Preview by Stacey Parker, LSWA staff
Scott Beal, an instructor in LSWA and Sweetland, is going to share his passion for writing at LSWA’s first All-Community Meeting of this academic year. Scott has been an instructor in the Lloyd Scholars for Writing and the Arts (previously known as the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program) for six years. The fun twist? Scott is going to perform some original songs and poems. A published poet, Scott has recently rediscovered songwriting as a new way to experience “what’s fun about writing.”
You can tell he’s having fun as he shares some of the songs he’s written: an R&B song about paranoid conspiracy theorists, or a country song that couldn’t just be a country song for fear of it being “too boring,” or the love song about an octopus and a mantis shrimp. Scott credits his being in a punk rock band in the 90s and 2000s to influence his songwriting. He shared that his band, Ramshackle, “was not prominent,” but played locally in the basement of Ashley’s here in Ann Arbor, Old Miami in Detroit, and the Elbow Room in Ypsi.
On Sept. 18, you can expect to see Scott and his guitar, but what you might not know is that Scott hasn’t played for a live audience in at least ten years, except for a sample at the songwriting retreat that reignited his passion for writing and his focus on songwriting. We are in for a treat as he will be sharing some songs that no one has heard before.
We look forward to seeing our whole living-learning community come together. Feel free to bring your questions as Scott will have a Q&A time.
Here is a brief Q&A with Scott as he shares a bit about songwriting.
How did you first get started in songwriting?
I recently started writing songs again because my partner and I stumbled on a songwriting retreat in the UP and decided it would be fun to try. We spent a long weekend in June 2018 taking little songwriting workshops and meeting other songwriters and trying it out for ourselves. I had written some songs for a punk band I was in long ago, but hadn't even picked up my guitar for ~5 years before going to the retreat.
What is your favorite thing about songwriting?
I like that it's writing to be performed, rather than to sit still on a page. And that the performance is very physical—you feel a song in your hands and your lungs and your body in a way that's hard to replicate in other forms of writing. And I have really been enjoying the sense of freedom that comes with writing in a new medium—it feels good to be able to try things out and make mistakes and discoveries along the way, and to have fun making things up without the pressure I feel in other mediums to "get it right."
How long have you been writing songs?
I still have a small handful of songs I wrote five or ten years ago, when I was in a band or just after, that I think are kinda good. But I really only rediscovered the idea of being a songwriter last spring. (And I had written songs back as an undergraduate that were pretty maudlin and that I'm glad I've forgotten.)
Who is your favorite songwriter?
I've never really thought about it. My favorite songs are all over the map. I can tell you that since I've started writing songs I've also started learning covers to play and sing for fun, by artists including: Taylor Swift, Merle Haggard, AWOLNATION, Florence + the Machine, Ghost, Bruce Dickinson, and The Replacements.
How do you get inspiration for your songs?
Anywhere. Sometimes from small or big things happening in my life, sometimes from big or small things happening in the world, sometimes from a phrase or image that gets stuck in my head, sometimes from the sound of whatever new riffs I happen to come up with on my guitar. Usually probably some combination of these things. One recent song is inspired by my oldest kid leaving for college the same week I caught a series of mice in my house. Another started with the image of two demons meeting for coffee and turned into a meditation on violence and masculinity in America.
What's your favorite thing about LSWA/LHSP?
I love getting to work with engaged and creative students in classes designed around unusual and fascinating themes and experiences.
All photos courtesy of Scott Beal.