Soul singer and songwriter Scarlett Fagan was born in London and now resides in Bristol. On May 13, 2022, Scarlett released her debut album by herself. Scarlett wrote the songs for the album, which was produced by the brilliant Matthew Dyer, who will play piano for her at all of her upcoming performances. Scarlett’s songs will be raw and honest with a seductive, sultry edge, drawing inspiration from soul/jazz legends like Amy Winehouse and Etta James. Her debut solo album is titled “Conscious.” She is a client of the extremely talented producer Matthew Dyer, whose independent label Canvas Entertainment she is signed to.
The songs on this album were created while various lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 were in effect. Each song is deeply personal and reflects a time of change in her life. She felt it was crucial to make sure the lyrics were written in a very “conscious” manner. She uses this term because she grew up listening to a lot of reggae music and her favorite reggae artists frequently discuss having “conscious music” and “conscious lyrics,” which, in her opinion, refers to music that has been written to benefit the listener and a larger audience. The songs on the album, “Sugar,” “Conscious,” and even “Booze & Coffee,” are where I specifically focused on this theme.
In addition to the album’s “Conscious” theme, there are also some very personal lyrics about the artist’s life experiences and lessons learned about interpersonal relationships, etc. Check out the album and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
SCARLETT FAGAN: So I come from London originally but also grew up in Devon and currently reside in Bristol. I started singing very young but I started to pursue it in a more professional sense in my early twenties. Prior to that, I was too scared to pursue music and used to get TERRIBLE stage fright.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
SCARLETT FAGAN: It’s kind of a mixture really, I was self taught for a long time but when I did my music GCSE, I had to have singing lessons and was lucky to find a great singing teacher who helped me to develop the tone that I already had rather than trying to change anything about my voice. We’ve stayed in contact since and she’s really supportive of everything I do still. Recently I had some singing lessons also with another great teacher who helped me recover from a mild bout of laryngitis. Very grateful for how amazing my teachers have been.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘SCARLETT FAGAN’?
SCARLETT FAGAN: My biggest influences have been the soul singers from the 50’s and 60’s. I became obsessed with Motown at quite a young age and used to sing all the songs on my own in my kitchen. In my teens I also became a big fan of Amy Winehouse and she has had a huge impact on my singing and songwriting.
My name is Scarlett Fagan so that’s the name I went with for the stage too. I debated just ‘Scarlett’ for the stage but I think my full name works better.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
SCARLETT FAGAN: Well, when I write, it’s often about lessons that I’ve learned or messages that I wish I’d heard growing up. This can be on a personal level or societal level. I grew up listening to alot of reggae also and the traditional theme of reggae has always been to write ‘Conscious’ music/lyrics. So this means that the music should have a positive effect on the individuals listening and subsequently on the rest of society all over the world. Something that I like to portray whilst I’m singing my songs also is my vulnerability. I don’t tend to show my vulnerability in day to day life, but songwriting and performing allows me to do that in a completely authentic way and this is something that people are able to connect with when they see me perform or listen to my songs.
The overall sound of my album is very soulful with a hint if Jazz and RnB.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
In all honesty, I feel like it is an artists responsibility to create work that teaches a lesson, reflects on society, evokes emotion and can have a positive effect on the listener or reader etc. Personal narrative can weave itself into those themes too because it creates discussion and people can relate to the writers personal experience. When writing my album, I wanted to be as authentic as I possibly could whilst ensuring that there was an important message being delivered too. The title track of my album ‘Conscious’ is a fairly short and simple song but I wrote it hoping that people would pay attention to the lyrics and the message.
Having said that, songs that are written strictly for entertainment can be very important too as people can dance, sing along and have a great time which is uplifting also.
7. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
My process has changed a bit over the years but recently my process is that a producer sends me a basic track that they’ve produced and I play around with vocal melodies until something sticks and then I write lyrics to the vocal melody that I’ve come up with. When I’m coming up with the vocal melodies, I record myself humming the melodies on my phone and then I pick one that I like the most. Once I’ve got to that point, I listen to the melody on my phone on repeat and usually the first lyric pops into my head and then it all develops from there really. If I’m struggling to feel inspired/creative, I watch loads if videos of my favourite singers performing live and that usually gets me in the mood to write a song.
I collaborate with producers in the sense that they produce the track but I like to write on my own. Particularly if it’s a very personal song that I’m writing. That might change one day though, I’m open to it.
8. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
The most difficult thing I’ve had to endure whilst pursuing a career in music, is having to hold down a normal ‘day job’. I often have really amazing weekends performing or recording etc., and then on Monday I am forced into a much more boring reality which is my job. This year it’s been particularly difficult managing the job alongside my music commitments but the only thing that keeps me going is the faith that one day, it will all change and I’ll be able to pursue my dream singing career full time.
This is a very common reality for alot of artists and I will say that I am very lucky that my job allowed me to change my hours at work to facilitate all the gigs that I do on the weekends. I would be really struggling if they hadn’t been flexible with me.
9. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
SCARLETT FAGAN: So far, I’m extremely proud of the album that myself and Matthew Dyer (the producer) have created. We really poured everything into this and intend to do another in the future. I used to be so nervous about singing and songwriting so getting to this point has been huge for me. Another very proud moment was selling out my first solo show after the album was released. Last night I performed at Green Note in Camden again and not only did we sell out again but people were queuing, trying to get in after all the tickets had already gone. It’s a small and intimate venue but it really is amazing to think that people really wanna come and see me perform. It surprises me every time.
Overall though, one of the most important things that I’ve overcome recently is the terrible nerves and anxiety I used to get before/during a gig. I still get nervous of course but it’s not debilitating anymore and this is really significant for me.
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Photo credits: Kashya Zapala