Thanks to Scott Helman, everything is excellent. The singer released the dreamy – literally – video for ‘Everything Sucks,’ a song he EXCLUSIVELY tells us is a ‘celebration’ of leaving his ‘miserable’ past behind him.
“Everything sucks,” but the future of pop music is looking better than ever, thanks to Scott Helman. The singer-songwriter has built a massive following in his home of Canada, and he’s broken into the U.S. music scene. His 2017 album, Hôtel de Ville, spawned the gold-certified singles “PDA,” and “Ripple Effect.” The video for the title track of his 2018 ep Hang Ups garnered over 1.2 million views, and on Oct. 11, he released the official video for his newest single, “Everything Sucks.” The video, in which Scott uses the help of Sigmund Freud‘s The Interpretation of Dreams to work through his issues surrounding a breakup, perfectly matches the wit and candor exhibited in the track.
Starting off as an inspirational anthem to be played at the emotional climax of every rom-com, the song explodes into a certified jam the moment Scott sings, “Everything sucks.” The exuberant arrangement is paired with dour lyrics (“Everything sucks / I got f-cked up on you / Give everything that I’ll ever have/ just to get you back … think about you on somebody else / wanna kill myself”) produces an intentional dash of ironic pop splendor.
“Everything Sucks,” as Scott said when speaking EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife before his sold-out show at New York City’s Webster Hall, was written at a “miserable” time of his life, but it’s a joyous, infectious jam that lifts the spirit and moves the body. Scott opened up about the song’s creation, the intense lengths he went to make the “visualizer” video, who’d he want next on his “Hotel Sessions” YouTube series, and more.
HollywoodLife: “Everything Sucks” is a rather uplifting song, despite the title – and subject matter. What was your motivation behind writing the song?
Scott Helman: I can speak from my perspective now, or I could speak from my perspective when I was writing the song. I’d say now, the thing I love about pop music and the arena of pop music is that I love playing with irony. I really do think most of the art we consume now is in some way ironic. I love when underneath the irony there’s real sincerity there, which is also what I love so much about The 1975.
I think they’re right now the best at that. They can make a song that sounds so unbelievably hopelessly romantic, but it’s about cheating on your girlfriend. Or they can write a song that sounds like it’s an asshole cheating on his girlfriend, but it’s about the tribulations of postmodernism and finding yourself in a world, a chaotic, meaningless world. I love that. I always love that dichotomy.
That’s what I love about the song. It really was about a time in my life that was miserable, awful. I had just broken up with my girlfriend. I was a complete f-cking mess. I had no control over my substance use, and I was a complete disaster. I feel like looking back on that time, I’m like, “man, I’m not there anymore, and there is a celebration in that.” I just felt like that was the way to do it.
When did you write the song?
I was with Simon Wilcox, Tom Salter, and Ron Lapata. Initially, what happened was I was in a session with Simon, I think with Simon and Tom, and we were reading titles for each other. She was like, “I want to write a song called
‘Everything Sucks.’ ” I was like, “I love that title. Let’s write that.” We got to a point where it just wasn’t working. I think the reason why it wasn’t working was that we were leaning into the idea too much. We had the lyric, and it was just like we were trying to write like everything sucks. It just wasn’t matching.
Were you sticking too hard to the idea of “everything sucks?”
Yeah. I heard the song in my head, so I was trying to write that song, but that wasn’t the right approach. We kind of scrapped it and moved on. We wrote something else, a really, really good song, but we just didn’t write that song that day.
A month later – that happened in Nashville, then we were in LA, and we were writing again. We had this awesome track. It was the track to “Everything Sucks” now. I think it was just that piano. I think Ron sat down at this awesome Yamaha that Simon has and just played those chords. I was like, “Play something fun, man.” We were writing some sad f-cking song. I was like, “Play something fun. I want to have some fun now.” Within 30 minutes, I was like, “You know what, I want to write ‘Everything Sucks.’ I want to try it again.” Usually, I feel like when I remember a title, it’s usually because it’s a good title. Or at least it meant something to me. I remember that title, and I was like, I feel like this is the perfect track for that song. Then it just worked out.
How have the fans reacted to the song?
Really well. People are singing along, which is awesome. It’s all you can ask for. We just did Boston last night. People knew the words. I’m opening for someone, too, which for the fans to know the words is pretty cool.
I saw the [lyric] video today. You made that yourself?
