The Inception Podcast

Sing Me the Color Blue!

July 22, 2021 Preston Scales Season 1 Episode 5
The Inception Podcast
Sing Me the Color Blue!
Show Notes Transcript

Inception Mentor favorite, Preston Scales, an R&B producer, singer and songwriter, shares his journey from the church to the studio and his philosophy behind his mentoring technique. We listen into a master class with Inception student, Angela Urrecheaga.

And we are fortunate to share the WORLD PREMIERES of TWO of Preston's new singles: "Can't Hardly Wait" and "Problem".

Preston will be the featured master class mentor on the Inception August 7th culmination Event

Mentions:
Instagram: @prestonscales

American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers
Classical Saxophone Project

The Inception Podcast

Episode 5

Preston Scales – Featuring Angela Urrecheaga

Akira Nakano
Hello and welcome to the Inception podcast. Join us bi-weekly as we explored the Young Composers Mentoring Program of the Los Angeles Inception Orchestra. Today, we're going to speak with mentor favorite, R&B singer, songwriter and producer, Preston Scales. We'll discuss his journey from the church into the music studio… Why he's so effective at relating to our students… And we are privileged to world premiere, not one, but two of his latest singles. 

Preston. It's so great to have you on the podcast today. Welcome. 


Preston Scales
Thank you very much. 

Akira
So we met actually at the dance studio. At Arthur Murray Beverly Hills where you were an instructor and your now wife was my dance instructor. And I put her through a lot because I was learning. And I was lumbering around the floor and you're off teaching women how to dance.

 

Preston
I remember you turning women too, though. 

 

Akira
What I really enjoyed is that we have become friends over these years, and I always knew you did music. I knew you were an R&B singer. And so when the opportunity arose this time in Inception, you came in and were a fantastic mentor to our kids. I know there might've been some questions around why I brought an R&B singer in. But we were talking about storytelling and creativity, and who better to come in than you?

 

Preston
At the end of the day, it's all stories and actually tapped into the story part before I really knew what I was doing, which helped actually.

 

Akira
That's awesome. And so tell me how you got your start in music. It was as a youngster and I imagine in the church. 

 

Preston
Yeah, most black artists, most R&B artists, I should say. we get our start in the church. And sometimes people expect us to stay in the church, but it evolves into something else. Just like Boyz II Men, all those guys, they all started in church. Marvin Gaye. I would sing around the house a little bit. I was a kid, you know. My grandmother heard me sing and she said, “Look, I want you to see that at church.” And I said, “Sing it in a church?” And she said, “Yeah, I'm going to give you a song to sing though. You can't sing what you're singing. She said, it's only six lines. It's called ‘Smile’.” I said, okay, I'll do anything I can for my grandmother. And I know that if I'm in the good graces of my grandmother, I'm good. So I learned the song. I went to try it. She bragged on me. I went out there, I sung. Now by this time I didn't have any type of stage fright or anything. I was just a kid doing what his grandmother wanted him to do. And I sang the song. And not only did I get an ovation, people started treating me a little different. I shook so many hands that day, more hands than I'd ever shaken. My grandmother was so proud. So I was thinking to myself, you know, this feels good. It was a feeling I'd never felt before. And so as I got older, I started to sing more and sing more. And I started to get really, really good feedback. And I started going to talent shows. I would I started winning and I'm talking about, we're going to talent shows and I'd sing win first and dance, win second. It is really, really weird. As everything went on, as a teenager, I found a producer. Someone who kind of knew me. He grew up in the church as well. And just like me, he played church piano. Obviously gospel sounds different than R&B as far as the chords and the feeling. But he was doing the same thing I did. So I went to school for vocal performance, and I tried to learn more about the craft. 

 

Akira
And where did you go?

 

Preston
I went to Middle Tennessee State University. 

 

Akira
So you went there as a singer? Was that how you went? Or did you go as a songwriter? What did you do there? 

 

Preston
I majored in vocal performance, but also once I got in my classes, my professor, he actually said, you need to go to songwriting class as well. And I'd never done it before, really. So I'm like, okay, that's fine. Very, very young. I went to songwriting class and I, and I started to understand the formula, how to put together a song.

 

Akira
That's great. And what is the secret sauce? And how do you put together a song? 

 

Preston
Well, everyone has their own sauce. That’s what makes it so cool. But there is a guideline that everyone follows. Like when a song's created, I'll just say, this is how I create. I create the chorus first which is an issue. I always start with the chorus, because if I don't make a good chorus, if it doesn't move me, then I, the song is shot. So the chorus is the issue. The first verse explains how you got into the whole predicament. The second verse doubles down or how it could get worse. The bridge most of the time offers a resolution or some type of alternate route. And then at the end, you remind everyone again, the issue, why we're all here in the first place. And that is pretty much how I was, how I constructed songs early, because it was simple, direct.

