I caught up with singer and guitarist Jil Scott of IAN SWEET outside of Chicago’s Subterranean just before she took stage on Tuesday night. Her energy and personability charmed me instantly as she introduced a face-painted pumpkin with orange, fur hair along with herself. This electric and genuine greeting set the tone for not only the interview but also the set. On a rare yet blessed warm, drizzling night, we took the streets of bustling Wicker Park to chat about the new album Crush Crusher.
Tell me about the process of making Crush Crusher… emotions, challenges, anything memorable about the process. Tell me all about it.
So I was living in New York, and I ended up coming back home to LA where I grew up. I decided to just have a clean slate, make the project, kind of just solo again, and I started writing the record out in LA. I was going through a lot of transitions, had a lot of odd jobs, like I was a dog walker and would be walking 6, 7 dogs at once. But I drew from a lot of strange experiences that I was having with odd jobs and weird, new relationships that I was forming and finally having space in my life. Because when I was living on the east coast, I was struggling with the idea of creating anything without people hearing or not having the space to create or working 7 days a week. It was just an overwhelming experience. So when I finally decided to move to LA, I was coming back to where I grew up. I was pulling from a lot of childhood experiences and how they had developed with me as an adult and experiencing similar things but as an adult. So the process was kind of intuitive, just gut reaction.
So did it just flow for you?
Yeah, it flowed for me. I moved into a house in Highland Park, set up shop and was ready to record and just demo stuff out. Stuff just ended up being there more for me. I was able to be more present and not get caught up in all the other things that would be filling my mind if I was living on the east coast.
Do you think it was the pace of the west coast that helped?
Yeah. Also, too, it wasn’t pressurized. I was taking everything at my own, new pace and figuring out what felt good. I think that the west coast moves slower, which I grew up being used to, but it’s cool to have both. I can move fast, and I can be in a million different places and a million different people at once, or I can also sit and be content and silent and sit with my thoughts and my feelings. LA allows me to do that moreso. It was a really good place to write the record and start fresh. LA is the right zone for me to feel a bit more free for songwriting.
So when I listen to the album Crush Crusher it seems very honest. Was this more of a personal project for you, or were you trying to portray something to listeners?
100% the most personal project I’ve ever done. I think with my previous record, I was dealing with and struggling with a lot of mental health issues. But I was sugar coating it and making a lot of metaphors for the situations because I was afraid of truly giving it all away to a listener. For the first record, that consumed me. I wanted people to not feel overwhelmed by my emotions. But as I started to grow and grow up and feel more confident in my emotions and the way I express things, I wrote this next record that doesn’t hide anything. I’m not afraid of what the listener is going to think, and I think that has resonated in a whole, new way with people. Like even the people who like the previous record are adapting. Writing music is for me. I need this as a release.
So is music cathartic for you? Or is it almost like a medicine?
Oh, 100%. It’s the biggest form of medicine, and most musicians would say that. If you don’t have it, you lose your mind. So yeah, this record is definitely more honest and not hiding anything. As a musician, I think the best thing you can do for your audience is grow and be as honest as possible.
What is your favorite song that you wrote on the album, and why?
I think my favorite song is “Your Arms Are Water,” which is the last song on the record. It’s about a relationship I was in at the time when I was writing the record, and my partner was very self-deprecating and unable to realize the good in themselves. The lyrics are, “You are the beautiful half of everything, but your arms are water, and you’re always swimming.” Mostly like, you’re so special and so beautiful, but you’re constantly drowning.
I think a lot of people can resonate with that.
You want to be a caretaker, and I think women just in general have tendencies to want to take care of people in their lives and be strong, whether it be for friends or in a relationship. I was realizing that in a relationship and not knowing how to express it other than, you are so special, so beautiful, but you’re killing yourself. I have to sit by and watch it.
Yeah, that’s hard because you can’t quite control it. It’s not really up to you at the end of the day. So a question about Chicago, have you played in Chicago before, and if so, what’s your favorite venue?
We played at Schubas, and I had food poisoning that night, and I knew. I knew I was going to throw up, so I told the band before… This is happening. I’m going to barf mid-set. We also had Audiotree there, filming the live set. If you look at it on YouTube, I’m so pale. I’m sweating, and three songs in, I just turn around, put the guitar down. There’s a door to the right, and I just run out and barf for like a couple minutes. I come back in and finish the set.
You probably killed it though.
But it was one of the best sets we had. I knew Audiotree was there, and I was like, we have to do this for Audiotree. This is my internet debut! That was honestly the most fun show I’ve played, even though I was so sick.
Fun questions… What’s your sign?
I’m a taurus!
I’m a taurus!
Dude, being a taurus is a gift.
I always tried to tell myself I wasn’t stubborn, but a year ago, I finally accepted it.
I’m so stubborn, and it’s OKAY. I really love being a taurus.
What are you being for Halloween?
I have an elf costume, but we are driving to Toronto tomorrow, so I’m going to wear it in the car. It’s a pretty crazy and decked out elf costume.
Any last remarks about the album?
I’m just stoked it’s out there in the world!
Me too! I’m so excited to see you play.
Me too, and your hair looks so good. Put that in there.
I put that in there. Jil was soon whisked away into the venue to charm and rock the Chicagoans of the Subterranean. The forty minute set filled the room with a whole bundle of feels. You can find IAN SWEET’s new album Crush Crusher on any major music streaming platform.
————->Crush Crusher is out now on all platforms!