Skyler's the limit: Catch him at The Loft on Jan. 21
By Jeanné McCartin
Both Adam and Michael Scharff, established, lead, professional musicians, tell similar stories about why they are playing backing positions in Skyler, a band led by a 20-year-old.
But perhaps Michael Scharff tells it best.
He sets the stage.
The two brothers had just come out of "semi-retirement" and were performing in their own trio. The usual drummer couldn't make a gig, so Adam asked Clark Hamel, aka Skyler, his 17-year-old student, to sit in.
"Everyone was loving the gig. It was an enjoyable experience," recalls Michael Scharff. "The third set I said, 'you know you love the drums Adam. ...; Let Skyler take the lead.' "
Michael Scharff's voice switches intensity; he's still moved by what came next.
"And what happened is the gig went from really good to — all of a sudden you could hear a pin drop with Skyler fronting. I remember looking over at him and thinking, 'oh, my God. This must be what it's like to be on stage with a star ...; Bruce Springsteen or dare I say Elvis, someone that had the audience mesmerized," says Michael Scharff. "I've been on the stage with people with hit records and never experienced that."
Adam Scharff, too, recalls the occasion but adds it was clear Skyler had something special from very early on in the relationship, which started as teacher/student when Skyler was 11.
He recalls a minor incident — and huge indicator. Skyler was 12 and the two were listening to a Beatles' CD, "one I'd listened to plenty of times!" says Adam Scharff. "Skyler was pointing out something about the production ...; something in the way the song was mixed. ...; It was something I'd never noticed and I went, 'huh?' It just kept being reinforced — the fact that there was something really special about him as a musician and artist."
Skyler is no one's puppet, says Michael. He's a self-contained, mature young man, who learns from other's mistakes and really works at his art. He'd make it with any team, he adds.
All three say the evolution to a working a relationship was natural, "organic."
"We were teacher and student, then it progressed," says Skyler. "It started at 11 — taking guitar from Adam. Within a year, we'd moved from guitar to ...; recording. Probably within another year it was not just guitar and producing, he was teaching me song writing. For the next few years in middle school and high he was more of a mentor — also helping me find my way through different parts of the music industry."
By the end of Skyler's junior year in high school, Adam Scharff and he were writing together. Soon after, Michael Scharff started working with them. The trio continued writing via Skype even when Skyler attended Berklee College of Music.
From that first time filling in as a drummer "we just clicked," he adds.
Today, the band consists of the creative team, Skyler on rhythm guitar and lead vocals; Michael Scharff, bass and back-up vocals; Adam Scharff on lead guitar and back-up vocals; along with John Mullette, violin, acoustic guitar and piano, with occasional vocals. The drummer is "a roving cast of characters," says Adam Scharff.
Just months back things started to pick up for the band. An indie A & R firm included a tune by Skyler in a "tip sheet" sent to music industry insider, says Adam Scharff. Eventually, she contacted Skyler (the person) to explain she was getting a lot of traffic to his tune. "She asked him is there anyone you want to send it to?" says Adam Scharff. They've been hopping ever since.
The band has signed with renowned industry lawyer Jim Zumwalt. They're spending quite a bit of time in Nashville meeting with numerous producers, labels and agents, with additional meetings in New York and Atlanta.
At one meeting a label president asked Skyler what he hoped for. "I told him World Domination," says Skyler, with a laugh. "He smiled and said not too many years ago another band gave him that answer, 'It was Godsmack, and they were sitting where you're sitting right now.'"
Skyler admits all the meetings, talks and decision-making can be "incredibly overwhelming," at times. "It's exciting at the same time. But I would be lying if I said it was a total breeze," says Skyler. "But I think if you can take the overwhelming aspects of it, smile, and keep your head down, you can do it."
Having the Scharffs on his team, and a supportive family has made a difference, helped him navigate slowly and thoughtfully, and keep even.
One of the Scharffs is always with him at meetings. They are a team, Skyler underscores. "It's rare I go an entire day without being in touch with one of them," he says. "We're constantly talking about this."
"I wish that I had a clever explanation for why Adam or I — neither of us — have envy (for Skyler). Adam's known him since he was a kid. ...; It was and continues to be this long relationship," says Michael Scharff. He adds, it's similar to the one the two brothers had while playing and touring together. Each appreciated the other's gifts and talents "the ones we didn't possess."
The trio often joke about their relations. "It's sort of the id, the ego and the super ego," says Adam Scharff. "But at the end of the day, it's Skyler. ...; I really enjoy my role and I've always believed in his talent."
In their best day, Scharff Brothers (group), or their later band, the Radio Junkies, never connected with the audience the way Skyler does, adds Michael. "That's the straightforward answer. To be envious of that would be egocentric to the extreme."
These days, they're jointly picking their way through the business, ever mindful of direction. Adam says what's important is being patient, "and making sure what (Skyler) does is authentic to Skyler." It may be a vigilance he and Adam lacked during their own, earlier career. Lesson learned.
"The goal is to hold on to as much as you can," says Skyler. "I have discovered and learned a lot over the last couple years. When you let people on the outside have too much trust ...; it's easy to get burned. It's not that they're trying to mess things up for you, they don't necessarily have the same vision. You have to be on top of things, advocating for yourself all the time."
The music business has slowed for the holiday giving the band a bit of a rest, time to focus on writing "(we're constantly coming up with new ideas," says Skyler), and to mount a benefit show for Seacoast Local's (H)EAT Program.
There are the daily talks and four or so days weekly to write.
"I'm really enjoying it," says Michael Scharff, summing up the three collaborators sentiments. "What's paramount is keeping it fun, creative and something an audience will want to share in."
Gossip: Skyler fielding offers
By Jeanné McCartin
December 01, 2011 9:45 AM
Sky's the limit for skyler
Caught up with the Scharff brothers — Adam Scharff actually — who, along with sibling Michael Scharff, and John Mullett, are members of Skyler. The lead — Skyler — is a 20-year-old York, Maine, youngun'; the Scharffs, (also his writing partners) longtime, dues-paying musicians.
Things are hoppin' for the pop country group, reports Scharff.
"We just got back from the third week-long trip to Nashville since September. Skyler has been meeting with all of the major and large indie labels in Nashville, as well as most of the major publishing companies. We are fielding offers from two of the largest booking agencies in Nashville, (and) ... he has met with four or five of the top managers in Nashville," says Scharff.
It started when an A & R person from New York featured a Skyler tune on an Internet industry magazine and insider email blast, says Scharff. "We didn't even know this was coming!"
"The A & R person called Skyler and said 'I'm getting a lot of traffic on my site on you. Anyone specific you want to meet in Nashville.' He pulled someone out of a hat and they set up a meeting." Names started to be handed out, "and lots of people started taking meetings," he says laughing.
Skyler signed with industry lawyer Jim Zumwalt the first trip down. "(He handled Kurt Cobain's estate). ...; It's thrown us into a whole new level of meetings. ...; Today nothing is firm but there are so many avenues of possibility."
For now, they're prepping for a Seacoast Local's (H)EAT Program benefit show Jan. 21. Then it's Nashville again, "to do some recording with Thad Beaty, (Sugarland lead guitar), and his company Sorted Noise."
Skyler is also involved with Allstate Act Out Loud: Raising Voices for Safe Teen Driving contest — as the prize! The contest awards the winner $1,000 and a concert by Skyler at their school, broadcast to 6 million middle and high school students on the nationwide school station Channel 1.
"This whole experience has been terrific. Michael and I have been around so long. I'd thought I'd been at least around most of the stuff that happens," says Scharff. "Talk about teaching a old dog new tricks."
The Hippo is New Hampshire's largest circulation weekly and second largest circulation newspaper. It is tab sized and distributed throughout southern New Hampshire at more than 1,000 locations. The paper averages 56 to 88 pages each week and is available each Thursday.
Check out the article they did on Skyler on page 60 in the April 21st issue!
Record Store Day brings Skyler to Portsmouth
Thursday, 14 April 2011 15:16
The fourth annual Record Store Day celebration hits record stores around the globe on Saturday, April 16, highlighting the modern vinyl renaissance with live in-store performances. One of those shows will take place in Portsmouth when York-based musician Skyler releases his new EP at Bull Moose.
A teen phenom who had recorded five CDs before he graduated from York High School, Skyler’s catchy pop-rock songs have earned him a loyal following. His upcoming gig in Portsmouth will be an acoustic performance, introducing listeners to songs from his latest EP, “Take You Away.” He will play another local EP release show at the Dover Brick House on Saturday, April 23.
Originally created by Bull Moose employee Chris Brown, Record Store Day is celebrated by more than 1,500 independent music stores around the world. The event features a number of exclusive CD and vinyl releases, along with acoustic performances at all Bull Moose locations. Visit www.recordstoreday.com.
Skyler’s performance on April 16 begins at 3 p.m. at Bull Moose, 82 Congress St., Portsmouth, 603-422-9525. His $9 show on April 23 begins at 3 p.m. at the Dover Brick House, 2 Orchard St., Dover, 603-749-3838.
"In Maine, at the 10-unit Bull Moose chain, "we are focusing on local bands," VP of marketing Chris Brown says. "For the first three annual Record Store Days, we had bigger [national] artists that received all the media attention. So this time around the local guys will get the media attention."
One interesting development that Brown is seeing is that some of the local artists are timing their CD releases to align with Record Store Day. Skyler & the Band of Thieves will issue a CD EP titled "Take You Away," while Portland, Maine, rock band the Sophomore Beat will release a CD single, "Party Like a Lobster."LINK: http://www.billboard.com/news/record-store-day-highlights-pearl-jam-bob-1005134472.story#/news/record-store-day-highlights-pearl-jam-bob-1005134472.story
By J. L. Stevens
April 09, 2011 7:54 AM
It might not be called "Bull Moose Records," but Record Store Day was conceived by the higher-ups at the music store Bull Moose. And it's being celebrated Saturday, April 16 at the downtown Bull Moose with special offerings on vinyl (and more) and at 3 p.m. by a performance from York, Maine's own revered Skyler.
Record Store Day, conceived by Bull Moose Vice President Chris Brown, has grown to an international event over the past four years. It's an annual excuse for local musicians to get their music out in their communities, and for you to celebrate vinyl and music in general.
In Portsmouth, Bull Moose is hosting the young Skyler, a York, Maine native and a favorite among teenage girls - both for his looks and his catchy, pop-rock sound. Skyler is onstage at 3 p.m. Skyler is releasing a new CD, "Take You Away," on Record Store Day.
At www.bullmoose.com, you can find a list of Record Store Day items -- including Adele's "Rolling In the Deep" on 10" vinyl, Duran Duran's "Girl Panic!" on 7" vinyl and "I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive" on 7" colored vinyl by Steve Earle. While not every Bull Moose will have every item, it's good to know that there is a limit to one copy of each item per customer (The site says, "No fair taking your second cookie until everyone gets their first.") Bull Moose also says it will not sell the items online until a while after Record Store Day, "assuming there are any leftovers."
The Portsmouth Bull Moose is at 82-86 Congress St. Visit www.bullmoose.com for a complete list of Record Store Day performances and special releases, and call 422-9525.
teen rocker Skyler, with his 2010 EP in hand, has a string of upcoming gigs
By the time he graduated from York High School in 2009, Skyler Clark-Hamel had already recorded five CDs and played upwards of 200 gigs. But his EP “Long Gone,” released in May, brought Skyler’s music to a new echelon.
“It’s definitely the most polished piece of work that I’ve done. The songwriters that I work with now are just miles above what I did in high school,” Skyler said, referring to brothers Adam and Michael Scharff. “When the three of us get in a room together, it takes my music to a completely different level.”
Skyler first introduced “Long Gone” with a CD release show at the Dover Brick House in May. He’ll return to the Brick House for an upcoming show on Monday, Dec. 27, following gigs at Rochester Middle School on Wednesday, Dec. 22, and Dover High School on Thursday, Dec. 23. He also has shows lined up after the New Year, including gigs at Higher Ground in Burlington, Vt., on Sunday, Jan. 9; the Cooperative Middle School in Stratham on Friday, Jan. 21; and Exeter High School on Saturday, Feb. 19.
Now 19, Skyler has grown accustomed to playing in front of large crowds. Also an actor who has performed in 20 professional and repertory theater productions, he has long relished the spotlight. “I’ve always really liked performing,” Skyler said. “Now it’s very natural, but it took a couple years of being in front of an audience all the time to sort of come into my own.”
