Senior pursues singing, songwriting, performing

SJ Lasley and Keval Shah

Spotify curates an annual Summer Rewind playlist personalized for each of its users, selecting their most-listened-to songs of the season. For senior Lexie Farnell, every song by singer-songwriter Scotty Malcolm and his band appeared on her playlist. “Shortcut” is her personal favorite.

“I first heard about Scotty’s music through Instagram,” Farnell said. “I was really surprised by Scotty’s sound because it’s very much indie and alternative, which isn’t what I expected. It really impressed me that his music was so widely appealing—almost everyone that I’ve talked to about it likes it.”

Now a senior, Malcolm began playing guitar in sixth grade, focusing on school-assigned music with the Middle School jazz band. This summer he began producing and recording his first official release, the EP dog days. 

“It was letting people see me,” Malcolm said. “It’s not even like my music is an alter ego; my school self is my alter ego. It was like a vision into my world.”

For Malcolm, the music-making came easily. Most days after school he plays music and workshops new tunes on the guitar. Recording the vocals proved more difficult.

“It’s what I’m most vulnerable about, 100 percent,” he said. “I used to say that it was too hard to coordinate singing and guitar, and I would use that as an excuse. Eventually, I started recording vocals on top of guitar tracks, but I would put a lot of reverb on my vocals. I just had to keep practicing.”

Malcolm performed with his band at White Oak Music Hall on Sunday night, Sept. 29, which was fortunate since it was the night before Senior Skip Day. The crowd was mostly attended by seniors, faculty and other members of the St. John’s community who had heard of Malcolm’s music through social media.

Malcolm’s advisor, Kristiane Stapleton, attended the concert after hearing him talk about the upcoming show during the summer college essay writing workshop, which took place on the day of the dog days release.

“I immediately downloaded the EP when it dropped, and we’ve been listening to it a lot at home,” Stapleton said. “My [one-year-old] daughter loves it. She’ll ask for it, and we’ll put it on. There’s an artistry there and a joy in the music. I would’ve gone to the concert if it was anyone, but because it was Scotty, I had to go. If you’ve talked to Scotty at all, you know how much he loves music.”

The show kicked off with an original song “Lizard Friend.” Bandmate and senior Mark Trautner accompanied Malcolm on the keyboard, while other musician friends played bass, guitar, drums and saxophone.

The concert featured a mix of original songs and a cover of The Black Keys’ hit “Tighten Up” as students packed close to the stage, dancing and cheering. Fans filmed bits of the concert and shared them on social media, tagging the band’s account (@scottymalcolmsongs) on Instagram. Malcolm filled the breaks between songs by repeatedly thanking the crowd or talking about the tracks.

“I loved how into it Scotty and the band were,” Farnell said. “I was so excited when he played ‘Tighten Up’ because I love the Black Keys. Hearing them cover that band was a really cool moment because I got to hear their interpretation of a song I grew up with.”

Malcolm closed out the 30-minute set with Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” a tribute to Malcolm’s mother and his classmate Will McKone, who passed away last November. McKone previously played arrangements of “September” with the school jazz bands. The senior class associates the song with McKone’s legacy.

“The song meant a lot to both me and Mark,” Malcolm said. “We both played with Will in jazz band. It’s a great song to close out a concert, and it’s also my mom’s favorite song. It was really a triple threat.”

Ultimately, Malcolm used his stage performance to spread his message and just have fun.

“Be crazy. Spend time with yourself and your thoughts,” he said. “People sometimes feel like they can’t change what’s around them; they feel like they’re stuck with the way things are. Create a new world around you and choose to live in that world, and be crazy. Make it a crazy world if you want.”