When singer-songwriter Marc Scibilia wrote “Wild World”, it was in reaction to the tumultuous times going on at a global level – but he had no idea that this would become the precursor to an unprecedentedly turbulent year in his personal life, as well.
“With everything going on in the world, I was experiencing some low grade anxiety,” Scibilia says, calling from his Nashville home. “It was right before my daughter was born, and I think the idea of a kid coming into the world…” He sighs. “There were just so many things that felt pretty unknown, and I thought, ‘If you’re going to stay sane, you really have to be present with the things that you have the ability to affect.’ So that’s why I wrote the song.”
Scibilia wrote “Wild World” (off of his new album, Seed of Joy, which will be released Sept. 4) with Mike Sabath (a musician/producer who’s worked with Meghan Trainor, Lizzo, Liam Payne, Selena Gomez, and many more) and hit songwriter Jon Nite (whose songs have been recorded by Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, and Keith Urban, among numerous others).
It was, says Scibilia, a departure from his usual songwriting process. “This one was a little bit different because we created this in five or six hours. It was basically done in that timeframe. But a lot of the other music on the whole album was written over the course of a year.”
And what a roller coaster of a year it turned out to be for Scibilia. “It was a really beautiful and painful year,” he says. When his daughter was born, his father came to visit soon after – but what should’ve been a joyous occasion quickly turned into something shocking. “My dad walked in the door and he was acting really weird, he was shuffling his feet, he couldn’t really speak very well. I realized immediately something was really wrong,” Scibilia says.
Scibilia’s worst fears were, unfortunately, proven correct when his father was then diagnosed with brain cancer. “That sent my world spinning,” he says. He spent the next year traveling as often as he could to Buffalo, where he’d grown up, to help his father. “Spending time with him, doing doctor’s appointments, doing research, trying to do anything we could do to save his life. But it was terminal brain cancer.”
Even during this terrible time, though, Scibilia found that he was still able to work on his songwriting, thanks to “having these really raw, beautiful, painful conversations with [my father] – he said things I’ll never forget – and then really processing it through songwriting. I would come home and jot down ideas.”
When Scibilia’s father passed away this past January – followed soon after by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown – Scibilia knew he was finally ready to make his album. “I was just like, ‘Now is a great time to record these songs. I really hadn’t had the time before that. So I went down into my basement studio and didn’t leave for three months.”
Now that his work is done, Scibilia has time to reflect on everything that’s happened. He is trying to stay focused on good memories, like the fact that his father was able to meet his daughter. “It was incredible. He loved her. When he met her, all he could say was, ‘Oh, my God.’ He had his head down, with tears. It was really beautiful.”
Besides being an adoring grandfather, Scibilia’s father was also a talented musician: “My father was an amazing guitar player, and he sang, as well,” Scibilia says, adding that his grandfather was a bass player and band leader. Thanks to this musical family legacy, he says, “I was possessed by this idea that this is what I was going to do since I was a super young kid: I’m talking like, earliest conscious thoughts: ‘This is what I was made to do.’”
Despite this enthusiasm for his craft, it still took Scibilia a while to figure out his songwriting “voice”: “When I first started writing music, I thought you’d want to capture big ideas and paint them as broadly as you possibly can so that a lot of people would understand them and want to connect to them,” he says. “But the weird thing I found out is, the things that really resonate with people are very specific. Then people insert their own stories that really have nothing to do with my specific story.”
Once he figured out his personal style, Scibilia became a prolific writer. He released his debut EP, Fixity, in 2007, and has put out four more EPs since then (including a 2012 self-titled EP that contained the song “How Bad We Need Each Other,” which became a hit after being featured in the television series Bones). In 2015, he released his first full-length studio album, Out of Style.
Throughout his career, Scibilia has also collaborated with numerous musicians, perhaps most notably with rapper Jim Jones on his 2019 album El Capo. That work came about when Scibilia met Rsonist (of the production duo The Heatmakerz), who produced that album. “I had had all these songs that I called my ‘secret songs,’” Scibilia says. “I started playing him these recordings that I hadn’t played for anyone. He flipped out over them and he knew exactly what to do.” Four of Scibilia’s tracks ended up on the final album. “That was a pretty cool thing because I had all this music, but I didn’t know it would ever see the light of day.”
Scibilia knows that doing this other type of work is unusual for someone in his position. “I did a lot of different things that a singer-songwriter normally doesn’t do, and I’m glad I did it. It was by design, by choice,” he says. And, he adds, these other projects actually do help him with his singer-songwriter work: “It really ends up usually being a pretty mind-opening experience that informs what I do in the future.”
Scibilia says he tries to remain open-minded when considering what work he’ll do with others. “Honestly, I’m just following my gut most of the time. If it feels right, you walk towards it; if it doesn’t, you don’t.” But there is one requirement that he always keeps in mind: “Being a gracious person goes a long way,” he says. “That, to me, is the biggest threshold, because if there is an ego that is overinflated, that’s going to kill any magic that may exist.”
Happy as Scibilia has been to work with others, he’s glad to be releasing his own album next, because putting Seed of Joy out into the world (chaotic as it may still be) seems like the right thing to do now. “I just really wanted to put this out in a timely matter in relation to my dad’s passing and everything that’s on my mind at the moment, so that I can be available to whatever music or whatever thing I’m supposed to do next.”
Photo Sam Hagwell