Notes of Bowen childhood reflected in coming-of-age album
Sarah Jane Scouten moved away from her childhood home on Bowen Island seven years ago but the songs of her newly released CD Magpie Waltz reflect her experiences growing up surrounded by nature and by musical talent. Scouten will perform her original songs at a CD release party on January 8 at Vancouver’s Railway Club.
Scouten grew up in Tunstall Bay where she was exposed to local musicians who regularly gathered at her parents’ home.
“My dad played in a couple of bands, the Victims and the Lawn Dogs,” Scouten said. “He always sought out bluegrass-oriented musicians.”
Scouten remembers countless jam sessions and parties hosted by her parents. “I always wanted to stay home and play music,” she said. She had piano and singing lessons early on but started to actively practice on her own when she was 12. “By listening to my dad’s records and CDs I came to appreciate a lot of folk musicians,” she said, “The Be Good Tanyas and the Breakmen had a huge influence on me.”
Scouten added that Lee Watson, the Breakmen’s guitarist, is the new artistic director of the BC Bluegrass Workshop. The annual event held in Sorrento is a popular destination for Bowen Island musicians and Scouten has attended a few years in a row.
“My dad taught me traditional songs and songs by Canadian musicians like Stan Rogers and Willie P. Bennett.” Scouten recalls singing those songs with her family and adds, “We still continue to do that – we perform together sometimes.”
Scouten attended Bowen Island Community School and Island Pacific School. In 2004, she left Bowen Island after graduating from high school. She moved to UBC where she earned a BA in philosophy in 2010. She said, “My parents left Bowen a little later.”
Scouten is presently living in Montreal and her CD was recorded live at Concordia University’s Loyola Chapel. She said,“I had been thinking about moving to Montreal because it is easier to be a musician there. There are a million more opportunities and more people to play for.”
Magpie Waltz is described as Scouten’s musical coming-of-age album. It draws on traditional American music styles that are paired with frank and evocative lyrics.
The songs on Scouten’s album have been written over a period of two to three years, Scouten says, but some of them are fairly new and were inspired by a trip to the American south last summer. Scouten feels good about the way they blend together.
Many of the songs reflect her experience of growing up on Bowen Island. “The imagery of nature is rooted in my experience here even if it is attributed to some other place,” she says. Palm of my hand is the song that takes her right back. She said, “When I sing it, I always imagine being on Bowen.”
Poverty wind was written with Vancouver’s downtown eastside in mind but Scouten says that she has come across people and scenes like this on Bowen Island as well. “We were exposed to a seedier aspect of a community that also has poverty and drugs in tucked-away corners.”
Scouten shared the experience of growing up in a musical family with her sister Anna and sometimes they perform together. She said, “Anna [Scouten] is also performing on the new CD. We played together more frequently in Vancouver but also in Montreal.”
Scouten has not formally studied music and has learned what she knows about theory and musical structure along the way. Her parent musical parties have played an important role in this. Scouten said, “They introduced me to music as well as musicians and made them accessible. That has helped me a lot with picking it up on my own.”