Written by: Frank Iacono
If you haven’t already heard of the Nashville, Tennessee country/rock band Scarletta, you soon will. Scarletta is comprised of three ultra-talented individuals that all bring their own unique expertise and style to their specific role within the top rated trio.
During Scarletta’s performances Benji Harris, Nathan Stoops, and Emilee Allan combine hair-raising harmonies and unforgettable hooks. Benji is an accomplished bandleader who blends his lead vocals as effortlessly as his harmonies. Nathan is a classically trained violist that brings a flare to country music that makes him one of the best fiddle players in all of Nashville. And, Emilee is the spark plug that is the lead singer and dynamic centerpiece of the band.
For the last 2 years, Scarletta has been a Nashville mainstay working with Grammy Award-winning producer Blake Chancey. Their first single to country radio, “Right Here Right Now,” reached number 28 on the Music Row Radio Chart. The band is coming off an amazing 2013 in which the trio was the “Spotlight on the 615” artist of the week for the week of January 9th on Billboard.com and was honored to be chosen as a Billboard Magazine “615 Top 10 Artists to Watch.” Additionally, they also received a very similar acknowledgement from CMA as the organization chose them as a CMA Close Up “Artist to Watch for 2013” and was profiled in the February/March issue of CMA Closeup.
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of conducting an in-depth interview with Benji Harris, Nathan Stoops, and Emilee Allan of Scarletta and asking then a few questions about their musical influences, their passion for music, their Nashville experience, and their new CD release of Rocking Chair View.
The Creative Spotlight: After meeting in Nashville, how did you come up with Scarletta as the name of the band?
Scarletta: Benji and Nathan met in a studio session in Nashville in 2009. Soon after their meeting, they began working together as a songwriting/production team, helping various artists in Nashville make their records. They became good friends and their musical chemistry was undeniable. Nathan was encouraged to start a band by veteran Nashville songwriter Kris Bergness, and naturally Nathan’s first call was to Benji. Benji was onboard with the idea, and they began to write songs together with Kris. They were then introduced to Emilee Allan through Nashville country duo The LoCash Cowboys. Emilee was excited to join the band and she became the perfect addition to what the guys had going on. Benji came up with the name “Scarletta” which was not inspired by anything in particular… They knew they wanted a one-word band name that sounded mysterious and edgy. They wanted to be able to define the word with their music.
TCS: Introduce us to the Scarletta band lineup?
Scarletta: The band lineup consists of:
- Nathan Stoops – Fiddle/Background Vocals
- Emilee Allan – Lead Vocalist
- Benji Harris – Guitar and Lead/Background Vocals
TCS: At what age did you individually realize that you wanted to be musicians?
Benji: I knew I wanted to be a musician after performing with a band in the 8th Grade Talent Show. We put a band together in my buddy’s garage and we and played one song in front of 400 people in the school auditorium. It was the biggest rush of my life and I was HOOKED after that!
Nathan: I realized I had an interest in music at 3 years old, but by the age of 13, I realized I had the talent and ability to make it happen for myself. At that point, I started practicing 5 hours a day!
Emilee: When I was 13, I was given the opportunity to sing an original song in front of 2,000 people at a local show. When I sang the first note, I saw a lady in the front row smile. I knew I had found my passion.
TCS: What famous musicians were among your early influences and describe the impact they had on shaping your music style and song writing both individually and collectively?
Benji: When I first began playing guitar, I was heavily influenced by classic rock and southern rock. For example, I listened to a lot of Eric Clapton and Lynyrd Skynyrd when learning guitar licks. I also was a child of 90’s MTV, and much of the 90’s alternative rock found its way into my CD player. I loved the sound and the songs of bands like Third Eye Blind, The Wallflowers, Bush, Tonic, and Sublime. Then I went through a big Dave Matthews Band phase in high school. I learned every DMB song on guitar, which really helped me become the rhythm guitarist I am today.
Nathan: Since all of my early musical education was centered around classical music, my inspirations were the popular violin soloists of the day. People like Sarah Chang, Hilary Hahn, etc. They were the young “hotshots” in classical music who were really blowing up internationally. As I branched out from classical music, Garth Brooks and Kieth Urban became big inspirations for me.
Emilee: Shania Twain and Billy Joel did a duet that really inspired me early on. The Dixie Chicks and Linda Ronstadt were also big influences.
