Scout Gillett Unpacks the Quiet Intimacy of Her Debut LP “no roof no floor”

The Brooklyn-based songwriter takes us track by track through the record, out now via Captured Tracks.
Track by Track

Scout Gillett Unpacks the Quiet Intimacy of Her Debut LP no roof no floor

The Brooklyn-based songwriter takes us track by track through the record, out now via Captured Tracks.

Words: Gareth O'Malley

Photo: Julie Orlick

October 28, 2022

For some, home is a place. For others, it’s an idea. For Scout Gillett, it’s a nebulous concept with constantly changing definitions. It’s no wonder the New Yorker can’t quite get to grips with it—she’s displayed an adventurous spirit all her life, cutting her teeth in the Kansas City punk scene before departing for Brooklyn. It’s there that she’s made her base, at least for now. Gillett’s reaction to returning home to her native Missouri led to her digging deep into what made a place feel like home—“Nothing was as I’d remembered,” she recalled. “I felt homesick for a home that no longer seemed to exist”—sowing the seeds for what would become her debut album. 

Trailed earlier this year by the single “one to ten” and a subsequent EP of the same name, no roof no floor is a remarkable record full of hushed intimacy that creates its own unique type of intensity, Gillett’s voice able to turn on a dime from a whisper to a soaring, cathartic belt. It’s an album of many shades, autumnal enough in spots that an October release makes perfect sense. She’s arrived as close to fully-formed as it’s possible to get, updating early singles “mother of myself” and “signal” to fit into the 10-track record’s more expansive vision. 

She’s been involved in music for longer than you’d think; the groundwork for Gillett’s solo endeavors was laid back in 2016 with the Scout & the Snaggles solo EP, referenced below, but it feels like she’s just getting started. no roof no floor is the kind of album you’ll regret missing out on, so make time for it the first chance you get. 

We got Gillett to dive into the making of the record with us; it’s out now via Captured Tracks.

1. “lonesome dove”
After visiting a close friend at home in Missouri, I was shaken by the pain and struggles that they were facing. “I see right through your coffee colored eyes.” “I feel your pain 1,000 miles away.” “You know I had to go.” As hard as it was to leave my hometown and everyone I knew, going back and seeing these conditions of close friends really struggling with alcohol and drug addiction reiterated the fact that I made the right move to take the leap to NY. 

2. “slow dancin’”
I wrote this ironically—taking a dig at the games of love. The song starts out flirty: “Have I ever told you / You look the best when you’re laughing.” Then, later: “I’m supposed to play the game, conserve the flame / I saw the fire burn in your eyes.” People too often just play games. My take is: Let’s cut to the chase. Originally, I had written this as a downtempo country song. When we went back to the Chicken Shack (where we recorded the album) in the fall of 2020, producer Nick Kinsey and I agreed this song could evolve to something different. We went back and forth on what it could be. He had the idea to have this song be ironically fast and pulsing, juxtaposed against the title itself.

3. “no roof no floor”
I wrote this one after a string of days and nights skinny dipping in the Atlantic Ocean during the peak of COVID. I had connected the fact that love is much like the ocean. If I fought a tide, it would take me under, wreck me and throw me up on the rocks. If I relaxed and let myself go with the flow of the tides, I would gently glide along with no resistance. I long for love to be easy like this image...with no barriers. 

4. “444 marcy ave”
444 is my angel number that I have seen since deciding to move to New York. Marcy Avenue is a special place to me—a lot of my fondest memories of living in New York so far happened there. I wrote this song to encourage my friends and I to surrender to the present and give this whole “being alive” thing our best shot. The guitar riff was composed in early 2019. It took another year and a half for the words and melody to come, and they arrived at the height of the pandemic…at a time where we could all disappear for a while. Ironically, I was driven to stay put. “What if we try our best? Give it the rest / Surrender ourselves, whatever’s left…”

5. “signal”
I wrote this song while over-anticipating the outcome of a newly formed romance. I was looking for reasons and answers as to “why” and the pesky “what if” questions, rather than just letting things happen as they were. The track is a reminder to myself to let go of expectations at a time when I was in a new relationship. I was looking for all kinds of signs and queues to know if it was the right thing. We will never know...and that's what we each need to accept. Let go of the things we cannot control.  

6. “hush, stay quiet”
This is my favorite track on the record. It’s about letting go of trying to save your loved ones. It's desperate, ambient, spooky, hypnotic, powerful, and honest. While writing the lyrics, I took myself back to early childhood memories of escaping an unstable home life and finding another home—and peace—in the woods. The song concludes with the acceptance that you can only save yourself. I did not communicate the message behind this song with the band while recording, but all of the musicians who played just understood. David Lizmi and Zach Djanikian really took this song to the next level. David explored sounds on an upright bass, while Zach added the most beautiful saxophone solo at the end…and in my humble opinion, it’s truly the most magical and moving moment on the record.

7. “mother of myself”
I wanted this song to sound like a swampy heartbeat. One of my favorite parts of this song is the vocal harmonies that El [Kempner] from Palehound added to it. The warmth and richness of their tone added so much texture to the song. It’s subtle and brief, but striking and impactful. Nick Kinsey manually automated the drum machine while tracking the live instruments—not an easy thing to do! But it got us to where we needed to go. 

8. “strangers in silence”
This is a song for anyone who loves hard—so much so that they can get lost in a fantasy land. “And these new seasons give me something to believe in / Even strangers in silence.” I wrote that line following a breakup, while I was on the M train in Brooklyn. I was checking someone out and got lost in the world of possibilities…but was relieved to be doing so, as it confirmed that I was getting over my last relationship. The song concludes with taking off the blindfold and realizing the love you thought existed was a fallacy, therefore freeing yourself from that. The end of the song features some of my strongest vocal takes from the recording session, which really drives the theme of empowerment home.

9. “western eyes”
This is a desperate, dark, and twangy love song. “What will we do for love? / Follow for our love / Follow for what?” I was in a long-distance relationship at the time, and it was very clear early on that the love didn’t have much left to it, given the distance. I love the rich, dark, western tones in this song—ruinous and longing.

10. “crooked”
This song was originally on my first solo EP that I put out in 2016: Scout & The Snaggles. I sent this demo to Sharon Van Etten and she said it was beautiful and that we should get lunch if I’m ever in New York. I, of course, got a ticket to New York to meet with her, and she encouraged me to move to New York. Years later when we were in the studio to record no roof no floor, I decided to re-record it. This song had shifted in its meaning. It had much more of a story and deeper connection behind it. This song is a journey of emotions, and I felt it was the perfect way to end this record. The song that got me here today. The last words: “You’re worth so much more / Please be more.”