 

Akira
That's great. And you did your first song in high school? 

 
 Preston
I did. 

 

Akira
And did you follow that formula? 

 

Preston
I did.

 

Akira
Was it successful?

 

Preston
It was until I realized that other formulas. Like, for instance, one of the greatest songs ever written was “My Girl. Smokey Robinson wrote that. And Smokey even said, it's just, it's a descriptive song. All it is is just describing how someone makes you. So you can write songs like this, just describing how you feel, but most people that are good enough to write songs like this, they're very, very good with words. 

 

Akira
Yeah. We have this amazing opportunity to actually meet Paul Riser who did the orchestrations on “My Girl” as part of the ASMAC session, the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers. We're lucky to be collaborating with them. So Paul Riser was up and it was just such an incredible thing. So tell me again, the name of that song. I, I remember you told me before there was kind of funny.

 

Preston
Oh, my high school song? That was okay. Keep in mind. I was 16. And around that time, the first song I wrote was “I Got Game”. Because the one thing in college my professor always told me, he goes, write what you know, he said, you can't write about love until you fall in love. At that point, I wasn't in love yet. So all I could write about was how confident I was in myself. Just like any kid, right. You're 16. You're like, okay. It worked out good. I'm really good with melodies and harmonies. So what “I Got Game” lacked in substance, it made up sonically through my voice and the different harmonies and tonality.

 

Akira
Very nice. So from college, Middle Tennessee, how did you go from there into your R&B career? What was next? 

 

Preston
Well, as I got out, it was kind of easy because I had friends that can, my producers were my friends and other singers were my friends. Like we all knew who each other were. So we knew what circuit Nashville at the time was really about country music. It wasn't very kind to R&B artists. So it was almost like we had like a Chitlin Circuit, so to speak. You had music grow and all the big country acts, it was just this sub-culture of R&B acts working the small clubs and the circuits. And that's how I got familiar. And that's kind of how it all started because you work the crowds. You learn who everyone is. And most importantly, you learn how you affect them. I can tell you my first show, five people came to. My second show, 25 people came to. And these are small little clubs. My third show, 55 people. You understand the circuit and everyone that is in it and people that are in the circuit say, “Hey, I got finished performing at this place. I'm going to ask for you to come next week.” So that's kinda how it started. 


Akira
That's awesome. So you were in Nashville doing these clubs, building a following, and then somehow you came to LA. Tell me about that. 

 

Preston
It was time for a change. I realized that, you know, when you're in the same spot, there's so much opportunity. So I realized Los Angeles, New York, Miami. I just told myself I needed to be in a different place. So I'll get more of an opportunity. So it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. I was afforded the opportunity to move because of my ballroom dancing. At that time I was doing both. I was teaching ballroom dancing and I was singing. And the lady that was running the studio…  I was the number one teacher there, but she realized that a lot of things were different, if you know what I mean. This is Tennessee. So she immediately recognized that. And she said, if I could get you out to Beverly Hills, would you go? And you're singing, so you need to go out there. Two months later. I'm in LA. 

 

Akira
Amazing. And I remember when you first came into the studio, that was quite awesome. I think all the Beverly Hills socialites were super excited to see you show up.

 

Preston
You know, they never, they never scared me. I ran into that crowd. Like I knew those lines. It was almost like a strange welcome home in some weird way.

 

Akira
So once you got to LA, what happened with your music career?

 

Preston
When I got to LA, I had to re… I had to find my footing again. So I was working with the people that I was still working with in Tennessee, but, um, I had to find new people. I had to find a new vibe. I found my guy. I was lucky because it took me only two years to find him. So I work exclusively with just one main engineer, and I rotate around three producers. The circuit in LA is a little bit different. Um, you have to be more available because they'll call you at any moment. So I got called for shows. I just changed a couple of engineers, kept my producers because I felt like my producers knew my sound and knew me. So that was really the only thing that changed. If you notice a lot of singers when they have a producer… Just like, um, we can go back to Ginuwine and Timbaland, Michael and Quincy, Michael and Teddy. When you find someone, you find a producer that… an engineer that knows you, you kind of stay with them. 

 

Akira
Right. So while you were doing this, I remember that you got the Dangerous Tour. 

