Music Features

Scout Gillett Surrenders to the Tide


“Don’t fight the wave/Just let it go and go with it,” Scout Gillett sings on the title track of her debut album, no roof no floor, a powerful record about going where life leads you without fear. It’s about growth, moving on, and moving forward, all done with Gillett’s soulful voice and impactful songwriting providing a throughline as the music shifts and transforms around her.

The theme of surrender came into focus for the New York City-based artist during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, where the ocean currents she swam through helped give her perspective on how to navigate challenges both global and personal.

“I had a moment of reflecting that every time I fight the tide, it tears me up. If I close my eyes and go with the tide, it doesn’t destroy me, it just eases me to the next place. I had a breakthrough moment of realizing I wanted to live my life like that, with love and with how I carry myself,” Gillett said over coffees at the IC Brooklyn Café in Bushwick. “I was shedding a lot of the grief and a lot of the weight I was holding onto since moving to New York and deciding to pursue music.”

That pursuit of music brought the singer-songwriter from rural Missouri to Kansas City’s punk subculture to Brooklyn’s DIY scene. New York had always been a destination in her mind. Both of her grandparents studied film and the arts there, and a trip during her time in high school choir solidified her love for the city. But she made the leap after meeting one of musical heroes, Sharon Van Etten.

Inspired to learn guitar by Van Etten’s work, Gillett reached out to her on Instagram once she started writing her own songs. Van Etten invited Gillett to lunch in New York and pushed her to follow her dream.

“I shared my story and she looked at me and said, ‘you should move to New York.’ And I was like, ‘ok!’” Gillett said with a laugh. “Sharon warned me it was going to give me hell. Maybe she saw that I was tough? The first few years here were vicious. But it changed my life. I was feeling that life is too short and I wanted to go out there and tour and play as many shows as possible.”

Gillett’s music brings forth a folk-rock vibe centered around heartful lyrics and devastating vocal performances. But from that core, she lets her songs evolve and mutate, unconcerned with staying in any type of box.

This assortment of styles can be heard throughout no roof no floor, from the country-tinged lonesome dove to the rhythmic vibes of guitar and pop synths on signal to mother of myself and its mix of live percussion, drum machines, fingerpicking, and background pedal steel.

Two of the album’s highlights are 444 marcy ave. and hush, stay quiet. The former, recently released as a single with a great, Lynchian music video, combines the street where she’s lived in Brooklyn with her angel number, a series of repeating figures found in different places that convey meaning in one’s life.

“Marcy Avenue is where some of my fondest memories have been. The song is about surrendering, encouraging yourself and your friends to surrender, and giving it your best shot,” said Gillett. “The music video was a daydream I had of a spacesuit in a disco ball helmet doing these weird dance moves. It was super fun to make.”

Hush, stay quiet is the haunting, stunning centerpiece of the album, as Gillett whispers and sings over light guitar works and eerie atmospherics. And just when you think the song is going to fade out, the ambience is punctured by a saxophone that would feel at home on the back-half of David Bowie’s Low.

“What I’m attracted to with music is this desperation and something that it’s reaching for,” said Gillett. “I like a hypnotic swell – something that can take you out. I think that translates in a lot of my songs.”

The recording process for no roof no floor was a full-circle moment for Gillett, heading to the Chicken Shack recording studio in Stanfordville, just north of New York City in the Hudson Valley. With open fields, a big farm, and the moon and stars visible at night, the space brought to mind her Missouri childhood.

“At the time of the making of my first record, there was a lot of searching for home, finding home, and grieving old versions of what your home was,” she said. “It felt very familiar in that sense and was an incredible experience. We recorded a lot of the songs live in the barn and my vocal takes were mostly done at night with the barn doors open.” 

Before you listen to a note, though, no roof no floor draws you in with its striking cover, an ancient-looking photo of Gillett in her mother’s wedding dress with gloved hands surrounding her. It feels like a photo you’d find in an antique store and wonder what the story is behind it.

“I’ve always been drawn to the 1920s and 30s. My brother’s a magician and Houdini was a big inspiration behind my family. Older stuff has always been an influence of mine,” Gillett explained. “I wanted it to look very, very old and ghostlike.”

From the album cover to the range of music on display—with Gillett’s songwriting and voice leading the way—no roof no floor is one of the most captivating albums of the year. It’s an album about having the courage to let go of your past selves and your past hang-ups to grow and thrive, something Gillett hopes connects with her audience.

“I hope that they can listen to it openly and let it affect them,” she said. “I hope it brings them peace and comfort.”