specifically Walden Pond. Somehow I got it in my head that I wanted to ride my bicycle to Walden Pond and physically be in the presence where the ideas and writings to “simplify, simplify, simplify” were born.  Riding my bicycle in Central Minnesota is one of my favorite things to do and I planned to leave from Minnesota on my big bike tour after high school, but the timing just wasn’t right. I was living in Eugene, OR in 2010 with my partner at the time when one evening I had a dream about my bike tour. I woke up that next morning so energized and asked if she would join me in the adventure. She agreed. In an effort to give some meaning, beyond just riding a bike every day for six months, she came up with the idea of attempting the 100 mile diet and to promote the importance of local food systems along the way. Both of us had a passion for sourcing food locally and eating organically. http://foodcyclesbiketour.blogspot.com/

Shortly before finishing up all that was needed for our departure, I read an article in the New Yorker about an up and coming band called, The Punch Brothers. Intriguing as the article was, I was even more elated by their music. I’ve never heard a band like that ever before and listening to them completely redefined what I thought a song could be and what a band could sound like. They completely blew my mind. The Punch Brothers became the soundtrack to my life for the next year on and off the road

There wasn’t a day on the bike tour when I wasn’t humming melodies in my head. Music felt like it was bursting out of my cells. I missed playing it, so much to the point that once we came to the little town of Alpine Texas, I bought a mandolin. Having never played one before, I strapped it to my bike rack like it was a Thanksgiving dinner. I’m no Chris Thile at playing it, but the feeling of an instrument under my fingers again felt like home.

It may be my age, but I love Silver Fox. I love the imagery, the nod to folks of a certain age and the piano jazziness. Can you tell us about the song?

I’m so glad you enjoy “Silver Fox”. This song also came about from procrastinating. I was participating in a monthly song circle while living in Santa Cruz, CA. I was to present a new song to the group that evening and I only had the chords and melodic structure finished. My partner Dawn, whom I was living with, saw how I still needed a story to the music. I explained to her the mood and mischievous character of the song and she came up with this idea of having the story take place on a Cruise ship with an older single woman trying to romantically go after a similar-aged single gentleman (silver fox). I didn’t quite finish all the words before the circle that evening, but the idea was well on it’s way. Dawn generously assisted with some lyrical ideas. And I have to say, the humor of that song is all Dawn too. She has an incredible sense of wit and humor and that certainly showed itself with “Silver Fox”. My cat, “Zoes” also assisted with the chord construction of the verses. She inspired the syncopated diminished chords heard in the verses.

Patti Moran McCoy performs the piano. I knew I wanted a classically trained jazz pianist to layer their musical knowledge in the song. At 85 years old with a mind like a whip, Patti absolutely blew it out of the water.

Please let us know where folks can find you playing these days.

The best way to be informed of my performances is to subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter, which can be found on the home page of my website at www.skarlettwoods.com. My Spotify page also list my upcoming performances and music releases.

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