 

Preston
Yes. Yes. When I first came here, one of my friends actually from Nashville, she was in the music industry. She's managing. She said, look, I want to manage you if you're out here. Oh, I got, I have to manage you. So one of their suggestions where I just get on YouTube and just sing. Sing off something, sing behind something, singing instrumentals. I wasn't too in love with the idea, but at the time I was brand new, and I needed to get out there. So I did some Stevie covers, and I did a couple Michael covers. I did “Human Nature”. At that time, the timber in my voice, I sounded a lot like Michael Jackson, and I knew this, so I could actually make myself sound even more like Michael. So while I was singing “Human Nature”, not only was I singing “Human Nature”, I was trying to sing it like Michael. I didn't sing it like myself. Three weeks later, I get a call from someone that says, “Hey, I had to find you.” And I'm like, How did you know where I was?” He's like, “I found you.” And he's like, “I have this tour.” And then he was telling me about the tour and he goes, “I'm going to fly you out. We're going to try you out.” All right, fine. Now what he doesn't know is I'm a studio singer. So he said, “Look, I'm going to take you to the studio. We're going to try to record a song. You got to do a whole lot of background vocals. It's going to be a lot, but it'll be fine.” Once I got in the studio, I'm in home in the studio. I'm great at background vocals. I've been doing it ever since I was 15. The rest is history. 

 

Akira
So those were some big shows out in Colorado. I believe. 

 

Preston
Yes. The biggest show I'd ever done. I remember distinctly one of the background singers. He's like, “Hey, let's go out and check out the line.” Well, I'm so used to the Chitlin Circuit. I'm so used to maybe six people being out there. This line, Akira, wrapped around the building. The show was sold out. It was the first time that I'd ever just got met with complete positivity. I'm not in Nashville anymore.

 

Akira
That is crazy. I remember when you first came back from that. Oh, you were so pumped. 

 

Preston
I was so legit. That tour though, a couple of things happened. We were supposed to get… There's a Michael Jackson show in Vegas right now. We were supposed to be that. 

 

Akira
Well, I'm going to say that your life turned out pretty well.

 

Preston
It turned out great. My life turned out great and I get to do my music, but sometimes when you have something, even if I didn't want to do it, if someone says, “Hey man, you guys just got signed to Vegas.”  I would have had to go. 

 

Akira
Well, we would've missed you. 

 

Preston
I’d come back. I'd heard about inception and you had to come right back.

 

Akira
Well, fortunately this year we were all virtual, so you know, that's great. So after the Dangerous Tour, you got back into the studio, and you were recording some songs. So tell me what's, what's been happening since then.

 

Preston
After the Dangerous Tour, I was revitalized. Okay. By studying Michael’s… and I had to study his music to understand the sing, when to go in, when to go out. And I was just so ready. I was so ready to go back to writing my own stuff. I learned so much with the arrangements, everything with his music, I actually applied it to my stuff. So I'm like, okay, I have to finish this album. As it started happening, you know, the world changes and it's about singing. So I start releasing singles. I'm currently now working on two albums, still releasing singles from those albums, but I'm working on both of them at the same time. 

 

Akira
Why are we doing that? 

 

Preston
That's a good question. The purpose of doing two is…  Sometimes when you, when you're with a producer, they can hear certain things in you that you don't necessarily hear. So I was working with producers that said, “Hey, I want you to try this. I want you to do this. Put your thing on this. Put your thing on that.” A lot of input, which is I welcome input. That's one of the reasons why I love Inception, the mentoring, because input is so important. So there's one album dedicated to all the input in different producers and ideas and me being utilized in certain ways. The other album is just mine. My thoughts, my arrangements, my writing. Me everything. Because at the end of the day, as an artist, I have to make an album that is just completely me. 

 

Akira
I get that.

 

Preston
Yeah. 

 

Akira
We're so excited. Preston, because you are world premiering not one, but two songs for us tonight. And I thank you so humbly for sharing these with us, the first one is called “Can't Hardly Wait”. If you could tell us a little bit about that.

 

Preston
The simplicity of a song, the simplicity of a message to me has always been important. If someone has to double back and explain things, then maybe they should have rethought the whole way. So “Can't Hardly Wait” is pretty much just the feelings of being in love for the first time or being in a relationship for the first time and just wanting to see that person again. It is as simple as that. And what I did was I just described how this feeling almost overtakes me. 

 

Akira
Amazing. And here is the world premiere of “Can't Hardly Wait”.

 

 Music [00:12:54]  “Can’t Hardly Wait” – Preston Scales

 

Akira [00:15:59] 
Preston, Amazing. Thank you for sharing the song. That was so great. Um. 

 

Preston
Thank you for playing it. Thank you for playing. 

 

Akira
This is the best. And if you're listening to this, we are in July of 2021. Preston is going to be the featured mentor at a masterclass on our August 7th culmination event for this cohort. Preston, the kids love you teaching. And I was wondering if you could get into talking about your method of teaching and describing emotion to these kids and why they relate to you so much. You are they’re favorite mentor. Every time that we do a survey, you come up at least one of three and you're on everybody's survey sheet 

 

Preston
Three so tough. 

