The French Factor: Meet Scotty French

When I started writing about the Gold Coast music scene in 2013 one name kept popping up. It seemed like every second band I interviewed had recorded their album with Scotty French. Or perhaps credited him with playing an instrument on their new album. Then he started showing up for photo shoots. Phil Barlow and the Wolf, The Lamplights, Cheap Fakes, Felicity Lawless. He didn’t just record and engineer music for artists here on the Gold Coast, he played in half the damn bands and their albums as well.

But when I finally got around to googling Scotty French, there was very little to uncover. The man is an enigma and then some. Does he care that he’s so heavily involved in so many music projects, yet rarely in the public eye?

“I don’t mind at all he said. “Everything I’ve done has come under a different name. Either a band name or Love Street Studios. I don’t mind being behind the scenes. It’s just part of my job at the studio – to make the artist the best they can without taking away from them.”

So, he’s humble too. He went to highschool at Palm Beach – Currumbin and studied multi-media at Griffith, but unlike other musically talented people Scotty says there are no other musicians in his family.

“They had probably two or three CDs,” he said, of his parents. “There was Phil Collins and there was REM.”

Thankfully, somewhere along the way, Scott’s musical horizons were expanded, though he can’t quite put his finger on what drew him into a musical career.

“I used to get one CD and thrash it,” he said. “For example, Michael Jackson’s History. I listened to a lot of heavy metal too, which is strange now because I’m not involved in any heavy metal bands,” he said. When I ask for examples, he lists Deftones, Korn, Slipknot.

Scott has been at Lovestreet Studios for six years. He says it’s been a gradual process.

“We built the rooms just for bands to rehearse in and there was another engineer that brought in some of the first equipment that we used,” he said. “Between him and Barry (Martin) they invested a bit more to make a proper recording studio. I was always there helping buildbut I didn’t start running it by myself until a few years later.”

I ask Scott how he introduces himself when people ask what he does for a living.

“I usually say ‘I have a recording studio’ because it makes more sense and gets straight to the point. In terms of the business, I say I’m an engineer / producer.”

Scott was 20 when he started working at Lovestreet. I have no idea how you get that kind of experience at such a young age. Scott admits there was lots of “hanging around”.

“I learned a bit at uni, a bit at school, but yeah, I’d say I started learning the most just when I started working there. Just going hands-on, working with a few bands,” he said. “I think it’s kind of a natural progression,” he explained “Being a musician, and being a producer. If I can offer something else to the project, then I do. It happens regularly.”

And the bands he’s “offered” something to? Cheap Fakes, Felicity Lawless, The Lamplights, Taylor, Allensworth (USA), Leopold’s Treat, Phil Barlow. His first “proper” band was A French Butler Called Smith. He was only 19.

When I ask Scott what instruments he plays he says “just guitar. Mostly guitar.”

Then he adds “Mandolin, bass, ukulele, drums, trumpet. Maybe a bit of keys.”

Just a little bit humble. And also just a little bit busy. How does he manage his time?

“I’m not great with a diary,” he laughed, “but my phone diary is extremely important.”

“It’s not too bad – because I run the studio I can take the time whenever I need it. So when tours come up it’s easy for me to juggle things. It definitely gets extremely busy sometimes – but being my own boss is the key there.”

Scott believes there’s a growing appreciation of live music here on the Gold Coast “that comes from there being more venues and more opportunities to see it (music).”

“And really there’s probably a few key people responsible for that,” he said. When I ask who he reels off a list: Polly Snowden, Miami Marketta, Glenn Tozer, Cindy Jensen, Bleach Festival.

“It’s quite tough to do what they do – maybe a lot of people don’t realize,” he said. “It is a struggle to get projects up and running successfully.”

I guess they promote a cultural lifestyle on the Gold Coast that just shows how much fun it can be to go out and do things, to get involved in the community, and to have fun experiences with other local people.

And while he’s reluctant to single any local artists out, I do manage to convince him to share a few of his favourites. On the music front, Tijuana Cartel, Ivori, Karl S Williams and Hussy Hicks are on the list.

In terms of emerging bands?

“We had a band in called Trapdoor which were really cool,” he said. “And The Wayward Suns, Grace Hughes, Katie Who…”

It’s not just contemporary music getting the Lovestreet treatment either. Scott was doing some guided meditation recording at the time we spoke plus he’s done a yoga instruction recording (complete with live yoga in the studio). He’s done voice-overs for ads, jingles, film scores as well as the Kids Alive Do the Five project for Lawrie Lawrence.

Thinking back to high school, was this something he ever say himself doing?

“Yes,” he said. “I definitely wanted to do this at school. We had a small recording studio where I used to record friends’ bands at lunchtime. I suppose in the back of everyone’s mind is the motivation to be a rock star – I think I’d be lying to say I didn’t want to be a rock star at one point but I was always intrigued by the studio and being a producer.”

And does he feel like a rock star now?

“No,” he laughed. “It’s not really as glamorous as it might seem – there’s a lot of driving involved.”

“There’s definitely moments of rock ‘n’ roll – I just don’t think they’re as common. If you play three gigs a week, you might have a couple of rock ‘n’ roll experiences a year.”

“There are lots of late nights, loading equipment after the show’s finished and everyone goes home – you’re still there, still working, still driving, staying in lots of shitty hotels.”

“Actually shitty hotels would be a pleasant change. It’s more like sleeping on people’s couches or sleeping in vans on the side of the road. If we get a shitty hotel we’re stoked.”

“I think the hardest thing is – for a band to be a creative entity you have to enjoy the creative side of it or you wouldn’t bother in the first place. And then there’s the polar opposite of that, which is doing the business side of it and promoting yourself – it’s almost the opposite.”

“From sitting in your bedroom writing a song to writing a press release, it’s just opposite sides of the brain. I guess it’s the side most people don’t think about.” 

“There are so many different levels and ideas of success too,” he said before telling me about the emerging acts Lovestreet studios have worked with. They‘ve sponsored Buskers by the Creek’s Battle of the Buskers since its inception, helping Katie Who with her debut EP as a result.

“We ran another band competition where we recorded the winner for free – Scarlett Kill,” Scott added.

“I think a recording or release is such a crucial part of both their development and their promotional ability,” Scott said. “A) they need it, but B) they need it to be the best it can possibly be.”

And has the technological landscape affected the way Scott works?

“The weird thing is that both extremes of the spectrum still exist. You have your mega-multi million dollar studios that bands still want to use if they can. And you have a lot of really good products being made in bedrooms as well.”

“All you really need is a comfortable workspace and somebody comfortable to work with – it’s not so much about the technology. It’s about having the time and the right energy to put into it.”

“The beauty of having a producer there is so the band can remain in a creative space and not have to work out whether a microphone is working or how something should sound or the technical side of it,” he said. “That’s what we do.”

We finish on a very important note. Stories from the road. Julz Parker (Hussy Hicks) spoke to me before the interview about the fear in her mother’s eyes as Scotty jumped over her head at a gig. And here he is telling me he’s no rock ‘n’ roll star. Please explain?

“That is actually true,” he laughed. “We were at the snow, at Peak Festival at Perisher and I was playing with Felicity Lawless. I jumped on top of the bar to take a guitar solo. I was told later that the bar was dangerously bendy. So yeah, Julz’s mum was sitting at the bar right in front of me and she was terrified. She didn’t know if she should move or stay, but she just stayed there. I eventually jumped over her and went back to the stage.”

So much for ‘what happens on tour, stays on tour.’

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Lovestreet Studios is located in Currumbin. Visit lovestreet.com.au.

PHOTO CREDIT: Lamp Photography

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