I find the roots of an artist supremely interesting, and in turn, how they decided Nashville might best suit their artistic visions.
One such case is up and coming “dive bar soul” artist Phillip Michael Scales.
Scales comes from an artistically-oriented background in The Wolverine State, and happens to be the nephew of the late great Beale Street Blues Boy himself, yes I’m talking about B.B. King. One can only imagine the immense influence that might have on the trajectory of one’s musical vision and passion, and needless to say, Scales soared in the same direction.
But make no mistake, while his uncle may have been one of the greatest blues musicians and pioneers America has ever known, Scales musical path is all his own.
Scales is one of the many fresh faces in Nashville, and like many eager talents coming to town, he is seeking his place. I would say he’s off to a good start with the moniker “dive bar soul” attached to his name, and he’s already got a leg up (in my opinion) not filing in line among the countless John and Jane Doe commercial country pop artists.
He recently released his latest single, a 70s throwback-style funk jam, “Find A Way,” and we were able to ask him some questions about it, growing up with B.B. King for an uncle, the effects of the pandemic on his art, and much more.
Where did you grow up, and was your uncle your primary reason for getting into music, or did you find your love of it more on your own?
I grew up in Metro-Detroit. My family always had a big appreciation of the arts, particularly music because they all grew up in Detroit in the era of Motown. Of course, my uncle being a musician had an influence, but not sure it was a direct correlation.
Were you able to discuss the depths of his knowledge with him in not only playing music, but the music business as well?
You know, I think the most remarkable part was his knowledge of history, both that he witnessed as well what he taught himself. He loved learning about everything and there was always some sort of history channel or discovery channel on in his hotel room.
Your new single, “Find A Way,” recently hit streaming services. Can you talk about the inspiration and influence behind this track?
I was just thinking a lot about my music career and how my path has been anything but direct. I’ve faced a lot of difficulties in getting to the place I’d like to be: setbacks, indifference, dead ends. I just know all of it makes me a stronger artist and I know I’m getting there.
Can fans expect to see it on an upcoming EP/LP?
While I am getting my brain around releasing a project, I haven’t finalized what will live on it yet. The best part of the internet is that everything can exist in the same place so fans can still hear it.
Where was the song recorded, and who was involved in its production?
The tune was recorded in Nashville and was co-written and produced by Tony Esterly. It was a super experience and I think it was done in one session!
What is your songwriting process like?
My songwriting process changes a lot. I’ve gotta get in the groove, usually by forcing myself to turn off my devices and just play guitar or listen to a bunch of music. Usually once I’m inspired by something the “I wanna make stuff too!” comes out in me and I’m off to the races. I have a bunch of progressions and melodies on my phone. Then I have a bunch of lyrics in a journal. So once an idea comes I can usually go there and get something together.
What might be next musically for Phillip Michael Scales?
Musically, I’m still writing and recording. It’s been cool to work with different producers and see which side of the diamond they light up. “Find a Way” brought out a more 70’s vibe while other tracks I have are a little closer to blues. It’s been fun to explore.
Did you or someone in your circle coin the term “Dive Bar Soul Artist”? First time I’ve seen that- super down.
I did. I was looking to find the term that fit and I think this one did pretty well!
Do you feel the pandemic has helped or hurt your creative process?
I think it definitely helped by the sheer fact that there isn’t much to do but create. The day-to-day of an up and coming musician can be full of things that don’t have much to do with the craft, so its nice to get back to it.
Other than music, what are some of your favorite things about living in Nashville?
You know, I’ve only been here since September and still was on the road half the time so, between that and Covid-19, I feel like I haven’t done too much, but I like how much nature there is around and how community-oriented the city is.
If the pandemic magically disappeared entirely tomorrow and you could visit whatever establishments you missed, where might you go?
Oh man, I’d probably go hang at the 5 Spot for Sunday Night Soul because I know I’d see a bunch of my friends at once! Then obviously end the night with pizza at 5 Points.