TCS: How would you describe Scarletta’s musical genre and overall sound?
Scarletta: We are a pop/country band with a high-energy live show. Our songs are fun and fresh with a feel-good vibe. The band features tight three-part harmonies, expert musicianship, and the ability to change their vocal blend depending on who is singing lead. (Emilee and Benji share lead vocals and have a few duets as well). One stand-out feature in Scarletta’s sound is the heavy presence of the fiddle, which showcases Nathan Stoops’ classical training. Many of the signature licks in Scarletta’s songs have their roots in classical music, which certainly has set Scarletta apart from many other country trios. If we had to compare ourselves to current country artists, you could say Scarletta has the tight harmonies of Lady Antebellum, the pop/rock sound of The Band Perry, with the musicianship of The Zac Brown Band.
TCS: Describe for us the background to the hit single “Right Here, Right Now” which appeared on your 2011 self-titled debut album?
Scarletta: We were lucky enough to write “Right Here, Right Now” with rock personality Paul Taylor, who was an original member of the 80’s hair band “Winger”. He also played guitar for Alice Cooper and Steve Perry in the early 90’s, and now he is a successful producer in Nashville. He is a very talented guy who took an early interest in our band after seeing us play in Nashville. He invited us to write with him one day, and two hours later “Right Here Right Now” was born.
This song opened a lot of doors for us as a band. After going on a radio tour behind the single, the song broke into the Top 30 on the Music Row charts. The music video was also picked up by CMT, GAC and The Country Network, and spent 8 week on the CMT Pure 12-Pack countdown, which increased our visibility in a big way. The success of the song allowed us to get noticed by Billboard Magazine, which named us one of their “Top 10 Artists to Watch in 2013″.
TCS: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about Scarletta’s music? And, what makes it stand out so much?
Scarletta: A compliment we get very often is “I don’t like country music, but I LOVE you guys! I think I’m going to give country music another chance.” Our sound has given us the opportunity to win more fans for country music, which is a win-win for everyone!
TCS: As a collective group, what has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced to date and do you think it made Scarletta, the band, stronger as a result?
Scarletta: The toughest challenge is not giving up, even when staring in the face of adversity. Anything can go sideways on the road at any given time. For example, we survived a nasty van wreck this past November, which totaled our van and trailer. We hit black ice on the highway in Illinois, spun off the road, and rolled into a ditch. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it certainly was a setback. We were back on the road two weeks later and we played one of our best shows ever!
TCS: How excited are you guys about the release of the new Scarletta release Rocking Chair View album?
Scarletta: We are absolutely thrilled to be putting new music out there for our fans to hear! We are working with a hot new production duo called TheTimeKeepers, and they are definitely on the cutting edge of what’s hot in today’s country music. They gave us amazing guidance during the recording of this record and really helped us grow as a band. For example, they helped us find a few songs to record that we didn’t write. Nashville is home to some of the best songwriters in the world, and they brought us a couple of songs that fit our sound and our brand perfectly. Sonically, this record is a BIG step forward for us. It’s the best work we’ve ever done.
TCS: Share with us the background of the new song “That’s Where You’re Gonna Find Me”?
Scarletta: “That’s Where You’re Gonna Find Me” is the opening track of the record, and it really sets the tone for how much we’ve evolved as a band. The first 10 seconds of the song is just thundering drums mixed with a hip drum loop. When the rest of the band drops in, the signature lick is played on an old beat up resonator guitar. It’s a very interesting blend of modern production mixed with classic country instrumentation. Lyrically, it’s all about our love of having a good time out in the country.
TCS: Which aspects of the new album did you find most difficult to put together and which were the least problematic?
Scarletta: Song selection is always the most difficult part when making an album. We knew we were only going to put six songs on the EP, but we had about 13 great songs that we all thought were strong. We had several meetings about which songs should make the cut, and we all agreed on four of them. Figuring out the other two songs was definitely a process. We knew we had to select songs that represented our brand and still flowed together in sequence on the album. There are definitely some great songs that didn’t make the cut, but I think we NAILED IT on this record. Every song is strong and perfectly represents who we are.
The least problematic part of making an album is the actual recording process. We have such amazing musicians in our band, and we play together all the time, so getting a good performance is the easy part.
