Play: Don't You Tease Me >>>
In this era of sleek pocket-sized design, the lurching double bass is a curious oddity. But when Emily Scott's the girl massaging sweet notes from its overbearing hull, you quickly realise it's not the size of the instrument that matters, it's what you do with it.
As a composer of feather cushioned reveries, Scott certainly has a keen ear for the contrabass's melodic complexities, but when it comes to manoeuvring the grandiose bulk she's a little less willing:
"I ask myself why I'm doing what I'm doing a lot when I'm carrying my bass about at two in the morning," she half-jokes. "I don't feel a need to be heard or to make a point or anything, it's just a really enjoyable thing to do. I see it like I'm making something, like when it was a rainy day when I was a kid and I'd get busy building with shiny paper and glue. Actually, I still do that."
Such childish quirks are sprawled throughout Scott's magnetic compositions. A former pre-school music and art teacher in New York, her songs are imbued with a sprite that could only ever emanate from the rabble of the playground. Yet behind this callow facade lurks a multi-skilled musician with an extraordinary deftness of touch.
"I'm a competent double-bassist," she says reticently. "It's what I really love, but I compose mainly on the guitar and recently on piano as they're more logical for writing. My favourite ad-hoc instrument to date is an open jar of buttons I played on one of my new tracks. As I shook it through the song it sorted itself into order of size and then all these feathers and old stamps worked their way gradually right out of the jar and into my lap. It was a special moment, like a late night animation."
Scott's kooky idealism inevitably draws parallels with Soviet songstress Regina Spektor and a classically trained background further fans this suggestive flame. Yet, her wispy, skyward intone and organic vignettes suggest the overtures of Joni Mitchell played a greater part in shaping her sophomore long-player abcdefg...etc....
Unsurprisingly, Scott's idea of inspiration is a smidgeon more abstract: "I like the cracks in the pavement, the tiny things that other people don't tend to notice - it comes from years of shoegazing," she explains. "I think there is something in my music for anyone who wants to listen. I hope what I do is interesting; it's not there to blow anyone's mind, but it's quietly eclectic."
The past 12 months have seen the Auld Reekie-dwelling Scott frequently collude with UtR favourite Rob St John and this Saturday (8 Aug) they'll combine to play the unusual confines of Edinburgh's National Portrait Gallery.
"It's a collaboration between the gallery, Avalanche records and the Rough Cut Nation art collective, who have an exhibition on during the festival," says Scott of the unique showing. "It's always great to play in an interesting venue, and the connection with the art exhibition is an obvious draw. We're looking forward to a full band collaboration with Rob St John to fill out our usual line-up."
This evasion of a comfort zone makes Emily Scott one of Edinburgh's most cherished musical possessions. Free from constraint, her unbridled approach to expressionism creates a sound that's crisp, poignant and, perhaps most importantantly to Scott, liberating. It's the sort of freedom she's always sought:
"It's a challenge for me to play in a situation where not every single aspect of the performance is on the page, and then further removed by a conductor's interpretation," Scott reveals. "A classical education was an amazing opportunity, but not very realistic, and it's hard to let go of. I wish I'd had the common sense to be in a band when I was 13 like so many others - instead I was a total bubble-head."
Emily Scott plays the National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh with Rob St John this Saturday (8 Aug) at 5pm. You can also catch her playing live at the following shows:
8 Aug @ Shakespeare's, Edinburgh (2pm)
18 Aug @ Medina, Edinburgh
19 Sep @ Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh
30 Sep @ Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh