It was a Tuesday night in 2021. I was sitting in The Lipstick Lounge, Nashville’s local lesbian bar, attending RNBW, a weekly LGBTQ+ showcase. I sat near the stage at a large table amongst strangers and friends, one of whom was Laura Valk. Naturally, after introducing herself as an indie-folk singer-songwriter, I knew I had to find her music and see if she was compatible with Queerfest, my local LGBTQ+ music showcase and festival. I was stunned. Not only to find a phenomenal, local queer musician, but upon the realization that I had already liked one of her videos on TikTok! If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the queer music industry is small – and TikTok’s algorithms had me figured out.
Skout is a duo composed of Laura Valk and Connor Gladney. They played the first festival I hosted, a virtual event livestreamed in collaboration with Club Passim, and they were one of the first artists to play a live Queerfest show, back when I was hosting performances in a friend’s backyard before working with established venues.
It’s been an honor and a pleasure to watch them join the local Nashville community, take off on tours, and release new songs. Their music is laced with intricate guitar lines, hard-hitting lyrics, and warm, catchy melodies. I’m proud to present our Out Now interview with Laura Valk of Skout.
@skoutoutloud I have it for 24 hours, what do you wanna hear? #rubberbridge #acousric #phoebebridgers #ethangruska #allisonponthier #cover @Allison Ponthier ♬ original sound – Skout
What’s your greatest fear?
Laura Valk: Living a life with regret. It’s so insane that we’re all here to begin with, and I just want to make sure I’m taking full advantage of my time here. I know I’ll stumble along the way, but I want to live a life where I took some chances and big leaps of faith instead of always playing it safe. In the words of everyone’s favorite grassroots folk hero, Eminem, “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.”
What would a “perfect day” look like for you?
LV: The year is 2012. At 8 a.m. I wake up to a text from Ben Howard asking us to open for him on his Every Kingdom Tour. Literally anything else could happen that day and it would still be perfect. Maybe some blueberry pancakes somewhere in there, too.
What’s your current state of mind?
I’ve been going through a rough patch the last few months both personally and professionally. So I’m trying to be really intentional this summer about how I spend my time and energy. Re-focusing on the things and people that fill me up and letting go of everything else.
Why do you create music? – What’s more satisfying to you, the process or the outcome?
Process 100%. There’s truly no higher high for me than the moments when a song is starting to take shape. It’s like an out of body experience. Connor and I constantly get lost in the process and it’s just this addicting feeling. Don’t get me wrong, we love sharing new music. It’s magic when you play a new song out and someone shares a personal experience that relates. But I think the formal release of a song into the world can feel like slapping all these benchmarks and metrics onto something that really is beyond measure.
Do you create music primarily for yourself or for others?
It’s all about ME. I’m kidding. Except it is, really, about me. Whoops.
I guess what I mean is that I hardly ever write with other people’s opinions in mind. A mentor once gave some great advice, that the best way to write widely relatable songs is to get as personal and specific to you as humanly possible. So I always try to write with that in mind.
Who are your favorite LGBTQ+ artists and bands?
For anyone reading this who might not be out of the closet, were there any specific people, musicians, or resources that helped you find yourself as a queer individual?
This is going to be specifically unspecific but, for me, it was all about individual friends when I was first coming out. When you share this new part of your identity with a trusted friend and instead of turning their back on you, they reinforce their love and support for you, that changes everything. That process, repeated enough times, was truly the thing that made me start feel safe while exploring my identity.
What are your release and touring plans for the next year?
We have two new singles coming out later this year! We’re psyched, we think we’re writing our best music yet and can’t wait for you to hear it.
“But if I come up short like I fear/ Will you still be proud you brought me here?” is a lyric from your latest single, “I Am Here.” How have you found the challenges of pursuing a music career and how do you cope with the slow process of growth? With that, how do you define success?
Ugh, it’s hard, man! It sounds cliché, but really celebrating the little wins is everything. The thing is, I’ll never stop making music. Ever. I’m in it for the long haul, and I think that mentality helps when I’m frustrated by slow growth. Some seasons feel like rapid-fire while during others, the motivation is harder to find. But I think knowing that the opportunity to create will always be there helps relieve some of that pressure. I’m just trying to be kinder to myself in this area.
For me the definition of success has always been a moving target. When I was in high school, success in music meant selling out Madison Square Garden. Tour busses, the Grammys, our faces tattooed on your chest, etc. Today it looks a little different. I think if I can make a full-time living off of music, in all of its forms, that, to me, would be success. And the tattoos of course. Someone tattoo our faces on yourself already so I can feel successful!!
Drawing from another lyric from the single, “But a song I wrote, it changed one life/ And the friends I hold, I hold them tight,” do you feel that changing one life is enough to make all of your time, efforts, and pursuits worth it?
Does changing a single life make all the hours, the investment, the rejections, the crashing on couches, the blood, sweat, and tears worth it? No. Probably not. But it’s still worth reminding myself of every once in a while. It’s one of those little wins I talked about above.
I think this verse captures the essence of “I Am Here,” and really touches on the success question above. It’s admitting that no, life doesn’t necessarily look like I thought it would. But there are some absolutely beautiful, redeeming things about my new reality that I need to celebrate harder. And it’s the sum of all the hundreds and thousands of little things that does, in fact, make it all worth it.
Photo of Skout courtesy of Skout.