The York native was in third grade when he wrote his first song, a bubblegum pop tune inspired by ’N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. From then on, music would consume much of his life. He learned to play several instruments, including guitar, bass, drums and piano, and transformed his bedroom into a recording studio.
Skyler’s first musical performance in front of a live audience occurred when he was in sixth grade. He’d only been playing guitar for a couple of months and hastily threw together a band for a talent show at York Middle School. They performed a cover of The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.”
Skyler recorded his first full-length CD of original songs during his freshman year of high school and went on to record four others before graduating. He also acted in and wrote scores for several theater productions. His artistic pursuits left little time for schoolwork, which was just fine with him.
“It was either, ‘Do your homework or write the score to a play,’ and I was like, ‘I think I’ll write the score to a play,’” he said.
After graduating, Skyler spent a year at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. The experience helped him grow as a musician, but not in the ways you might expect. When he started searching for band mates to back him at live shows, he found that most of them either showed up late or flaked out completely.
“It taught me how rare reliable musicians are,” he said. “It also really helped me with my work ethic. You really just have to constantly be working at whatever you’re doing, whether it’s the performance aspect or the writing aspect or the recording aspect.”
When it came time to form a professional band, Skyler turned to musicians he knew he could trust. He had taken music lessons from accomplished local musician Adam Scharff since he was 11 years old and had sat in with The Scharff Brothers on several occasions, mostly playing drums. Occasionally, Skyler would front the band as a lead vocalist with Adam taking over the drum kit.
To round out his own band, Skyler recruited fellow Berklee student John Mullett, a multi-instrumentalist who plays fiddle, keyboards and more. “He was the first guy I met (at Berklee),” Skyler said. “We bonded over the fact that we were the only two guys at Berklee that really liked Taylor Swift.”
The new quartet, with Adam Scharff on lead guitar and Michael Scharff on bass, adopted Skyler’s name. They provide the core of the music on “Long Gone,” along with guests Matt Sokol on drums and Karl Anderson on Hammond B3 and Fender Rhodes. The group has since added permanent drummer Mark Davenport.
The music is solid pop-rock fizzing with teen romance. Skyler’s voice is smooth and confident, rising in pitch when appropriate but mostly sticking to a steady cool. Mullett and the Scharff brothers add impeccable musicianship, resulting in a CD that makes Skyler sound like he’s been at it for decades.
All five songs on the EP revolve around the lyrical themes of girls, love and relationships, from the youthful innocence of “Hold My Hand” to the brash whimsicality of “Stephanie.” “And I don’t care what your boyfriend would say, or what my girlfriend thinks,” he sings in the latter (Skyler does, by the way, have a gal).
Although he’s recently developed a taste for country acts like Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, Skyler said his biggest influences are classics like The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Tom Petty. Those influences come through on “Long Gone,” as you can easily imagine Petty singing lead vocals on “It’s Just the Night.”
Skyler now lives back home in York and still devotes most of his time to music. He sits down for writing sessions with the Scharff brothers three times a week, exchanging ideas and working on new songs.
“All three of us write all the songs together,” he said. “Some songs, I will come to them with an idea or chorus or verse and they’ll help me finish it up ... or they’ll come with a musical idea or lyrical idea and I will help them flesh it out.”
He’s not sure when his next recording will take shape, but he’s always coming up with new stuff. “The material just keeps on getting better, and I just keep getting more excited about it,” he said.
Most of Skyler’s fans are even younger than him, and he plays many of his gigs at middle and high schools. Certain lyrical cues remind us that Skyler is the product of a new generation. On “Hold My Hand,” for instance, he sings, “Can’t wait to read your words as they reach my phone.” It’s the same old love-sick sentiment, but this time by text message instead of phone call.
Though he’s a budding local sensation, Skyler came of age at a time when major record deals are harder than ever to come by. That’s OK with him, though, as long as he keeps getting opportunities to play his music in front of crowds.
“I just want to play for as many people as I possibly can and bring as much joy to people through my music as I can, and that’s really all I can do,” he said.
