He writes the songs: John Scargall has some big-time aspirations//All photos by Tessa Marie Images.
Burning Rubber: John Scargall’s path to success has been surprisingly speedy and stress free.
John Scargall did the sensible thing and went to college, majoring in business at Millersville University. “My trajectory was to graduate from Millersville, then get my MBA, then own my own business or become CEO of a big company,” he says.
He enjoyed his courses in finance and economics so much that he launched his own college-based businesses and raked in some serious money. One company sold coupon booklets for school groups’ fund-raising campaigns. Another, University Bid, was an auction website for college students. “We broke even in the first week,” he says. “The second week, the site crashed because of all the traffic it had.”
Though he’d put his music interests on a back burner, Scargall did participate in the Millersville Idol singing contest. The judges loved his version of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” and he won the competition. “The style is more classical than songs I sing now,” recalls Scargall. “But I liked the operatic expanse of the music.”
Still, the win wasn’t enough to pull Scargall away from a career in business. After graduation, he accepted a job in the finance department at Boeing, where he’d been interning. “It was a great job for being right out of college,” he says. “I was making money, had good benefits and a future with the company.”
Then music managed to sneak back into the picture for Scargall. O’Connor’s album had been released, and he was doing shows in local clubs. Scargall had been at the recording sessions at MorningStar Studios in East Norriton, and he’d started to sing with his friend’s band.
Inspired, Scargall quite his day job to pursue his music full time. “I had enough money to make an album, so that was the plan,” he says.
Over the next year, Scargall worked toward his goal with the same focused work ethic he’d employed in theater and his college businesses—two areas he knew nothing about until he dove into them. He bought books and watched instructional videos about songwriting, honing his voice and performing skills.
Singing with O’Connor’s band meant that Scargall was doing their music: rock. Over time, he realized that his own style wasn’t really that straightforward—and it certainly wasn’t Josh Groban, either.
“What I like is a reflection of Green Day and classic rock that I listen to, with a lot of harmonies and a country influence like the Band Perry, Dierks Bentley and especially Johnny Cash,” says Stargall.
Country rock became Scargall’s genre, so he took it for a spin at open-mike nights around the area, from World Cafe Live in Philadelphia to the Sam Ash music store in King of Prussia. “I would sing covers with a country twist—like Green Day’s ‘She’—with different pacing and a little twang, and the audience responded very positively,” he says. “That’s when I started doing my act as me. Before, I’d been testing things out and doing covers to get used to performing.”
Scargall’s career began to take off. The NHRA booked him to perform at racing venues in the Eastern United States. He won a competition that made his tune, “That Wind’s Always Gonna Blow,” the theme song of Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children’s 2014 Help Our Kids Radiothon. The song went to No. 1 on 93.7 WSTW, giving Scargall a surprise regional hit.
Soon thereafter, NASCAR chose two of Scargall’s tunes for its videogames.
“Every time you start NASCAR ’15, ‘Leave It on the Track’ plays and, to be totally honest, that’s awesome,” he says. “Now, when I play at races, people know the song and sing along. It’s great.”
Scargall also landed an appearance on Steel Sessions, a concert-style TV show that airs on the Lehigh Valley’s PBS39. He played a 25-minute set of songs from Breakthrough. It will be available through iTunes and Amazon on Oct. 9.
“I’ve had a good amount of success before my album is even out, which is not the way it usually happens for musicians,” he says. “I’m grateful for everything that’s happened. I’m living my dream.”
And he’s writing songs for his second album—so look out.