The Nashville-based, dive bar soul singer and songwriter Phillip-Michael Scales is coming to you live this Friday, Jan. 26, at 8 pm from the Hult Center’s 10×10 series, performing songs from his latest album Sinner – Songwriter, which released in 2021.
“I’m very blues influenced,” Scales tells Eugene Weekly. Growing up, he had a close relationship with the famous American blues guitarist, B.B. King — although known to him as Uncle B — who affectionately called him his nephew.
Even with that connection, he could never find his story within the genre as a young man. “When I was a kid I ran away” from the blues,” he says.
Performing musical theater since the age of 9, Scales says when he discovered songwriting it expanded his horizons with music. It was just something cool that he loved doing. “You start in one direction and then find someplace else,” he says. “Before you know it you look up and someone says your song sounds really good.”
He’s known that songwriting was all he ever wanted to do since high school. “Is this something I can live without? The answer is usually no,” Scales says.
After some more life experience, the blues slowly began to find him. After B.B. King passed away, playing the blues “became a way for me to acknowledge and tip my hat in a way.”
He says the best piece of advice King gave him “was to just stick with it.”
“That was the most consistently sound advice I’ve received,” he says.
Today, Scales tells his stories through what he affectionately calls “Dive Bar Soul.” Blending the storytelling from songwriters like John Mayer and the emotive lyrics of indie rock like Death Cab for Cutie, Scales is carving out his own niche in the rock world.
Scales is bringing personability to his on-stage presence. He isn’t putting on a persona or mask. When he is performing, it is just him, laying his soul bare.
“It’s sort of personal, a lot of the lines I jot down,” he says. When performing on stage, he wants to share a connection with the audience so that “everyone in the same room feels the same energy” that he does.
“People just don’t want to feel alone,” he says. Scales says he believes that music is an art form that drives connectivity through lived experience. When listening to an album like the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, almost two decades his senior, he feels connected to everyone who has listened to it before through the emotions he feels.
He wants his songs to capture moments rather than grand ideas. “The best songs are moments,” he says. “You can’t capture a relationship in an entire song.”
Scales’ next album, Good to Be Here, will begin releasing singles starting Feb. 1. According to him, all songs have been written within the last year.
“There’s a lot to be said about being the same person who wrote the song being the same person who recorded the song,” he says.