Q&A with DePaul violinist Scout Ripley

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As singer-songwriter Claire Watkins, or Scout Ripley as she is known to her fan base, approaches the microphone, her brown hair falls over her left eye as she reaches down for her Yamaha five-string electric violin. Facing an audience of ten or so people, she begins to play, quickly filling the space with her powerful sound. Watkins works with a looping pedal, creating something much bigger than a solo violin. With that unique sound, she has been able to create a supportive fan base for not only herself, but for her music as well.

Q: How did you get into performing?

A: Well, I’m at the School of Music for classical violin, so violin has always been something I’ve been doing. And I’ve always been interested in being in bands and exploring the more alternative side of violin playing. I’ve been in different bands and when those dissolved I kind of thought, “well, what can I do on my own?” I’m familiar with Andrew Bird, Owen Pallett…I was kind of inspired by that, I was like “oh I can learn how to do that.” So I bought a looping pedal so that’s kind of how that started.

Q: So you said violin has always been your thing, when did you start playing?

A: I was a Suzuki kid, I started really young, when I was five my parents started me in violin lessons.

Q: When you first started playing violin, was there ever a moment when you realized “this is what I want to do”?

A: I think most people have a similar arc when you start playing when you’re a kid because your parents want you to, and then you do it for however long. At some point, you have to do it for yourself. For me, that came around the age of 12 or 13, especially when I started playing a lot of chamber music. I did that in middle school and high school, and that was huge. That was the first time I was really able to dive in on my own and really enjoy playing.

Q: I looked on your Facebook page and noticed you come up with new songs all the time, what’s your inspiration behind writing those songs?

A: It’s definitely musical ideas first. I’ll either hear something in a piece I’m working on or I’ll be messing around with the looping pedal, and I’ll be like “oh that’s a cool idea, what can I do with that?” Some of them are dictated by the loops, some of them are less so. Generally though, the song writing is informed by what I can do with the pedals.

Q: Did you have a good support system with your music growing up?

A: My family’s always very supportive, my little sister is also a musician. She plays the flute and she’s also going to college for that. It’s always been about applying ourselves and being good at what we do. For the most part, it’s been something I’ve enjoyed doing and applying myself with. I also made a lot of friends doing it so that’s another thing, you kind of get that bug when you enjoy being around other musicians and making music with them. Those are my lasting friendship as a kid, are the ones I made and that community is really important too.

Q: You have a good fan base with them too.

A: Yeah, right. They’re really supportive and also helpful with different projects. Everyone’s willing to help out and that means that you might be able to do something you might otherwise not have been able to do.

Q: Do you have any sort of, end goal for your music?

A: I would love to be able to make a living, I’d love to be able to pay rent by playing music. I’m working on an album now, I’m always happy when I’m able to put out something good. I would love to be able to tour it and just have as many people hear it as possible. Watkins is currently working on an EP and can be found at facebook.com/scoutripley.