Corrections or additions?
This article by Richard J. Skelly was prepared for the April 16, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Penn State Goes Nashville
Singer-songwriter Patty Scoboria’s debut album, "The
Girl," is as strong a collection of songs as anything you’re likely
to hear from an emerging regional artist. Her lyrical prowess belies
her age. "The Girl" is startlingly good, and her songs, partly
autobiographical to be sure, are not your run-of-the-mill tales of
love and loss. She’s only 27, yet her songs convey wisdom beyond her
Perhaps Scoboria’s gift for songwriting and overall lyrical prowess
comes from the fact that she’s the youngest in a family of five. Or
perhaps it’s something in the water in Reading, Pennsylvania. Whatever
it is, Scoboria has been steadily carving a niche for herself, selling
out of her first, 1,000-copy pressing of "The Girl" in less
than a year. Last fall, she released a second, independent album,
"Pisces Rising," that reflects some more of her pop sensibilities.
In February, Scoboria left her home-base in Philadelphia and moved
to Nashville. After a mind-boggling working vacation there last fall,
she decided to take the plunge and test the waters.
"I’d been feeling like I wanted to make a move to what I would
consider a major music city," Scoboria explains from her new Nashville
home. "Even though there’s a lot of great music in Philly, it
became important for me to try out other challenges."
"In October of last year, I spent two weeks here in Nashville
after a gig at the Suttler, and I got a really great response that
night. I thought, `There’s such a devotion to music here’ — and
I just fell in love with the whole vibe of the town. At that point
I decided to move to Nashville in February."
"On that trip last fall, I also played at the Bluebird Cafe, in
the songwriter circle, and I got to perform at Tootsie’s and Legends,
two rockin’ bars right on Broadway," she says. "Both places
were packed to the gills, and then I went to the Grand Ol’ Opry and
even got invited backstage there, so it was a really cool two weeks."
Scoboria made her first professional appearances while still a student
at Penn State. Ever since she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in
political science, she has steadily built her musical career her own
way, using her ever-growing mailing list to promote appearances on
the bookstore, coffeehouse, and festival circuit.
One of five siblings (all of them Penn State graduates), she says
music was part of her Reading background. The city is home to the
annual Reading Jazz Festival in March, and an array of festivals and
outdoor concerts in the warmer months.
"My mother had five kids in eight years," says Scoboria with
a chuckle. Growing up, she got to learn a lot from the experiences
of her older brothers and sisters. Scoboria’s mother, to whom she
dedicates "The Girl," was a Catholic school principal for
many years before taking an early retirement. Her father, who retired
last year, was a physics professor at Penn State’s Berks/Lehigh campus,
not far from Reading.
It’s likely that Scoboria has played every Borders bookstore within
a 150-mile radius of Reading. She has played East Brunswick, Princeton,
Bryn Mawr, King of Prussia, Marlton, Mount Laurel, Newark, Delaware,
Oxford Valley, Whitehall, and of course, Reading’s own Borders.
She says her 2001 album "The Girl," was originally
designed as a demo to get more work in bookstores, coffee houses,
and bars. But since she had no shortage of songs, she ended up with
a full-length album. Scoboria recorded "The Girl" at Why Me
Recording Studios in Gibbsboro, New Jersey. And through the musicians
she was working with at that time, she met producer and studio owner
"It seemed like a good place to record. I went in with the idea
of just making a five or six-song demo, but the whole process went
so well it ended up being a full-length CD."
"My intent, initially, was creative," she says, "and it
was also something I wanted to record for my following. Ever since
I began singing my original songs, people who came out to see me kept
asking me for a CD, which I did not have. I wanted to make a product
that I was proud of and that they would like."
Scoboria was still a Penn State student and a "cover" singer
when she started writing her owns songs. "In those days, I would
cover everything from Janis to Alannis," she says, referring to
the late blues singer Janis Joplin and Canadian pop sensation Alannis
While she considers Janis Joplin a primary influence, you won’t find
a lot of blues or blues-rock on "The Girl." But her live shows,
such as the one at Triumph Brewery this Friday, April 18, combine
distinct elements of blues, rock ‘n’ roll, country, and folk.