He goes by just one name: Skyler. And while one day it may be just as ubiquitous as other one-name artists such as Akon or Beyonce, for now he’s the hometown boy looking to make it big in the music industry. And he’s getting there—playing since grade school, the 19-year-old has already performed hundreds of shows solo and with his band, which also just released its first album. So, if you don’t know it already, remember the name.
Lives in: York; graduated from York High School.
So you just go by Skyler? Yes, it’s my given first name. I’ve asked my parents before where it came from, and they just said they liked it. Let’s start with the standard musician question: How would you describe your music?
Everybody seems to hear whatever they want. It’s rock and roll, but rock and roll means so many things—it’s an amalgam of folk and country and blues and bluegrass and jazz and R&B. The people that really like country music who come to our shows have said, “Wow, we really hear a deep country influence.” The people who really like ’90s alt rock have said, “We hear ’90s alt rock in your music.” I just call it rock and roll. And you guys just released a new album?
Our first EP is “Long Gone.” It’s on iTunes, available at all of our shows, and on our Myspace and Facebook pages. When I was in high school I released five albums of original material recorded in my bedroom. I saved up all my money—I did lemonade stands, bake sales—to get a computer and a little recording device. I used that all throughout high school. So when did you get your start?
I started playing when I was very, very, young. In 6th grade, I started playing guitar, and within a few months I had gotten a band together with other 6th graders and we played our school talent show. My performing really took off in high school. I started playing with a bunch of high school bands, none of which did anything besides a few local gigs. I decided in order to get myself to the next level, I needed to start playing solo acoustic shows every chance I got. I did private parties, bars, I played outside the Bagel Basket in York. After a while, the Scharff brothers (Adam and Michael) asked me to play drums with them. They started featuring me; I’d jump up and play guitar and we’d do a couple of my songs. After awhile, when I was finally looking for a band, it ended up just falling right into place that they joined and we found the other members. I usually do guitar and vocals; I sometimes play piano and drums, and every once in a while I’ll do bass. Where have you played?
I’ve played at least 250 shows, might be at least 300 by now. We had a pretty good weekend recently where we opened for Ryan Cabrera at Noble High School. We also did the CMJ Music Festival in New York recently. We’ve played a number of times down in Boston, throughout New Hampshire, a bunch of different places in Maine. Doing solo shows, I’ve gone as far down as Washington, D.C., Nashville. How often are you playing?
It all depends. We try not to over-saturate any market, just because if you play too many places in a row, people will say “I’ll just see them next time.” We try to hit up every market every 6 to 8 weeks. We’re in Portland on Dec. 19 opening for Sparks The Rescue; we’re playing in York on Nov. 14, and probably won’t be back in York until May. We’re doing our first Vermont show in January at Higher Ground, one of the big venues in Burlington. What musicians inspire you?
The Beatles are definitely my earliest inspiration; Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty; lately I’ve really loved Taylor Swift’s music. So what’s on your mp3 player right now?
The latest songs I’ve downloaded are from Taylor Swift, The Eagles, John Mayer, Pearl Jam, The Jonas Brothers, Lyle Lovett, Green Day. What are your songs about?
It all depends on what’s inspiring us. For the most part, it’s love songs. That’s what gets us the most. Do you have a favorite song you’ve written?
Choosing between my songs is like choosing between children. It all depends on the moment and the mood I’m in. What’s the songwriting process like?
If something strikes you, you’ve gotta write it down. I’ve written stuff on my hand, on napkins, on the backs of gum wrappers. Other times we’ll just sit down and say ’What do you want to write about?’ What are your hobbies beyond music?
Right now, I have to be so focused on my music, I’m really not able to do a lot of other stuff. But I really enjoy going to see movies. This summer, I blew all my money on movies. What movies have you seen recently?
“Despicable Me” I thought was awesome. Also, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World.” What’s your all-time favorite?
“That Thing You Do!” It really hits the nail on the head of what a manager is supposed to act like, what it’s like to have overnight success, and then to see it all disappear very quickly. So where would you describe yourself in terms of success?
We’re right at the beginning, we’re constantly looking up. What do you think are the misconceptions about being a musician?