 

Akira

No, no, no more than that. So tell us what it is. How do you relate to kids so well? And how you teach them and communicate so effectively? 

 

Preston
Okay. Well, the reason I relate to kids very well is because I was teaching kids ever since I was a kid. I was in school, and I taught kids while I was in school. They had to sign a waiver so I could get paid for it. So I understand kids. I've worked with kids for a long time. And when describing things and how to work with kids, as far as, um, expression, I like to go with colors. Kids are visual. So I like to put a color to a certain feeling. When I write, when I'm singing a verse, I asked myself, what color is it? If I'm singing the bridge, what color is it? And do the colors coordinate? For instance, I use blue, sad. I do pink for happy believe it or not. And red for passion. So I figured out how to make these color distinctions. And when I made the color distinctions, I actually sing the emotion better because I'm not focused on the words. I'm actually just focused on the colors, and I try to make that color with my voice if that makes any sense. That's always been my method. 

 

Akira
You actually taught one of our kids, Angela, at the last event we had at a master class. So we're going to play a clip of that right now in using this color palette formula.

 

Angela [00:17:49] 
Blue? And you want me to sing something?

 

Preston
Yeah, I want, I want to feel the blue and then I  want you to tell me what the blue represents.

 

Angela
Okay.

Sings [00:18:15] 

 

Preston
That was great. what does it represent? 

 

Angela
Tired and sad and just kind of like overwhelmed of the feeling. It's not really sad in the moment, but it's what I was hearing because I had some like happy notes in there. but it was kind of like letting it go. I have to accept that. Um, I'm sad, and I have to accept that this happened.


Preston
Exactly. 

 

Akira
All right. So if you're listening to this in July of 2021, we are super excited that Preston is actually going to be our featured mentor at our August 7th culmination event. And we'll teach a master class probably again about colors in the voice, but especially an effective lesson or we're so excited to have you there.

Tell us about your next song. You're going to play for us. It's called “Problem”. And I'd love to hear about that. 

 

Preston
Yes. I was thinking about how to describe this song when I was writing it… with my producer's name is Rio Ville. The first couple of lines of the song dictate what the song was about actually. You've got your nine to five. Just live in for the city. You want to feel alive. You got to chase the feeling. That's pretty much what the song is about. 

 

Akira
I can relate. I think a lot of people can relate. 

 

Preston
Exactly. That's pretty much what the song is about. 

 
Akira
Here is again, Preston, thank you so much. And here is the world premiere of “Problem”.

 

Music [00:19:28] “Problem” – Preston Scales

 

Akira [00:23:19]
Preston. Amazing. Thank you for sharing the song. That was so great. Would you like to just tell us to wrap up why you're so involved in Inception and what you think of the program.

 

Preston
I'm involved with Inception because Akira put a gun to my head, and he made me, I'm sorry. I'm just playing. I'm playing. 

 

Akira
Ha ha.

 

Preston
Honestly, I remember in the studio, in the ballroom studio, a gentleman that said something very poignant to me. He said “to not use the gift is to dishonor it, to not share the gift is to dishonor it.” So we're given the gift. So it's our responsibility to pay it forward. We have to pay it for it. If we don't pay it forward, we weren't, we were never worthy of the gift. It's as simple as that. 

 

Akira
I completely agree. And I thank you so much. You do such a terrific job with our kids every time you're in. I know they're always excited when you're on the program to come mentor. We're excited to have the on August 7th Preston, I want to say thank you so much. If people want to reach out to you, what's the best way to find you?


Preston
Instagram @Preston scales. That's where I do most of my interaction. So that's where you'll find me. In my stories, you'll see links for new music and everything else. That's where you'll find me. 

 

Akira
Very cool. Well, Preston, it was great to talk to you on tonight's podcast. Thank you so much. We are looking forward to seeing you on August 7th and hearing more music from you.

 

Preston
Thank you very much, Akira. And again, Inception… since I've joined the Inception family, I've really, really enjoyed it. I look forward to more mentoring. more years to come. 

 

Akira
We would love to have you every single time. Thank you so much. Preston, have a great one. 

 

Preston
Thank you, buddy. 

 

Akira
We hope you will join us on Saturday, August 7th, 4:00 PM Pacific/7:00 PM Eastern for a celebration of our cohort that composed all the way through the pandemic from March, 2020 through August, 2021. Preston will return for another brilliant master class. And we'll be featuring our partners, the Classical Saxophone Project and a special showcase of the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers. If you're interested in composing, our cohort resets itself in September. Thank you for listening to today's podcast. The Inception Orchestra Young Composers Mentoring program, in partnership with ASMAC, is funded by grant it's from organizations such as the Los Angeles Central City Optimist Foundation, and generous donations from friends, family, and listeners like you. Please check us out on www.inceptionorchestra.org. Thanks everybody.