Pacific coast

Sunset District

Songwriter Scott Sullivan, of Sunset District, doesn't usually like songs about love.

Songwriter Scott Sullivan, of Sunset District, doesn't usually like songs about love.

Photo/Anna Hart

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“As people listen to my music, I want them to question what and who is most valuable to them,” said Scott Sullivan, the man behind Sunset District.

Formed in 2010, Sunset District began as a duo, yet over time it became a solo acoustic rock project.

“When Sunset District started, there were two of us,” said Sullivan. “We had heard of a band, Blind Pilot, touring from Washington down to San Diego, California, all by bicycle. So we decided to try it as well. We bought little trailers to hitch onto our bikes, and we rode from Canada to Mexico, playing shows along the way. That’s how it all started. But it’s just me now.”

Sullivan embodies the vision of the stereotypical long-haired, nomadic musician, yet exudes an air of gravitas and wisdom that isn’t often found in 23-year-olds.

For the most part, the music of Sunset District consists of a stripped-down pairing of Sullivan and his acoustic guitar. Lyrically, Sullivan unapologetically opens himself up to vulnerability, while still maintaining a stylistic edginess.

As is the common practice, Sullivan gathers inspiration from his own life. With songs ranging from hopeful and contented to defiant and cynical, Sullivan addresses ideas like the wonders of human potential to the uncomfortable reality of mortality.

Much of what Sullivan has written about has sprung from what he encountered while traveling around the world, to places like Costa Rica, Africa and India, spending time feeding hungry people, researching sex trafficking and developing relationships with locals.

While some experiences influenced the general tone or theme of his work, others left a more concrete mark in Sullivan’s music.

“One of the songs I wrote was about a time when I lived with one of my friends in a slum in Africa,” said Sullivan, referencing his song “Lovely Me.” “One day, a man we met named Martin came and knocked on our door early in the morning. He asked us to come out and see something. … I guess a young lady had snapped her baby’s neck and left him in a bush outside our house. That’s what I wrote [’Lovely Me’] about.”

Sullivan, although not one to shy away from hope or death as subject matters for his music, did, however, choose to eschew one omnipresent subject in his songs: Love.

“I got sick of hearing love songs on the radio. I thought, ’Is that real? Is any of it real?’ So I chose to never write a song about love or a girl until I knew she was going to be my wife.”

In the five years since Sunset District was first created, Sullivan continues to perform, most recently in coordination with Into the Wilderness, an organization that organizes monthly shows featuring local musicians. Now however, Sullivan endeavors to focus more of his energy in a recording studio than on a stage.

Alongside this, Sunset District is in the midst of assembling a music video to accompany his song “Friend.” It’s the first song that Sullivan has ever written for a woman.

“’Friend’ is about me realizing that I wanted to get married and that I needed a friend,” he said. “I wrote this song [for a woman] before she even knew that I liked her. After I wrote it, about two months later, I went up to her and said, ’Hey I don’t know if you’ve noticed me. But I love you, and I want to marry you, and I wrote this song for you.’”

That woman has been his wife for over a year.