Primitive Employee Spotlight: JJ Scott

Posted by Leisa Redmon | September 25, 2020

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Name: JJ Scott
Position: Copywriting, content strategy, and branding
Location: Lubbock, Texas

Job Description: I make sure the clients’ websites hit differently than before. I take a clients’ goals and story — and if they don’t think they have a compelling story, I help them uncover it — and then I make sure we’re arranging the elements in a way that makes them stand out from the competition.

I pass this framework on by way of: a wireframe, branding guide, copy deck, or other foundational “blue print” depending on the project goals.

You started in this industry as a writer. What made you so interested in writing?

I just love learning and research. Writing is simply the natural output of those life-of-the-mind pursuits. 

To me, writing is the culmination of analysis and synthesis. Writing is a really compulsive thing for me, too. I use it to make sense of the world and bring order to all the various tidbits floating around inside my head. 

Ultimately, writing helps me think better.

Tell us how you started at Primitive.

I was a freelance copywriter in Amarillo and Kade and I had a mutual friend. I guess Kade was looking for somebody, and then I was on a ladder painting on one Saturday and got a phone call from him. He said, “Hey, this is Kade. We have a company in Lubbock and we’re looking for somebody to help us write blogs and social media posts for this new client,” and I said, “Yeah I'm interested. I'd like to meet you, but I don't know when the next time I’m going to be in Lubbock is.” He said, “Well, can you meet us in a couple of hours in Amarillo at Roasters coffee shop?” 

So that was my first introduction to how quickly Kade likes to move, and we've been working together ever since. That was spring of 2013.

When Kade reached out to you, were you looking for a creative writing opportunity?

I was already doing work for a lot of small one-offs, like instruction manuals and newsletters, here and there. I was kind of just trying to kick up a lot of work, and actually worked with Kade as a freelancer for probably two years before I came on full-time. 

So because I really love the heavy research component of writing, and trying to find different applications of “How do I learn as much as I can about something and then sort of spit it out in a really concise way?”, I feel as though I had already found a niche that was founded in the entire process and happened to feel like more than just creative writing.

What did you do when you first started at Primitive? 

I built social media calendars and wrote blogs. The thing with Primitive is it's just gone up and up and up. So initially, I was doing something with really like one client. Then two months later, it’s two. So I really grew from being a freelancer to a full-time employee.

What is it like to know how far Primitive has come?

It's been really interesting and exciting; it’s always something new. 

Before, I might have stayed at a job for maybe three years and then done something else just because you hit a ceiling and there’s not as much to learn. It’s never been like that here. It's always kind of like a new challenge; that's what really is exciting about it all.  

As things have settled a bit, I actually find myself continuing to still love it because Primitive is at a refinement stage which is core to my DNA. I mean, what do they say about writing? Writing is just rewriting.

How do you encourage creativity in your work and others?

Creativity is all about curiosity and restraint. It’s really interesting how many people don’t give the restraint part any thought. But if you think about any kind of great art, and you’re curious enough to figure out how and why it works, you will almost always arrive at the restraint as a fundamental element of greatness. 

The recent film 1917 for instance: they did all this in a single shot? 

The Pulitzer Prize winning The Road by Cormac McCarthy: he wrote a story completely within an overdone genre (post-apocalyptic journey) and yet managed to make it so unique and compelling as if it had never been done before? 

It’s that restraint part that most people are missing from their creative approach, myself included. I want to have unlimited shots in my movie, or invent an entirely new genre of fiction. It’s counter-intuitive to think the more limits I place on myself, the more margin for creativity I will have, but it’s as true as the sky is blue. That’s why I press really hard into the fundamentals of this stuff. I’m a craftsman, here. An artist in my personal life. That gets into arts vs. crafts… which is a whole other thing. I’ll spare you.

Do you feel like you’ve grown in your knowledge since you started this role?

Oh absolutely. You have to, or I have to. It’s my compulsion and curse. Learn or die. 

