Interview: SC.Undercover Spins Excellent Dark Pop Out of His Troubled Past

SC.Undercover shows remarkable talent for making enjoyable and dancehall-ready music out of even the sternest of subject matters.

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Music has served as a life-saving catharsis for many artists and their fans. SC.Undercover, a 24-year-old native of Birmingham, England currently based in Atlanta, Georgia, has certainly experienced that much as well. Developing his own personal brand of music– largely a fusion of dark pop and R&B, with a bit of hip-hop, sprinkled into the mix– has granted him “a way of escapism from what, at one point, seemed to be a permanent road to severe depression and addiction.”

SC.Undercover first tested this musical formula on his 2018 debut, Past Times. He returned this spring with two more tunes that seem to be thematically in line with his previous work. One of these is “Darkness Before Light,” an atmospheric number “about finding closure from his past, where he was struggling with depression, addiction, and a past relationship.” The other was “Morals,” in which the central character in the lyrics is “scarred by the darkness of his past, admitting his faults and showing his regret for the decisions made in his life, whilst seeking closure in a new world.”

In an interview with Atwood Magazine, SC.Undercover speaks further to his craft and clarifies why he feels no aversion to channeling such serious and personal narratives in his music!

Listen:  SC.undercover


Atwood Magazine: You promote yourself as someone who merges a number of different types of music in his works. What was your relationship with these genres as you were growing up? How did you decide which ones to incorporate into your current creative output?

SC.undercover: Growing up, I was exposed to a variety of music from different eras. My father was a Jungle/drum-and-bass DJ, so hip-hop and grime were always about when I was younger. I also used to love old-school swing and jazz. It wasn’t until I got older that I really started to identify with R&B and dark pop. Music to me is universal. It just seemed like a natural progression to use what felt natural to me.

What lessons did you pull from producing your first album, Past Times, in 2018? How have you been able to apply what you learned to your music since then?

SC.undercover: “Past Times” was a huge learning experience for me. It taught me a lot about myself, my sound, and the industry. I spent a year working on the tape, mostly writing. If I could go back and change things, I would. I’m a perfectionist with my work; I’m never satisfied. I was in a different headspace when most of the tracks were written. It’s not a light-hearted album, but it reflected everything I was feeling at that time. It was a necessary step to lead me to where I’m at right now.

The main single, “Broke and Sober,” was actually produced by Kamo. I had heard his work on Usher’s 2016 album and was a fan. We ended up connecting on social media and did the track together. I felt like that song was the start of everything.

Watch: “Morals” – SC.Undercover

Of the many cities where you could have wound up, what took you to Atlanta? What have been your experiences performing there and absorbing the city's music scene?

SC.undercover: Originally, I was invited out to do a show for Memorial Day Weekend. I didn’t know anyone apart from the promoter. I’d never been to the U.S. before, so I didn’t know what to expect. But life had taught me the importance of making your own luck and being fearless if you want something badly enough.

It turned out that I loved the city. I ended up meeting local promoters and artists and was literally working and writing in the studio with other artists all day and heading out to do shows at night. The music scene there is so vibrant; of course, Atlanta’s trap scene is huge. I remember rapper T.I. held a monthly open mic at the Apache Cafe in Midtown and I ended up doing a set there. The energy and love from the audience was amazing. I didn’t want to leave. There is, of course, a darker side to the Atlanta music and club scene, and it inspired a lot of my earlier work.

What do you see as the common thread that runs between some of your recent songs?

SC.undercover: Those songs were heavily inspired by both my time in the U.S. and my life before music. There’s a lot of sadness and references to sex in them. I’ve never been shy about it: sex was one of the ways of me escaping my problems and feelings. “Damaged Goods” kind of concluded those records and was my way of saying: “no matter where this takes me, I’ll never forget where I’m from, the experiences I’ve had, and the sacrifices I’ve made.”

Your cover of ''7 Rings'' is very different from the original, although the Ariana Grande influence remains distinct. How did you formulate this particular approach to the singer and song?

SC.undercover: Ariana is an incredible talent. When I first heard that song, I was like: “I’m getting lyrics in my head already. I have to remix this, I wanted to make it unique and add my own spin on it.” So I was in the studio with my engineer and we started messing around with chords and the song was done pretty quickly.

SC.Undercover © 2020

The song ''Darkness Before Light'' is quite a personal track. What inspired you to go ahead and present such a moving narrative within this record?

SC.undercover: It is kind of a culmination of everything I’ve done so far. I had always wanted to try something a little different and now seemed like the time to do it. The contrast of Darkness and Light has always inspired me; you tend to go through the bad things before you see the positives in life, especially with mental health. I wanted to create something that showed and reflected both sides.

Will there be an album that accompanies ''Darkness Before Light'' and ''Morals''? What are you aiming to achieve in your upcoming works?

SC.undercover: I’m working on an EP with a similar sound and am writing all the time. I’m here to create art and I’m truly grateful for every person who listens or supports me. I know my goals and keep them close. I can’t really say what I want to achieve in music without sounding completely up my own arse, but I’m doing everything I can to get there.

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