Scott Evan Davis is an incredible storyteller. Whether it’s through his hugely popular presence on TikTok as the “Prince of Snarkness” or his work as a songwriter, he knows how to connect with audiences in a way that not everyone does. It’s possible that comes from having a compelling story of his own. Scott never set out to end up where he is today, and the way he got here is the stuff musicals are made of.
But even more beautifully, he didn’t just stop once he achieved his dream. Scott puts in an incredible amount of effort into working with different groups and helping other people find their voice so that they can be heard and chase their own aspirations. I recently spoke with him to not only unravel his story, but discuss how he’s been able to illuminate other stories along the way. Learn more about him in our interview then visit his website to see the full breadth of his talent!
Brittany Frederick: You’ve released several albums as well as written for musicals. Is there a major difference between writing a song for a record versus writing one for the stage?
Scott Evan Davis: I wrote my first song when I was 30, I think, and I just turned 44. It was kind of late in the game, and so I think I’m still always and continually finding out what my process actually is. When I first started writing, I just knew that I wanted to write, so I was writing these standalone songs. I think when I was putting the first albums out they were sort of like stories I had in my head that weren’t attached to any plot or narrative or character, but I really needed to make them stories and specific because that’s what I was drawn to.
And then when I started working on Indigo, which was like a first full musical kind of thing, it really became about writing for necessity. Looking at the piece and story as a structure as a whole and being like “Oh, this moment needs a song.” But when you’re just writing nebulous songs to sort of just get them out of your body, that’s how I would say that the processes are different. One is really narrative-driven and out of necessity for the moment, and then one is just I have this idea for a song and I want to write it.
BF: Indigo is a truly unique idea in an entertainment landscape where people always say there aren’t enough unique ideas. So how did you come up with something that really is distinct and special?
SED: Indigo is about a nonverbal, autistic girl and a grandmother who is experiencing dementia, and a family that they both find themselves living in. And I never thought that that would be the route I would take or that working with the autistic community would be anywhere near what I was doing with my career. It sort of hit me without me knowing it.
I was hired years back to work at P95 Spectrum school. It was ten autistic kids and they wanted to write a musical, and they hired me as a composer. I started working on this musical with them called Powerful Day, and it was about how they were being bullied in school and they all became superheroes. It was really amazing. It was a fun thing to work on. But there was a girl in there who was non-verbal, and I really connected with her. And I think it was then that I started to base [Indigo] sort of loosely off of her, because she was this fantastic writer. She was completely non-verbal, but she would go home and she would blog, and she really had a lot of hits at the time. She was so brilliant, and it really made me start thinking. It was like “If all that is in there, then I would love to represent that in some way.”
This character that I’ve created is not her, but it did become somebody with a couple of [similar] characteristics. For instance Emma, the lead character of Indigo, has synesthesia, which is sort of common within the autistic community. It’s all always individual, but it’s where you sort of see sound as color. Whatever sounds you make or notes that you hear become color patterns. I just thought that was really beautiful, and that’s sort of where Indigo kind of came from, because she had synesthesia. It was a link and a connection, and then it just became its own thing.
BF: How do you write for a non-verbal main character in a musical? That would seem counter-intuitive but you’ve accomplished it.
SED: It’s a lot simpler than it sounds. There’s two things that the character Emma has [in] the way she processes information. One is synesthesia, colors as sound; the other is that she thinks in anagrams. All the words that she hears, she sees the letters sort of flying around and she reshapes them to mean something else that she can connect to.
Because she’s non-verbal, I wanted the audience to hear how she was processing her information. So she does sing. When she sings, nobody [on stage] can hear it, but the audience can. She sings the whole show, which is why when we were casting it, it was really important that we got an autistic actress. There was no way I would have done it if we didn’t do that. So we did a national casting call and had a bunch of submissions. We cast this lovely girl from Wisconsin [named] Madison and she herself isn’t non-verbal. And so she was able to sort of tap into both sides of it.
The songs are structured in a lot of ways as anagrams. A lot of the lyrics are hidden anagrams, almost I would say 80 percent of the show, which is a lot of fun. I think that’s how we tapped into it, by just giving her the ability to sing and be heard. She also has this big dance piece with the grandmother who has dementia and they get lost in a non-verbal sort of world. And the way that it’s envisioned is that on stage, there’s all this sort of CGI behind with all the scrolling news feeds and certain things, and that’s what happens with the letters. What she hears, you see. It’s a little bit visual that way.
BF: Along those lines, you’re also working with a neurodiverse theatre company. How did you get started there, and are there things you’re able to do or do differently with Epic Players that you may not have been able to do with a traditional company?
SED: Absolutely. Epic Players is a professional neurodiverse theater company. All actors are paid, and they are incredibly talented. There are some things that I can do with that population that I can’t do when I’m working with neuro-typical casts or students or whatnot.
For instance, there’s a lot of eye-contact games that I would do with a cast of neuro-typical actors and certain things that I know wouldn’t necessarily be a strong suit at Epic Players. But there are certain things like pitch memory. When you teach a song, if you teach it in a certain key, a lot of the actors learn it and their brain sort of clicks in that place. If throughout the process you want to change the key, or you want to do something different, it might be a challenge to relearn it in a new key.
But it also works to that benefit, too. For harmony, I know that I can put a couple people on it who, once they learn that harmony, they will never change, no matter what. You just play into the strengths of what it is of who you’re working with, but that’s true in any situation, whether they’re neuro-typical or not.