"You can feel all these influences when you hear my music,"
she says. "Each song sort of forms the energy that we try to put
around it." For the Triumph show she plans to bring along accompanists
on bass and violin.
Another important influence for Scoboria, who is of Irish and Welsh
descent, is Joan Baez. Clearly, the record collections of her older
brothers and sisters had an impact on her in her teenage years.
Scoboria majored in political science at Penn State. She graduated
on the four-and-a-half-year plan after taking a semester off to work
and pursue her career as a singer-songwriter.
Asked about the break in her college career, Scoboria says, like a
lot of 20 and 21-year-olds, she was confused for a time about her
future direction. "I took a semester off before I got started
in music. I was having a great time there but I remember being a little
uncertain as to what I wanted to do with my life," she explains.
"When I came back I was certain about my major and I had also
started going after gigs and performing. With political science, you
learn a lot of different skills."
Her first professional, paid gig remains memorable. "In State
College, people are ready to come out and enjoy music every night
of the week," she says. "My first paid show I remember very
clearly. It was at a piano bar called the Allen Street Grill, and
they had equipment there, but at that point I didn’t even realize
my guitar needed a pick-up in it," she says,. The pickup allows
the musician to plug her guitar into a small amplifier to play slightly
"I came to the gig and was singing into the mike and playing my
guitar, but the guitar wasn’t being amplified, so mostly they were
just hearing my voice! After that I realized of course some technical
things do matter," she adds.
It’s a revealing story, because it demonstrates Scoboria’s strong
will to perform. And there’s a certain admirable quality about just
plunging into something, in this case, the world of performing. She
also had to conquer some early stage fright fears. "As a matter
of course, I would learn something new at every show. After a few
months of performing, I found I didn’t need my lyric sheets at gigs."
Her parents’ reaction to her decision to pursue music after college,
Scoboria says, has been totally supportive. She dedicated "The
Girl" to her mom, Kathleen.
"My parents never questioned my choice to try to become a musician,
they just supported it wholeheartedly. And after all, it’s not always
practical to be a musician. They always taught me if I did what I
loved and followed my passions, I’d be happy," she says. A few
years back, when she was working a full-time job and moonlighting
her music, her mother helped her book gigs by calling clubs and venues.
While all her older brothers and sisters have straight
jobs, going back to a straight job herself remains a possibility for
Scoboria. She says the wonderful thing about the music business is
it can be done occasionally, part-time, or full-time. Of her relationship
with Borders Books, Scoboria says certain managers got word of her
performances and passed the good feedback on to several other managers
in the chain. Now she is able to find bookings in Borders stores in
and around Nashville.
Last summer, Scoboria played SoberStock, a large festival in Strausstown,
Pennsylvania, and she went over well enough that they invited there
back this July. This alcohol-free event was initially marketed to
those in recovery, but has recently broadened its focus to include
the general public, she says. She has also been a frequent performer
at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia.
Beyond her prowess as a songwriter and vocalist, perhaps what Scoboria
should be proudest of is her ability to market herself and stay organized.
She books and manages herself: that means mailing out packages, calling
the venue talent buyers back — sometimes numerous times, to see
that he or she got those packages — and sending packages to radio
stations that request them, as well working out travel and lodging
arrangements for road shows.
Through the power of her website, www.pattyscoboria.com,
she has received airplay at radio stations in Spain, Belgium, and
Scandinavia, and on college and public radio outlets in New York State
and western Pennsylvania, she says.
For Scoboria, who last played Triumph Brewing last April, Friday night’s
show will be something of an area CD release party for "Pisces
"To me, the difference between `The Girl,’ and `Pisces Rising,’
is with this newer CD I was a little more focused on creating the
sound for the CD. There’s a bit more of the pop singer-songwriter
vibe on it, as opposed to the folk vibe of the first one. When I wrote
these songs, they sounded like pop songs to me, so that’s how I recorded
them, while still keeping my underlying singer-songwriter roots."
— Richard J. Skelly
Street, 609-924-7855. Soulful vocals, from rock to blues. $3. Friday,
April 25, 9 p.m.
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