As it relates to Primitive, growth is definitely part of the culture, which is invaluable. I’ve never once been denied a learning opportunity. Plus, within this still-emerging industry there’s always new stuff. Although, if you’re not building your knowledge on the foundations of the industry such as the psychology of sales and buying and consumer behavior, your mindset can be passed off as being shallow. Because ultimately that stuff is not changing to the extent of Instagram’s new algorithm or whatever is the topic de jour. So the field is endless. Primitive is a learners’ paradise for sure.

What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

I really like the projects that aren't necessarily the ones where a client says we have open liberty and creative freedom to do whatever we want to on this. 

Again, there's a lot of reasons why I don't like that kind of project. I think the challenge of it is not necessarily to see how creative you can be, but for me when somebody gives me some pretty tight boundaries I like to challenge myself to do something new and fresh within those constraints. 

Finding the room for creativity within that is the challenge to me. So a lot of bigger clients who have a really big presence out there are those ones that have more specific needs and requests. While all those are longer projects, they're more fun for me because we really get to surprise them by exceeding what they thought was possible within the requirements.

It's always really fun to give them exactly what they asked for and then have it include other layers of richness. Those projects have more challenges than “easy wins” but in my experience those clients always come away happier.

What do you like about the culture?

The culture is really kind of who all’s there. It’s a place where I think people can come and be themselves. I feel like there's a culture of trying to be open and honest, and that comes from the top. I think that makes people feel more comfortable to make mistakes. 

Our culture also changes with each new person, too. I mean, there’s a general framework that is really cool, but different people bring different things, no matter what the framework is. But to have a view of culture that allows that is what’s special. So there’s lots of margins like that here for individualization and a great hiring process now that identifies for that in a really beneficial way. It’s a kind of organic architecture.

Why are you committed to Primitive? 

I think that there is a commitment from Kade and Jerred to everybody. If that wasn't there, it would make it difficult. 

Even still, I feel like Primitive really has a lot of people who are internally motivated. So I just want to keep on getting better at what I'm doing, and this is a place where I can do that. It's really a place that has not had any ceilings really, and it’s a place that has allowed me to grow in the ways that they needed me to grow and the ways that I’m looking to grow.

Anything you’re excited for in Primitive’s future?

I'm just continually excited. 

The web work is a lot different than the other departments because pretty much every other department gets to know their clients and the programming of the media you're creating and then you just go and tweak. With the web team, it's kind of always different so it's like there's really no sort of ability to get comfortable in what you're doing. Every new project is just exciting, and we onboard two or three clients a week. I've worked in a ton of different industries in different capacities, so it's like, “How can I bring that knowledge into this?” So you get to really leverage things you’ve learned before.

I’m also really excited about our GDD process. It’s really been pivotal to put a lot of power back into the client’s hands. 

The traditional way of building websites (in the industry at large) just forced too much onto the client — it was really built for the agency. So we’re really happy to have shirked that system and now we’ve ironed out a lot of the kinks in GDD and we’re getting to my favorite phase of learning a system, wherein like music — you know the scales, you know the rules, you know the limits, now it’s time to improvise and innovate within. 

It’s jazz time. 

There’s only two ways to be great: do something that no one has ever done before or thought of (impossible) or do something better than everyone else through practice and routine. I always like the practice and routine phase. That’s where the magic happens.

Okay, now let’s talk more about you. What’s your daily routine? 

I usually wake up like a long time before I get out of bed. When I first wake up, I'm reading a lot of news and stuff like that. Then, as soon as my feet touch the floor, it's like a fever-pitch pace to get out of the house and get Lennon, our 5 month-old, to daycare. 

Work usually starts with emails. I go check and make sure nothing is on fire, and then it's just working though the normal things like wireframing, a lot of research and some copywriting. We have internal syncs to discuss project nuances and I meet with clients too, particularly if they’re navigating nuance. To unwind during the week… I’m still trying to figure out how to do that with a new babe around.

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What’s your favorite kind of music?