TCS: What’s the most unusual place Scarletta has ever played a gig? And, how did the qualities of that place affect the show?
Scarletta: We’ve played some strange places over the years! We play a lot of college shows, and you never quite know what you’re in for when you pull up to campus. One time we were booked to play a FULL BAND SHOW in a study hall in Minnesota. These kids were actually trying to study, and they had no interest in hearing a band play an hour set. We had no choice but to set up and play anyway! Another time, we played a high school awards ceremony in a big gymnasium. There was no proper PA system, and the only speakers available were mounted on the ceiling facing downward, 50 feet above us. Needless to say, we sounded WEIRD that night.
TCS: Where were you when you found out that you were named one of Nashville’s top trios in Nashville Lifestyles Magazine?
Benji: I was about to walk into a sushi restaurant in Nashville when I decided to check the Scarletta Twitter account. Nashville Lifestyles Magazine had just tweeted the article at us. I then sent the link to everyone else. It was very cool!
Nathan: I was actually watching the TV show “Nashville” when it happened. It was the episode where three of the main characters decide to join together to become a trio. Right then is when I received Benji’s text that we were selected as a Top Trio in Nashville… Surreal!
Emilee: I was cooking dinner when I got Benji’s text. I screamed!!
TCS: How thrilling was it to have your Lyric Video for “Island Fever” named one of CMA Close-Up Magazines Top 20 Favorites?
Scarletta: It’s always an honor to be recognized, especially from an organization as prestigious as the Country Music Association. It felt great!
TCS: Tell us about how Navy Entertainment brought Scarletta to the Middle East?
Scarletta: Our booking agent works a lot with Navy Entertainment, and we were lucky enough to be selected to travel to many amazing places to entertain our troops. There is a great blog on our website that details the entire trip. Check it out in the “Blog” section at http://www.scarlettamusic.com/blog.html.
For additional ways to stay connected to Scarletta, please visit:
- Scarletta Website
- Scarletta on Facebook
- Scarletta on Twitter
- Scarletta on YouTube
- Scarletta on ReverbNation
- Scarletta on Pinterest
- Scarletta on iTunes
TCS: Emilee can you describe for us your experience in swimming with whale sharks off the coast of Djibouti, Africa?
Emilee: It blew my mind! At the time I was still in an ankle boot from my broken ankle, so I was little worried about not being able to swim well. However, I love adventures, and as soon as I was in the water and realized I could swim fine, I was chasing those suckers all over the place. What a blast!
TCS: Individually, what would you say is the most important lesson you’ve all learned from your time in Nashville and more importantly in Scarletta?
Benji: Since moving to Nashville, I’ve learned how to work together as a team. Being in a band is tough at times, and it truly is always a team effort. If you are lucky enough to have like-minded individuals working together towards a common goal, there is no limit to what you can accomplish. I’m very proud to have associated myself with such great people chasing the same dream.
Nathan: Learn your business as well as you learn your instrument if you want
to be successful.
Emilee: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to never take anything too personally. The music industry is full of critics, and if you let critiques bother you, you will drive yourself crazy.
TCS: What does the short-term and long-term future hold for Scarletta?
Scarletta: SHORT TERM: We’re out on the road making fans the old-fashioned way…One show at a time!
LONG TERM: Finding the right label partnership to take our music to the rest of the world.
TCS: What do you think the world would be like if music was never invented? And, what do each of you think you would be doing instead?
Benji: If music was never invented, the world would be a drab and dreary place. I can’t imagine there being much happiness in the world. I would probably be working some job I didn’t care about.
Nathan: If music had not been invented yet, I would be busy inventing music.
Emilee: I agree with Benji… I think the world would be a really sad place if there was no music! I’ve never really had a “Plan B”, but I think if I had to have another career, I would probably go into hair and makeup.
Song List on Rocking Chair View (2014)
- That’s Where You’re Gonna Find Me
- We Don’t Have To Be Lonely
- I Don’t Wanna
- Lovin’ on Me
- Target on My Heart
- Cold Beer and Dirt Roads
Song List on Scarletta (2012)
- Right Here, Right Now
- Love Someone Like Me
- Just Dance
- Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
- She’ll Never Love You Like Me
- Jealous Boy
- Want Me
- Nothing Like a Heartbreak
- Keep the Change
- Rabbit Hole
About Frank Iacono
Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.
Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.