OUT OF STYLE
“Sometimes I look at the world in a darker way,” says Marc Scibilia, “but when I hear a melody, when a lyric comes to me, I feel like things are going to be OK.”
While the sounds and styles of the eleven songs on Scibilia’s debut album, Out of Style, span a broad spectrum—from singer-songwriter narratives to dance beats, drawing on folk, pop, and rock along the way—this hard-fought but positive spirit never wavers. Produced by critically acclaimed artist and hitmaker Butch Walker (Pink, Fall Out Boy, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban), and one of the first releases on the new IRS Nashville imprint of Capitol Records, Scibilia’s LP marks the arrival of a major new talent.
“Marc came out on the road with me and in five minutes, I fell in love with him,” says Walker. “I’m a sucker for someone who can write a song with heart and emotion and meaning, but still have the decency to put a pop hook in it and make it relatable. You just want him to win, he deserves it—he’s just a good soul.”
Scibilia, born in Buffalo, New York to a musical family, has been playing various instruments since his childhood while soaking up influences from classic rock to hip-hop. A month after graduating from high school, he moved to Nashville and committed to his songwriting. Since then, he’s released three independent EPs; seen his songs featured on multiple television shows; and toured with the likes of John Oates, Sixpence None the Richer, and James Bay.
“Half the songs on this album were written five years ago, and half in the last four months,” says Scibilia. “I think the sound we got is where it all came together. There’s lots of skin and bones, blood and heart, but also a lot of mechanical parts–kind of man-meets-machine.”
“We tried not to chase trends,” he continues. “We tried to chase a feeling, and hope it resonated. This wasn’t about getting in the studio and talking about who won Grammys last year, then trying to reproduce that. I pulled from the music I loved growing up—from Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix and the Beastie Boys—but also from more current artists like Lorde and Delta Spirit. Sometimes I feel more connected to the music of the past, but the record is very modern-sounding.”
The turning point came when he turned over the demo of the song “Wide Open Arms” to Walker, who mapped out a new structure and added a rhythm track. “When I came back the next day, he had worked his magic on it,” says Scibilia. “It wasn’t just completely me anymore, but something bigger.
“After that, the rest of the songs came from that greater sense of size that something could achieve. I wanted to grow from the production, to be on someone else’s journey. Especially working with Butch, I wanted to get on that ride—even if it would be uncomfortable at first, I wanted to see where it went.”
The greatest transformation came with “When the World Breaks,” a song Scibilia wrote when he visited Kenya about a year ago. “I’d never been to Africa before and I saw such unbelievable things—great beauty and heart-breaking tragedy,” he says. “You could hear funeral processions all night; there was music happening all the time. I put a vocal chant at the end of the song, but Butch identified that chant as something in the song’s core DNA and turned it into this enormous freight train of optimism.”
“The template was ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ by Tears for Fears,” says Walker. “Marc’s song feels really epic, makes you feel good. The message might be bleak, but it ends bittersweet.”
Most surprising of all might be “Everybody is Somebody,” a straight-up pop-dance jam. “One of my favorite artists is Michael Jackson,” says Scibilia. “Whenever his music comes on, I feel good. So I wanted to have some songs that would immediately hit people and they’d think, ‘My body knows what to do with this song!’ “
The song’s inspiration, though, is a little less predicable. “My parents had a surprise party for my 16th birthday, and not many people came,” he says with a laugh. “It was a traumatic experience, but now it’s funny. So it’s a pop song, but it’s really true—it’s about not being fancy, hip, supercool. I go to party and feel a bit out of place, and those are those feelings at the heart of the record.”
It’s a theme that carries through to the title of the album. “This record is called Out of Style because I think that’s how a lot of people feel—out of the loop, out of the know, off the path, tired of the mainstream,” says Scibilia. “Most of the time I feel like an outsider to the speed of the times we live in, to the front page of the news, to the things most pop stars sing about.”
The project’s launch picked up a big boost when his performance of “This Land is Your Land” was featured in a 90-second Super Bowl commercial for the new Jeep Renegade campaign. Scibilia’s recording—with his own modifications of the arrangement—was the most “Shazam-ed” moment (next to the halftime show) of the biggest television event of the year.
“I went out and bought a TV that morning so my girl and my brother and our friends in Nashville could all watch,” he says. “It felt like ten years of hard work realized in a moment. And Woody Guthrie is the greatest American songwriter, so to have this first big piece of this experience associated with him is just an honor.”
Scibilia should start getting used to such immediate response to his music. He wrote the high-speed talking blues “Sideways” as a stream-of-consciousness rap when his touring van broke down outside of Atlanta. When he played it at his next show, he remembers thinking, “Is this the strangest song anyone’s ever heard?” But the audience started clapping along after the first verse, and the song hasn’t changed since.
Another song, “Times Like This,” is even more personal to Scibilia, having been inspired by a family tragedy. “I sat down and fifteen minutes later, there it was,” he says. “The first time I played it live, people knew what to do. They knew the lyrics after one chorus, there was a built-in response. The sense of beauty and tragedy together is really what the record is about.”
Marc Scibilia knows that his music challenges definitions and can be tough to classify from song to song. “I love all kinds of music and write in a really wide range of sounds,” he says. “I think a song resonates with people because it feels true and has soul, and less because of any genre or label it’s tagged with.”
And that’s what it means to make music that’s timeless, that reaches across audiences—that truly won’t be going Out of Style.