I really like a lot of different stuff. I have a pretty specific approach to finding new music and I honestly listen to 5-8 new releases a week. On Friday nights, after the new music comes out, I’ll generally look at AllMusic Guide (insider tip) for any four-star albums to add to my “To Listen To” Spotify playlist. Same goes for Pitchfork “8+ Reviews”, Paste Mag (whose review structure categories are the worst), Stereo Gum, and whatever I come across on Reddit. 

I am generally opposed to algorithms for listening materials because I think it narrows exposure to different things and I want to be in charge of the art I experience. So I’ll listen to those 8 or so albums 2-3 times a week and delete them from that list if they suck, or I’ll add them to my Best of [Year] playlist. 

I guess a better question to ask is, “What’s your favorite [insert genre] record this month?” I listen to country, indie, jazz, even some classical. But I also generally only listen to full albums. I have a list of favorite songs, sure, but I want the full experience of hearing an album from start to finish. It’s the difference between reading a tweet of a news story and reading the full story. Hearing the singles is like getting your news from the headlines versus engaging with the full story. I’m looking for that deeper level of engagement from anything worth my time.

What are some of your favorite books?

I can’t say favorites. It’s just too hard. Right now I’m reading a couple of westerns. I’m reading Lonesome Dove and Blood Meridian. I’m also looking at Fight Club, which I generally don’t like Chuck Palaniuk, but I’m interested in learning the mechanics of fiction and a writer pal told me I should read him. It’s the first paperback I’ve read in awhile — usually I read on a Nook device and so I’m really loving the dog ear and crinkly page turning part...

What do you like to do outside of the office?

I'm always going to be exploring art and deconstructing it to figure out how I can make my own work better, so it's always going to be around that. That's what drives me to unpack music, movies and even photography. I like taking photos, writing my food blog, and cooking. 

I recently got some cheap “point and shoot” film cameras from the 80’s and 90’s and so I’m currently falling back into love with photography, which had gotten stale to me in the digital medium. 

Shooting film is a denial of the instant gratification you get when you shoot digital and there’s something that feels more important about it. I’m still taking dumb shots of a french fry or something on my phone… but that detritus is now separate from the moment I caught of my daughter noticing our dog for the first time. One will be deleted the next time I upgrade my phone, and one will live on, on real paper and I’ll hand it to her one day and say, “Here’s when you noticed your dog for the first time.” And of course that’s only true if I actually captured that moment — I won’t know until I send it off for development. There’s something at stake in that and it’s kinda refreshing. But in a way it makes that moment tangible, too. And since it’s not on the phone, it separates it and elevates it from so much drivel. 

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Tell us more about your interest in food.

I have a food blog at icamehereforthefood.com. I generally try to write on that once or twice a month. I have a couple of blogs and a newsletter. I generally consider them arenas for “practice.” The food blog especially so. I do review food there, but more interestingly to me is the sort of cultural critique element of it. I have found food, thanks to the influence of Anthony Bourdain (r.i.p.), as an avenue to think and write about anything in life. It’s an exercise in subversiveness. Also with an element of everyman curiosity. I recently wrote about Braum’s because Lubbock opened several new ones that have been attracting multitudes. What does that say about the state of things? Lol. 

What is something not everyone knows about you?

  • I play guitar. I brew beer and Kombucha.
  • A book I ghost-wrote recently got picked up by an agent and published and the “author” has been on a few podcasts and radio shows for it. 
  • I rode a Greyhound bus to Wyoming a few years ago and went backpacking for eight days. 
  • I almost got my major in economics, which means I'm about eight credits away from not ever getting to know anyone at Primitive. 
  • I used to read my dad’s Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton books in like the 4th grade. I barely understood any of it, but I finished them and loved using the dictionary and context clues to try to gain understanding.
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Who do you admire?

My wife – hard. Having a baby just really opens your eyes to the pure bossness women possess. And I’m not saying I never knew it before, but having a child peels back a whole new beautiful layer and It’s impossible to have seen that any other way. Just witnessing the patience and endurance and the tenderness; it’s superhuman.

What is your secret to success?

Am I successful? What is success?

This question assumes a lot, but...I just keep showing up.

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