Yeah. I call that the visualizer. Yes, I made that. I am never doing that again. Well, … No, no, no. I obviously would do it again. I just think I would need a collaborator to do the heavy lifting. I edited that frame by frame in Photoshop. I would put the letter S on the screen, and then I would save the picture as frame one. Then I would move the S two millimeters this way. Save it again. Yeah, everything you see is one frame. It’s like stop-motion. There’s one frame. Let me think about this. The song is three and a half minutes.
Did you do it by yourself because you thought that you and only you could complete your creative vision?
It was pretty much that. I feel like that’s pretty much my vibe these days. I look at my favorite artists, and that’s usually what’s going on. It also comes with time. You just get better at knowing what you want the older you get. I’m at a point now where I’m just like, no, fuck that, I don’t want to do it like that, I want to do it like this.
I have an amazing A&R team. I have a wicked management company. My band is amazing. My tour manager is amazing. My tour crew is incredible. Right now, I’m doing a bit of the heavy lifting in terms of art direction, but I like that. I think it’s fun. I’m not kidding myself. I’m at a point where I’m a pop act from Canada trying to break in the States.
You know what I mean, though? That’s where I’m at in my career. I’ve worked so hard to get to that point. Now I’m like, ‘awesome, now what’s the next thing.’ Part of that is just taking the reins and being like, here’s where I want to go. Yeah. I have my core fan base. I know how to do what I do really well. I’m just going to keep doing it and figuring out how to make everything as me as I possibly can.
Are you going to continue your YouTube series, the Hotel Sessions?
Yes. There’s a little break on it just because I’m releasing all this music right now. I think it works so well functionally as something in between records. Yeah. I have one coming out. I have one just saved on my computer that I’m going to put out whenever I feel like there’s a little lull in the releasing.
Is there an artist out there that would be end game, someone you would collaborate with on one of these sessions and be like, ‘that’s it, we’re done, we don’t need to make any more!’
You’ll always continue to do it?
Yeah. Why not? I think. There’s a couple that if I did with them, I would probably vomit before the session.
Carly Rae Jepsen. I love Carly Rae Jepsen. 1975. My favorite band of probably in the last ten years, my favorite artists. I think they’re just so amazing. Shawn Mendes would be great. I have one that … I have someone that said yet, but then they got busy, but when we make it happen, it’s going to be unreal.
When can we expect more music from you? You dropped an EP last year.
I’m definitely releasing one more single very soon. Depending on what happens with some things, I think that we’ll release a bunch more singles. I have a massive body of work, and I’m trying to, as I go along, figure out how I want to release it best. In my mind, it’s a series of singles that then gets compiled into one artistic statement. Whether that’s I release two singles, and then I release two songs, and then I release another single, and then I release three songs, and then I compile it all together. Whatever it is, it’s all going to follow as streamlined of an artistic statement as possible.
I have a pretty cohesive concept visually for all the artwork, the single artwork, and the album artwork. I think I know what I want the title of the body of work to be now. That’s kind of where I’m at. I’m filming a music video super soon for the next single. It involves … Actually, if you go on my Instagram, there’s a highlight called “Talk to Me.”
I’m prompting fans to write out their most personal feelings about the climate crisis. Their comments will be involved in … an artistic experiment. I’m going to do something [big] with it …
You were signed professionally to Warner when you were 15. You’re turning 25 next year. What would you tell your 15-year-old self, and what would you ask your 35-year-old-self, if you could?
If I could go back in time, I would probably tell my 15-year-old self to not second-guess and f-ck everyone else. Do what you want to do. Treat people with respect and be a good person, but in terms of your own life and your own art and your own thoughts. I think just emotionally and internally, I spent so long just second-guessing myself and being worried about what the future would hold. If I could go back and just be like, “Dude, look. You’re in New York City. You’re playing Webster Hall tonight. You’re good to go.”
Not that there’s still not a long road ahead, but don’t be so worried about what other people think and just be as creative as you can. We only have so long. It’s just wasting time worrying about all this shit. And ‘put your phone down. That’s the other thing — put your phone down. I would have said that. Turn it off for an hour.
What would you ask yourself at age 35?
“What’s the next single?”
I stole that from Shawn Mendes. I saw Shawn Mendes answered that question, and I thought it was such a good response. I would say also, “are you still in love with this thing you’ve created?” Because if that person isn’t, then something has to change now. I feel like that motivates me. I think in the future — all these decisions I’m making, they should all be about your future pride. You want to take pride in your work when you’re older. You want to look back and go, “I made that decision, and it was so hard to make.”
I feel like people trust me now. They’re like, yeah, you’re at a point where you can do that, which I feel so proud of myself for. Yeah. I’d say, did you make the right decisions, are you still in love with the art and with the work. Because if that dude is not, then f-ck this.
This interview has been edited.