It’s a lot of hard work. We’ve been going into schools and playing, and one of the questions we were just asked was, “Are you rich?” Because they think if you’re in a band, you’re going to make tons of money. The reality is, not so much. Yeah, there can be the sex, drugs and rock and roll thing, but if you want to make it, you really have to stay focused. What’s your philosophy on life?
There are a number of things I have going through my head, like, “someone’s always willing to work harder than you are, so you constantly have to be working.” Or to keep myself up, I say, “It’s all happening,” which is a quote from “Almost Famous.” What do you like about York?
It’s a beautiful little town. It’s got the beaches, so it’s awesome during the summer, and it has beautiful foliage in the fall. What would you do if you weren’t a musician?
I honestly can’t imagine myself doing anything but music
Skyler the band presents its new EP on May 16
By Jeanné McCartin
Skyler is 18, a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, who plays guitar, drums, bass, keyboard and sings. But more telling is that two highly respected, decidedly non-teen music vets back his band — Skyler.
So how does an 18-year-old land the Adam and Michael Scharff as band members? In a word, according to Adam, talent.
"It's very, very hard to quantify his talent," says Adam Scharff, who met Skyler, (Skyler Clark-Hamel), at age 11 when he first started studying with him. "In any of (his musical roles) he'd be a solid addition whatever the project is. ...; In any of those roles you'd go 'wow that's great.' But there's something about Skyler as an artist that's very unique and hard to put into words.
"The best way to define Skyler's 'good' is, well, have you ever been somewhere when someone walks in the room, and everyone stops, turns, and says 'who is that." That's what he's like on stage fronting a band.'
Skyler — the band — will debut "Long Gone" its freshman EP, May 16 with its usual line-up: Skyler, vocals and rhythm guitar, Adam Scharff, lead guitar and background vocals; Michael Scharff, bass and background vocals and John Mullett, keyboard, fiddle, guitar, vocals "and whatever else we ask him to do," says Skyler.
The band formation was organic, born of a respectful student/instructor relationship and the Scharffs' (plural) and Skyler's writing collaboration.
The writing came first, initially part of the student/instructor relationship.
"Adam was basically helping me be a better writer, pointing things out. The switch? Maybe I was 16-ish," says Skyler. "Rather than a teacher helping, we started writing together. Then after six months of that Michael started writing. ...; It's become a really strong writing partnership."
The three initially performed publicly as the Scharffs, Skyler sitting in when they needed a drummer.
"Mike and I thought 'wow, this is great, and he became a regular," says Adam Scharff. "We started hanging out with him more; it felt like we were hanging with someone in a band rather than a student."
"Performing wise I think that's when we shifted to equal," says Skyler. "Writing (as a peer) came a little before that — Adam would be best to ask about that. But I think it went from him helping me to us writing them together, when he had songs he was writing and I would have input on it and it would turn into a collaboration."
When it came time for Skyler to step out with the music written for his band, it only made sense the brothers be part of it. Neither project with the Scharffs was Skyler's first. He'd been in bands throughout high school, busked and worked some clubs.
But he'd known music was his direction long before.
"The Beatles got me hooked. I was probably 4 or 5 years old, I went though my parents' record collection, LPs," says Skyler.
He'd wrote his first song in the third grade, "(the same thing I've written about for the last 10 years, girls, love and relationships)."
"Then I learned to play guitar and added music to the lyrics," he says.
Lyrics, melody and harmony are the constant thread to his music, he says.
Skyler — the band — is most easily described as rock pop, says the man behind the moniker. "The hardest (description) is because it's rock 'n' roll you have elements of blues, country, folk, a little bit of everything in there. People have mentioned to me — they hear Hank Williams in there. I've never even listened to Hank. Or they'll say Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen. ...; It's rock 'n' roll."
These days Skyler feels the "peer" in the relationship with the brothers, though the profound admiration continues.
"I do consider myself very, very lucky to have found the Scharff brothers and become such good friends with them. ...; Today I'm totally, 100 percent in my element with these two guys. I don't think I could ever be more comfortable with two people."
If he's able to stay in school — no explanation given for the comment — Skyler says he will do so. In theory he'll work the grades and the band. This summer the band plans to support the CD throughout the Northeast.
"I think you'll be seeing lots of him," says Adam Scharff.LINK: http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20100508-LIFE-5080301