Zack Scribner on Red Mountain in September 2021. (Photo courtesy Zack Scribner)

Zack Scribner on Red Mountain in September 2021. (Photo courtesy Zack Scribner)

Seldovia singer channels local history, personal meditation on new record

Zack Scribner is a graduate of Susan B. English School in Seldovia

The first voice a listener hears after pushing “play” on Zack Scribner’s 2023 album “Seldovia Songs” belongs to Walter McInnes — Scribner’s grandfather, who describes where he and his family were during the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.

“My stepfather was in front of city hall when the earthquake hit,” McInnes, who died in 2017, says.

The earthquake remains the largest ever recorded in North America, and the namesake for the opening track on “Seldovia Songs.”

“That’s just a very important staple of history for that town and all of Alaska,” Scribner said. “I didn’t know I wanted that to be the opening track or anything like that, but that was one of my first ideas for the album was to write about that specifically.”

The dreamy track sets the scene for the version of Seldovia that Scribner presents in the album’s subsequent songs: “1964 / what once was is now no more.”

Scribner, 20, is a graduate of Susan B. English School in Seldovia, where he attended first through 12th grade. He started making music when he was 14 and participated in the school’s rock band class and middle school talent show. With his brother, Scribner has previously performed as part of Daryl and the Scribs; now they perform as Seward’s Folly out of Portland, Oregon.

He describes himself as “mainly a drummer,” but plays multiple instruments and created all the sounds heard on “Seldovia Songs.” The album is tagged as “folk,” “indie” and “lo-fi” on Scribner’s Bandcamp page, but Scribner said he doesn’t like being tied to a specific genre.

“Seldovia Songs,” he said, was inspired by Sufjan Stevens, a singer and songwriter who has also dedicated entire albums to a single place (see “Michigan” and “Illinois).

“I thought that was just a really cool, creative idea,” Scribner said. “I wanted to do something like that, but that was more directly about where I grew up. … It just sounded like a cool idea and something that I feel like I could have I could accomplish. And I did.”

“Seldovia Songs” is a mix, he said, of songs about people and about nature.

The album’s opening track is one of three that incorporates his grandfather’s voice. Scribner said he and his brother found recorded interviews McGinnis gave to the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Project Jukebox, a branch of the Oral History Program that aims to collect and curate audio and video recordings relating to different aspects of Alaska’s history, and wanted to sample it in music.

Listening to the recordings, Scribner said, was a way to both learn more about Seldovia and to connect with his grandfather in a new way.

“A part of it is, I kind of regret (not) talking to him growing up because I didn’t do a lot of that,” he said. “I spent a lot of my time as a child buried in screens. It’s kind of a way of recapturing a lot of the specific things he had to say that I never paid attention to.”

Also heard on the “Seldovia Songs,” are “field recordings” — ambient sound from around town, which Scribner said he captured using his cellphone. They include boats in the harbor and crows cawing, and a unique weather phenomenon in Jakolof Bay.

“There’s a sound in there that kind of sounds like thunder almost, but it’s snow falling off the mountain in springtime out in Jakolof Bay,” he said. “It makes this crazy booming sound.”

“Graduation Prelude,” is Scribner’s favorite track on the album, and opens with what he said are some of his favorite lyrics he’s ever written: “i’ve been alive almost 18 years, and still / the birds can sing better than me / they were born to be / what i’ve become / a messenger / a climber of mountains // you have to do it once in your life.”

The song is about achieving goals, he said, and is about his summit of Graduation Peak overlooking Seldovia.

“I climbed it one time and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” he said. “I could barely walk by the end of it, but I got to see everything. I got to see the curvature of the earth and I got to just experience being up there and looking down on everything. It’s a very surreal experience.”

Another track — “Red Mountain” — recounts a local urban tale that Scribner said his mom used to tell him when he was young. As the story goes, a Red Mountain resident woke up one morning to find that all his cows were abducted by an alien spaceship. It’s then said he ran down from the mountain and into town — naked.

The story is just one of many “little legends” that Scribner said he wishes he knew more of and that are uniquely Seldovian.

“(They) are just so interesting to me and feel like they have some sort of deeper meaning hidden inside that can be put within that piece of art,” he said.

Scribner doesn’t live in Seldovia anymore, and he doesn’t plan to move back. He’s called Portland home since 2022 and is currently trying to get a new band off the ground. He put out a 34-minute song earlier this month, called “my heart is closing like a fist,” and said he’s limited now to the instruments at his disposal: a guitar, a bass and synthesizers.

“I’m trying to get on a new path, I guess,” he said. “Putting (“Seldovia Songs”) out was kind of moving on to me.”

The album ends the same way it begins — with the gravelly voice of Walter McInnes, talking about Seldovia’s days gone by. The final song is equal parts love letter to and mournful meditation on a version of a town that doesn’t exist anymore, called only, “Seldovia,”: “every place that i go / nothing reminds me of home / nothing compares, and i know / when i think I’m alone // you’ll always be / apart of me.”

Scribner said people will interpret his work in different ways, but that he ultimately makes music for himself. The songs are deeply personal, he said, and may not be of interest to anyone outside his close circle. His work is freely available, and he said the best way people support him is just by listening.

“Consuming it is all that I could hope for,” he said.

“Seldovia Songs,” as well as Scribner’s other music, can be heard at

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

Zack Scribner performs live in Seward’s Folly on Jan. 5, 2024 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo courtesy Zack Scribner)

Zack Scribner performs live in Seward’s Folly on Jan. 5, 2024 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo courtesy Zack Scribner)

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