So Ambitious / Jason Scott | Edition XV

In front of 596 Broadway, before my interview, I am admiring a woman’s gait.

“Sweetheart! You’s born in that dress,” says a large balding man with a ponytail to the same woman. “Get that shit in every color,” muttering to himself. Balding pony looks at me for approval and I start to feel a little guilty by association, but fuck it. I smile and agree.

Inside 596 Broadway, Jason Scott Henderson waits for my arrival. “Suite 908,” I say to the doorkeeper and hop into the elevator. The building is one of the cast-iron mazes typical of Manhattan’s SoHo. Walking through the halls, the music escaping the soundproof booth guides me to my destination, Wonderful Recording Studios.

I knock, the door swings open, and Jason Scott looks at me and extends a hand. “Were you waiting for long?” he asks. “We’ve just been mastering a remix for Jade.”
Jason is reworking a few songs for one of his artists Jade whose EP debut, ‘It’s My Heart, Cookie’ has garnered much deserved attention and respect. Jason tells me the song playing has been remixed from a more melancholy track; the haunting vocals stretched over the up tempo beat has me bobbing my head.

As founder of Scott on the Rocks, Jason develops, markets, and produces talent in innovative ways that comes naturally to someone with a background in performing arts and an education in success. His juggling act between keeping an artist’s integrity and attracting mainstream attention can only be achieved through bold decisions and strong relationships with his performers. Check out any of the music acts he manages like Blind Benny, Tecla, Fat Tony, Rocky Business and the universality of the music is immediately apparent.

After a brief introduction with the sound engineer at Wonderful, Jason and I enter the recording booth to commence our interview. Jason gets comfortable amongst the mics and vintage analog synthesizers and I turn on my new Dictaphone.

Was there a singular moment where you realized music would be your life’s work?
Well, from Junior High I knew I wanted to produce music whether I was the face of it or behind the scenes, I knew I just wanted to be a part of that industry. But when I got into LaGuardia High School, being in an environment of nothing but creative people and seeing how common it was for folks to have managers, agents, even working on an [album] release, that’s just inspirational in itself. That’s when I really started forming a basic knowledge of producing with Acid and Fruity Loops, with sequencing keyboards and really manipulating those programs. I mean I grew up singing in church, but it was only until I got to LaGuardia where teachers set my mind right in terms of real musicianship. Learning how to read and write music and how to take it to the next level… not just be one of those kids who makes beats [laughs…] I don’t even like using that word.

Has any of that spirituality singing in church carried over into your life today?
I feel that right now, as a 20 something, life is just too technologically advanced to really zone in on my own spirituality. But in terms of how the music made me feel, singing in church, that’s definitely something, I honor and it’s something I look for in any musician to this day. The words soul and pop are two things I look for music to evoke, no matter what the content, whether it be ‘praise God’ or ‘hail Satan’ it’s just something that you feel.

Is there one artist you can name that achieves that soul and pop mix you look for?
Stevie Wonder or Billy Joel are good examples in terms of the OG’s but modern day, N.E.R.D, their first album changed my whole perception of what contemporary pop and soul could sound like. Pharrell being African-American but singing and rapping while doing this Rock, Pop, Soul thing opened my eyes to what you could create by merging different types of music but still making it accessible to everyone.

You play a pretty multifaceted roll with your artists; could you elaborate on this type of relationship?
Anyone who I work with is someone I believe in. I believe that they deserve notoriety and praise whether it be indie or in the mainstream outlet. Ideally I’d like to start my own label and represent quality artists the way they see fit, I see fit, and just continue to brand via Scott on the Rocks because I would hope that my approval means something to an audience.

What’s the easiest part of your job and conversely the most difficult for you at this time?
The easiest part? Coming to the studio, that’s the fun part. Hearing great music and developing creative relationships with talented people. Sharing ideas. Can’t do what I do without that. The hardest part is lack of funding to be able to promote these artists the way they deserve. It takes a lot of shameless promotion, word of mouth, and a lot of networking, a lot of begging sponsors for money, a lot of pleading to venues for time yet I do that with confidence because it’s necessary that people respect you. I’ve learned that the hard way too. You can’t wait on people. Sometimes you need to create opportunities for yourself.

Tell me a little about this remix project you were working on when I came in?
With someone like Kid Cudi, the Crookers remix to Day ‘N’ Night really helped him take off. It gave him appeal internationally and in clubs and then people obviously gravitated towards the original track and the rest of that album and people realized this guy is making more than just dance tracks. This project with Jade is similar in that we’re trying to take an album that we know is perfect but flip it in a way so we can attract listeners who might have slept on it the first go around. It’s been a lot of fun taking material that was already solid but trying to touch on different emotions while still staying true to the artist. Certain things are more dense, others more stripped down.

One in every color…

Words: W.F. Striebe