Songwriter Phillip-Michael Scales coined the term “Dive Bar Soul,” to describe his original style: a genre that draws from the passionate nature of blues, and the storytelling of indie rock. His latest single, “Tell Me How I Sound Again,” exemplifies Scales’ unique sound best, and hits on a subject that is as socially relevant as ever.
But much before that, prior to establishing his own amalgam of music, Scales spent his youth in metropolitan Detroit writing parodies to the musical stylings of Tone Loc, discussing Motown with parents that were raised on Detroit blues, and joking around with his uncle, the late great B.B. King.
To Scales, King was more than a musical icon- he was a friend and a mentor. He would recount stories of Woodstock to his nephew among other major music events, have long discussions about racism in the United States, and the complexity of the music industry. Of course, his uncle served as inspiration, but Scales’ fiercely independent nature was what motivated the young artist to carve out a name for himself, separately from legacy.
At 18-years-old, leaving his hometown for the first time to attend school at Berklee College of Music, Scales became enamored with indie rock. Taking advice from an English teacher that told him, “A great writer can make their reader identify with anyone,” and motivation from his legendary uncle, who encouraged Scales to simply “stay with it,” the musician found his lyrical niche. With his ability to tell stories in the style of popular rock bands at the time like Wilco and Stars, Scales created his own sonic poetry. The artist found his own way to use his guitar as a narrative tool, letting his words say just enough in the communicative power of his music.
When his uncle passed in 2015, Scales honored his mentor in the best way he knew how: music. The artist became intrigued with the sound that King made his name from, finding ways to incorporate the blues music that the generation before him cut their teeth on into his own music.
Thus became Scales’ one-of-a-kind style.
“Tell Me How I Sound Again,” which is out on streaming platforms as of this publication, utilizes the narrative aspect of indie rock lyricism, but presents the poetry and deep-meaning of his words in a heartfelt if not fed-up tone. The subject matter will always be relevant, but in the climate of America today, it seems to hit just that much harder.
The smooth and building musicality of Scales’ guitar picking and vocals sets the track’s mood, and before long, the hammer of soul drops with no restrain. Soulful intensity seeps from Scales’ guitar, and is only matched with his ever-relevant lyrics regarding rampant racism in the United States through his unique lens. He creates a harmonious blend of passion and calculated lyricism with his songs, and this is no different. It’s a powerful, marching track that demands to be both heard and understood.
Settled in Nashville now, Scales plans to spend the last few months of 2020 writing, trying his hand at recording his own music, and continuing to find his voice in fresh new ways. He brings a fresh, soulful sound to the scene, and it’s a damn shame we can’t see him perform live just yet.
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