Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

“Dive Bar Blues”: Singer/Songwriter Phillip-Michael Scales performs at Augustana

Shadab Ahmed
Musician Phillip-Michael Scales performs in the Brew for “Live on Campus” hosted by the Office of Student Life on Feb 21.

The Brew’s usual evening ambiance of chattering students and whirring espresso machines was replaced by the strums of acoustic guitar. On Thursday, Feb. 22, singer and songwriter Phillip-Michael Scales came to Augustana College to perform his original songs for the Augustana community.

Scales grew up in the metropolitan Detroit area, where they got to experience musicians for a much lower cost compared to today. His family grew up listening to Motown, a music genre that combines pop, soul and blues. The love his family had for music quickly trickled down to him.

His family’s access to Motown musicians became influential to Scales at an early age. Well known American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter B.B. King was a close friend to the Scales family, and King took on an uncle role to Scales. With his family and friends’ support, he was able to flourish into a successful musician independently.  

“My family has been super supportive of me, and I’m super grateful for that,” Scales said. “They were always like, ’Just keep going, follow your dreams’… I worked in restaurants for a really long time as I was playing guitar, and then I eventually was able to switch to full time music.”

While Motown and Blues music was what his family had access to as a child, Scales felt he wasn’t able to relate to the music in the same way but felt most drawn to the guitar.

“I think when you’re a kid it’s so easy to get obsessed with the guitar parts and solos and stuff.  Blues was really a genre where there was a space for men in the beginning to talk about their pain,” Scales said. “It’s kind of a slavery descending as well.”

Today, the Blues genre can be traced back to the late 1860’s, originating from African-Americans who were previously enslaved. 

“I think when you sing about something without having that real passion, that history or knowing it can start to get watered down.” 

As Scales grew more familiar with different genres of music, he wanted to find his own story of real heartbreak and life struggles. The songs that he would write did not necessarily fit a specific category of music. Creating his own turned out to be the best for his career.

“Dive Bar Blues” is what Scales likes to label his music. It’s the passion of the Blues, the inspiration behind juke joints and how people gather together along with the theme of indie rock songs that compiled together for his style.

Scales said he thought the best way he could express his emotions was through songwriting. Putting his emotions into words while playing an instrument, being able to perform his work in front of an audience and for them to express the same connection with him he says is a “huge experience.”  

“Songwriting is just such a fascinating thing because it’s the best way to telegraph an emotion from one person to another,” Scales said.

Junior Courtney Thames saw a poster for this event outside of the OSL and said she felt she couldn’t miss the opportunity.  

“I absolutely love when we have musical performances on campus…My favorite part about these performances was being able to jam out to some really cool music with my friends. I really enjoy being about to bond over the music and fangirl over the artist together,” Thames said.  

Not only was Scales introducing his music, but he was able to entertain the crowd with laughter. Junior Afi Gati said the experience included more than just the music.

“He cracked jokes through his songs and told stories, it was overall a great environment,” Gati said.

Performing at a small liberal arts college is very different from going on tour to major cities. Scales understands what it’s like to have passions that may be far outside of society’s norms and wants students to understand how important it is to believe in their dreams.

“I would love to introduce my music to people and encourage people to bet on themselves, in their pursuits,” Scales said.

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