A true testament to the excessive amount of talent oozing out of this country comes the sound of Adam Scotten, a temporary Waterton resident.
His controlled, yet raw, vocals accompanied by meticulous, yet seemingly effortless guitar produce a lasting sound that can be welcomed into any genre. Scotten’s alternative acoustic sound, however, was a product of evolution that took many years to discover.
“That’s what I love about music,” Scotten said. “It is so diverse and there is no shortage of creativity at all. It is an ever-changing, ever-evolving, sound that we are probably going to continue until we are all dead and gone.”
Picking up the guitar for the first time in Grade 9 — a hand-me-down from his grandfather — Scotten, 28, was fascinated by bands like Metallica. He was quickly signed up for lessons, and three months later Scotten was equipped with the basic tools of chord progressions and the ability to read tablature.
“Brady [Scotten’s guitar teacher,] set me on my way to being in a metal band,” he said with a laugh.
Forgotten Entry was the name of this mostly-Metallica cover band; Scotten shredded on lead guitar and main vocals, and some friends from his Airdrie high school accompanied him on drums, bass and rhythm guitar. Together, the band performed a few local shows including a battle of the bands at the school which received praise, and surprise, from his peers.
“We were just punks with muscle shirts on driving that thrash metal scene,” Scotten explained, which was surprising to some as in class he was rather shy and reserved.
Timidness was a hurdle that Scotten had to overcome in order to pursue his art.
“I was really shy,” he said. “I didn’t know how to perform in front of people. It was a big deal. You felt like everyone was judging you — well they are watching you.”
Starting out performing in front of his supportive parents — after hours of rehearsal in the basement — Scotten started to develop some confidence.
“I would screw up a lot and my dad had no problem telling me that,” he said. “For the longest time I didn’t like hearing from him, but I still wanted it because you need that constructive criticism to correct those faults.”
“When he would finally — eventually — say, ‘good job,’ I knew that he meant it.”
After getting the approval of his parents, Scotten expanded his audience to extended family and friends during Christmas celebrations. It was there that people started to pressure him to perform.
“They suggested I join a competition or something,” Scotten said. “I joined Festival Idol in Airdrie — when Canadian Idol was a big thing — and I competed with ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis.”
That was nearly a decade ago, and since then Scotten has truly found a niché for himself in the acoustic alternative scene; performing regularly at a variety of events ranging from open mic nights, to three-hour sets at Waterton’s Fireside Lounge, and from weddings to Pincher Creek’s Show and Shines.
During his time working in Waterton in 2015, Scotten attempted to land a spot on the show roster for the Fireside Lounge, but it was full-up. Scotten resorted to playing cancellation spots.
“They liked what they heard and they continued to book me for cancellations,” he said. “But, this year, I was lucky to get into the calendar for the whole season.”
There he plays a collection of covers and a few originals one weekend a month.
“It is nice to share stuff that people haven’t heard before,” Scotten said in reference to his original songs. “It took me a while to get comfortable to play originals, I mean it’s something you made yourself and you’re not sure if people will like it.”
Those first originals, Scotten explained, were inspired by artists such as Neil Young and Crosby, Stills & Nash, but his sound has since developed over the years.
“Now, I am getting more inspired by musicians like Xavier Rudd, Half Moon Run and Lord Huron — new age sweet alternative music.”
Scotten is a believer in strong lyrics as art, he explained, noting that they are more difficult to find nowadays compared to the music that came out of the ‘70s.
“The stories told through older songs — you can’t replicate that — they’re all told through metaphors,” he said. “Metaphoric lyrics are so interesting because instead of just telling it the way it is everyone wonders about it and creates their own unique take on the song.”
This typically solo performer has banded together once again with some fellow Parks Canada employees to formulate the appropriately named White Bark Pines — a band boasting the sounds of violins, guitars and drums.
“It’s just so amazing what you can do with all of those sounds,” he said, noting he was eager to start composing originals for the new group.
Currently, the White Bark Pines are quickly learning a couple of cover songs before making their debut at one of the Open Mic Nights held at the Thirsty Bear, which Scotten hosts on Tuesday nights.