Sounding Off: Interview with Schuyler Fisk about her sophomore album, “Blue Ribbon Winner”

Allison Loring

by: Allison Loring
February 28th, 2011

I was lucky enough to get to preview multi-hyphenate Schuyler Fisk's upcoming album, "Blue Ribbon Winner," this past week and I honestly enjoyed every second of it. A singer, songwriter, and actress, Fisk has been on my radar musically since I heard her duet with Joshua Radin on THE LAST KISS soundtrack for the track "Paperweight," and this album fulfilled the appetite I had for more of her work.

Last week, we got a glimpse into the making of "Blue Ribbon Winner" (which you can check out HERE) and this week, I had the chance to chat with Fisk about the process of making the album, how it stands apart from her first album ("The Good Stuff"), where she draws inspiration, and her music in general.

Check it out after the break!

When did you start writing songs and performing? What drew you to music?
I first picked up a guitar at 14. Since I didn’t know how to play any cover songs, I just started writing my own. From there, I learned more chords and I started to grow as a songwriter.

Was there anything you learned when recording your first album, "The Good Stuff," that you drew on when recording “Blue Ribbon Winner”?
Well, I had been waiting my whole life to make my first record. There was so much built up anticipation and a lot of nerves. I was excited and scared all at the same time wondering, “Could I do it? Could I make a record that I love and that I’m proud of?” And I did! So, going into this second album I had more confidence having a record under my belt already. This record was more about relaxing, having fun, trusting my instincts and letting the music unfold for me.

Did you have any particular influences (other artists, songs, films, places) when creating the album?
Absolutely. When I first started thinking about making a second record I had this semi-crazy concept of making a “Motown/alt-country” record, haha. It’s funny to even say that. I had been listening to a lot of old school country and a lot of Motown at the time so that was what was influencing my writing a lot. When I got to Virginia to finish writing the record, I decided to throw any pre-conceived ideas of what I wanted the record to be out the window and to just see what happened naturally with the songs I was writing and how they developed. I listened to a lot of Tom Petty, Aimee Mann, Feist, Wilco, Patsy Cline, Ella Fitzgerald, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye while we were making this record. I am proud of this record because I can hear all my eclectic influences, but it still feels like it’s completely “me.”

How did recording in Virginia (as opposed to California for “The Good Stuff”) affect your process and the sound of the album?
It was a very different process for me being in Virginia. For starters, I was out of my normal routine being away from LA and I was completely immersed in the record. I never had anywhere to rush off to after recording. I was not distracted. We had no phone service at the studio or TV or Internet. So there was just music, music, music. And some ping pong. I think “The Good Stuff” captures a very California vibe that I love and I think “Blue Ribbon Winner” captures a very Virginia vibe. It’s neat how that happened without us realizing it. I love both of the records. It’s like the two sides of me.

All the songs on the album have a very real and authentic feel to them, what is your songwriting process? Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
I pull inspiration from everywhere. I tend to write about things going on in my world or the world around me. I’m influenced by my own personal life, my friends, books, movies, you name it. A lot of times I’m not good at expressing myself in words or in conversations, but I have always been able to really say what I feel and what I mean in songs, and it’s very cathartic.

The songs seem to have a similar theme of love and loss with titles such as “Like A Fool,” “What If I Leave,” “What Good Is Love” and “Givin’ Up” – was this a conscious choice or did it just happen to develop this way as you created the album?
Well, without getting too personal, generally in my music I do pull from personal experiences. I didn’t start writing this record thinking I was going to go for a love/loss theme, but those were just the songs that came out of me at that time.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Oh man, it’s like choosing which one of my dogs is my favorite! Hmmm, well, I think my favorite song changes weekly. I do really love “What Good Is Love” because it’s emotional and intimate. And I love “Blue Ribbon Winner” because it was fun to write and it’s fun to sing. But, ask me next week and my answer will be different!

Out of all the songs, how did you decide to make “Blue Ribbon Winner” the first single?
“Blue Ribbon Winner” was the last song written for the record. I was in Virginia and we had just finished basic tracking for the record and we were about to start laying down all my background vocals and harmonies when I went to a local horse show. The next day “Blue Ribbon Winner” came pouring out of me. It was one of those songs that almost felt like it wrote itself. We only had a few hours in our studio schedule to get it recorded, and we did it. I loved how it turned out. I guess in my mind it seemed like things just came together with that song and that it was meant to be so that’s why I wanted it to be the first single. Also, I just really love the vibe it captures.

Do you prefer recording or performing your music live for an audience?
Two totally different experiences! I love both. I love the freedom of exploration during the recording process and I love the freedom of live shows. It’s not set in stone. It can be different every night if you want it to! And live shows of course have that energy from the audience which is hard to beat.

What impression do you hope people walk away with after listening to the album?
I really hope they enjoy listening to it and walk away feeling like they connected to the music and/or me in some way. We are all human, we are all different but we are all flawed and we all go through similar emotions. I hope people can relate to me through this record. What I love about music is that it brings people together and makes people feel like they are not alone.

"Blue Ribbon Winner" will be available TOMORROW, March 1st - go check it out!

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