Columbia singer/songwriter lives the American Dream abroad

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 | 6:23 p.m. CDT; updated 11:11 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 29, 2008

COLUMBIA — Hilary Scott is living the American singer-songwriter's dream, but she's doing it on foreign soil.

Scott, who has lived and performed in Columbia since 2000, began performing this month at the Park Hyatt Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Her contract with the hotel includes lodging and enough pay that she won't need to find a night - or rather, day job.

Eking by is common for musicians. Working at coffee shops or, in Scott's case, giving music lessons to help pay the rent, goes with the territory. Making a living performing is achieved by few.

When Premier Talent International, the agency that discovered Scott on MySpace and recruited her to perform in Vietnam, told her how much she would be paid, she was surprised.

Scott said her reaction was, "‘Oh really, you're going to pay me that to play music? ... OK, that's great.'"

Scott's Vietnam gig pays well in part because American music is well-received abroad. The other reason is that Vanessa Feltner, owner and director of Premier Talent International, believes in making as much money for the musician as she can. Feltner, a performing artist herself, has been cheated by agents in the past. She tells her artists all financial information up front and charges a maximum of 10 percent commission, whereas other agents charge 25 percent to 50 percent, Feltner wrote in an e-mail.

Feltner's company books performers for short-term contracts at international five-star hotels in countries including Korea, Japan, China and Vietnam.

Scott performs in the hotel's Park Lounge six evenings a week, usually from 8 p.m. to midnight, leaving her lots of free time during the day, which she's hoping to use to write music.

"I'm going to have a little recording device for ideas" and "hopefully buy a cheap guitar while I'm over there and just keep composing," Scott said.

Scott is required to dress rather formally. She wears a black dress that is similar to a ball gown every night.

Scott, however, doesn't seem concerned that this will stifle her groove.

"I'll still get down and play some rock 'n' roll for 'em," Scott said.

Scott's performances are vocal-piano, and she primarily plays covers and takes requests. Until recently, Scott, an original artist, did not have many covers in her repertoire. She learned about 100 songs in a single month while preparing for the Vietnam job.

Although there are no specific songs Scott was required to learn, her agency provided a suggested song list. Some songs get requested frequently, and it's a good idea to know how to play them, Scott said.

Some of the artists she is covering include Ryan Adams, Sting and Coldplay. Scott is also singing Sarah McLachlan covers.

"You know, some of the ones you'd expect a chick singer to do," Scott said.

Although Scott enjoyed the challenge of learning new songs, she did not look forward to covering every song on the suggested list.

"There's a few songs where I'm like, ‘I don't really want to do that,' but the challenge is interpreting it and arranging it in a way that makes me comfortable playing it," Scott said.

Scott is allowed to sell CDs at the venue and was told to bring a box of 100. She can have more shipped later.

"Since I get to sell CDs, I'm hoping that I'll reach a wide audience," Scott said. "People will then take my music back to different places in the world."

A week after arriving in Vietnam, Scott said in an e-mail that she was having fun and already has lots of stories.

Scott's contract is for three months. It started mid-July and ends in October. After that, she will likely be performing at the Seoul Grand Hyatt in Seoul, South Korea.


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