"I didn't make the kind of money you guys are probably thinking I made," says Damon C. Scott, a long-time subway busker who sings the chorus on New Jersey-native Storm Queen's 2013 UK chart-topper "Look Right Through," remixed by DJ Mark Kinchen.
"As an entertainer in the United States, I am very unsuccessful," he admits. But Damon at 86th Street, a new documentary by filmmaker Emily Sheskin, details how Scott, the son of Sherry Scott (the first female vocalist for Earth, Wind & Fire) ended up mixing a track that spent 20 weeks on the UK charts, and knocked Rihanna's "Monster" down to number two in November 2013.
Sheskin, who lives off of the 86th Street 4/5/6 subway stop, first heard Scott perform in 2012 (as the documentary attests, he's a big fan of Adele's "Someone Like You"), and got in touch with him last fall. Through conversations with Scott, she learned that his fifteen minutes of fame can be traced back to a subway platform meeting. Several years ago David Levy, a human rights lawyer who hustles as the electronic and horns section for local Motown band Out To Lunch, introduced himself to Scott, and invited him to perform as a for-hire vocalist.
In 2013, it was Levy who introduced Scott to Morgan Geist, a.k.a. Storm Queen, who ended up paying Scott, in his words, "x-amount of dollars" to sing the verses and chorus on "Look Right Through." When the song debuted at number one, "Who do I get a call from? Not Morgan," Scott says, shaking his head. "A booking agent in the UK."
Scott's frustration comes across in the documentary, as he recalls touring around the UK where "no one knew who I was" until he launched into the chorus.
The documentary does not detail how profitable "Look Right Through" was, for Morgan, or for Scott. "I don't know how much Morgan made, or how much he benefited from the song," Sheskin said. "I did learn that DJs tend to make money from booking performances, not necessarily the songs themselves."
"Storm Queen has a lot of fans, but Damon C. Scott doesn't," Scott says. But since "Look Right Through" fell off the charts, Scott, who still performs occasionally in the subway, has certified Great Scott Records, LLC, and has steadily added new tracks to his Soundcloud. The fan base that Storm Queen has, "I'm reaching for that," he says.