Isolation Drills: Matt Scottoline (Hurry)

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area had been staying at home over the past year, learning to adapt to a “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’d been doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Scottoline: I have a distinct memory from January 2020. Vocal tracking for the new album—which didn’t have a title at that point, but is called Fake Ideas—had just started. I was having a particularly tough day where my voice just wasn’t behaving and was feeling a little weak. In the back of my perpetually anxious mind, I half-sarcastically thought, “Maybe I have that virus I keep reading about.”

It turned out I was fine (I think?), and I finished recording and mixing the record in late February 2020. A few weeks later, as I was preparing the send out those mixes to be mastered, everything shut down, and the pandemic had officially started.

Naturally, this put the new record on hold. I got the masters back in early April 2020, listened to them once and kind of shrugged. It didn’t seem likely this thing was ever coming out. But frankly, I didn’t care!

Early in the pandemic, I was so consumed with worry, fear and sadness that music felt completely insignificant to me. Would the album ever come out? Maybe! But it didn’t matter to me. Morbidly, I even remember thinking at one point, “Well, at least if I die from COVID, the album is finished and someone can release it later if they want. That will be nice.” Frightening to think of the things that gave me solace at that time.

I continued working my day job at a coffee roaster during the pandemic, and I fairly quickly got into a little bit of a “new normal.” But still, I didn’t pick up an instrument for months. I felt a total lack of care or motivation around music and creativity. It just wasn’t there for me. What was the point really? That’s pretty negative thinking, but hey, I think there’s some room for that during a global pandemic.

Anyway, by summer 2020, as things started to feel a little more normal and we could start seeing family and friends outdoors, I started to turn a corner from a mental-health standpoint. Everything started to feel slightly less bleak, and music and creation in general began to creep their way back into my focus.

This is what ultimately led to me writing the Fake Ideas Vol 1 book, which turned into an essential companion to the album, but was born from my stifled energy during the pandemic year. I didn’t want to write new music before the album had been released, so I turned to writing and having conversations with the people directly involved in the making of the record. Compiling that was reinvigorating for me. And I’m so glad with how the book came out and that all the people who preorder the album will get to read it.

Now that Fake Ideas is finally seeing the light of day and things with the pandemic seem to be getting better (fingers crossed), it almost feels like the delay in release never happened. So quickly, I’m just back in the groove and excited to have people hear the songs.

There are still a lot of tricky things to navigate, namely live performance, and how or if that’s even something that’s going to be possible in the near future. But for now, I’m doing my best to stay content with things, being mindful of everything that’s happened. And grateful that I have the opportunity to share the album now.