Gus + Scout
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Gus + Scout

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The universe has finally found a way to reward me for many years of loyal Gossip Girl watching. I’ve always been an un-cynical GG fan, holding out hope that a world does exist in which everyone is young and beautiful and dressed in captains hats and extreme footwear and studying at Ivy League schools where they never actually do any work. I’ve always believed I would one day get to visit this place and last week, at the Gus and Scout show at the Mercury Lounge, that day finally came.
“As hard as it is to be a band with no connections, it’s uniquely tricky to be a band with super powerful connections.”
Some background: Gus is Gus Wenner. As in Wenner Media. As in son of Rolling Stone founder, editor, and publisher Jann Wenner. Scout is Scout Willis. As in daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. The kids met when they lived on the same street in Hailey, Idaho back in the day but they reconnected as students at Brown (Willis is a senior this year). Wenner was strumming his guitar on a stoop, Willis strolled by and he called her over to sing a few bars. Fast forward to this week’s release of the group’s debut EP, a promising collection of pleasantly moody alt-country tunes.
The scene inside the Merc was a to-be-expected blend of venerated industry big whigs (what’s up, Paul Shaffer?), Stone editors, and a slew of the giddy, young and beautiful. “You scared the shit out of me you bitch! How are you?!” scream/shouted one modelesque girl in a sheer striped button down by way of saying hi to a lanky friend in suspenders. This kind of end-of-summer greeting ritual was all taking place, by the way, not at the bar or in the back corner of the club but in the middle of the main room. While the enigmatic-but-earnest opener Turner Cody was performing — dutifully strumming delivering his delicate and thoughtful songs — one girl actually answered her ringing cell phone and gave someone directions.
The entitled rudeness of the band’s friends is the bad news, the good news is that the show was really sweet. This Scout kid can really sing. She’s got Lykki Li-like ethereality and Janis-esque throaty grit, plus the easeful onstage confidence of a born performer. She was a lot of fun to watch. And Wenner has the furrowed brow and appealing seriousness of a natural lead guitarist.
As tempting as it might have been to gawk at Bruce and his two other daughters, all in attendance, I split right after the last note was played. As I hailed a cab and sank back into the seats, the city lights streaming by, I thought about the Gus and Scout problem: As hard as it is to be a band with no connections, it’s uniquely tricky to be a band with super powerful connections. Will these two be able to develop their evident gifts while in the glare of the spotlight? Only time (and a full-length) will tell. But this is a good start.
- MTV Hive


Reviews of the bluesy duo Gus +Scout’s Mercury Lounge show earlier this month spend an inordinate amount of time on the crowd assembled in the Lower East Side venue. Tallulah and Rumer were there (at the front). So was Bruce (off to the side). But, Demi and Jann were nowhere to be seen.

Reporters, seemingly on a first name basis with the small crowd? That’s because Gus + Scout's guest list is pretty A-list. Scout is the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. And Gus’ dad is Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone magazine. The two formed the band while students at Brown University -- where Scout is just starting senior year.

The duo's self-titled debut, out tomorrow, is a 5 song EP of bluesy folky songs. The collection is led by Scout’s full-throated roar of a voice -- one that sometimes rides the edge of over-singing. But her foil is in Gus, whose laid-back warble coaxes things back down.

They wear their influences, like Gram Parsons and Karen Dalton, well. And some familiar songwriting tropes (waiting for the mailman and lying sweetly) are met with those of a more modern kind (the problem of crossing ones legs in skinny jeans).

You can stream the Gus + Scout EP in its entirety exclusively on our site for 24 hours -- until the album drops on Tuesday, August 28th. Listen to the full EP stream at the top of the page, or listen to individual tracks below. And, check out the video for "Don't Bother You Much." Want more? They're playing in New York at the Stephen Talkhouse on Thursday, August 30th, 2012
- WNYC Soundcheck


When looking over the concert calendar of The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett (161 Main St. Amagansett, NY 631-267-3117, stephentalkhouse.com), many of the acts are usually known to most – whether it’s because the performers have lengthy, often-iconic catalogs, or because the bands scheduled are local favorites, seen frequently at various venues throughout the year.

However, on Thursday, Aug. 30, a duo will be taking the stage that, while familiar due to their birthrights, will be (for the most part) introducing themselves to the Long Island music scene (and to those visiting from New York City).

Known as Gus + Scout, their sound is best-described as indie-folk, as the two perform over guitars, drums and piano – forsaking the electronic accompaniment that most new artists seem to hang on these days. They trade cantos at many a time, eventually coming together to create a soulfully tangled covenant.

Acquaintances since their childhood years (they grew up as neighbors in Hailey, Idaho), the two became good friends while students at Brown University in Providence, R.I., where they started writing music together and clicking creatively – culminating in their first release, an eponymously titled EP that will be released on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

The twosome will be taking the Talkhouse stage at 8 p.m. with tickets on sale for $30 at the club’s website or by calling the main line. And if you do come for the show, don’t surprised if upon seeing either Gus (Gus Wenner) or Scout (Scout Willis) you feel their faces look familiar, as you may have seen them before -- for Gus is the son of Jann Wenner (the co-founder /publisher of “Rolling Stone” magazine, and the owner of “Men's Journal” and “Us Weekly”), while Scout is the daughter of actors Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. Naturally, their lineage doesn’t hold much weight when hearing Gus + Scout execute, but it’s always interesting to look out for which celebrated faces will be inspired to attend by the act’s personal notoriety, a common occurrence in the Hamptons.
- Newsday


We want you to listen to the dreamy, indie, busking-style new tunes by Gus + Scout. Gus Wenner, 21, and Scout Willis, 21 are putting out their self-titled debut EP due out on Aug. 28 so we want you to enjoy two tunes in advance. They are "Don't Bother You Much" and "Gone, Gone, Gone."

The duo's five-song EP showcases the honest and natural ease of the duo's songwriting highlight Gus' sense of melodic skill as a vocalist and guitarist and Scout's arrestingly sublime voice. The chemistry between the two is electric; just listen to their music! Don't write Scout off as a Hollywood rich kid...

...Why? Well, Gus + Scout grew up on the same street in Hailey, Idaho and were reunited at Brown University where Gus has just graduated and Scout is finishing up her senior year. They were meant to be.

Listen to the songs on the band's soundcloud.

Which song did you like best by Gus + Scout?
- ArtistDirect.Com


Gus Wenner and Scout Willis have last names that make them stars by default (Gus is son of Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner and Scout is daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore), but it was last night's show that gives the relatively new folk country rock duo credibility and star status.

Opener Turner Cody warmed up the early crowd. As more people trickled in, many of them clearly close friends of the band, Gus + Scout took the stage and went straight into the set. It was Scout's soulful rock 'n' roll voice that caught everyone's attention. Going into the second song, the room was filled and the crowd was into it. Sisters Tallulah and Rumor showed up early and stayed front row center, as Tallulah sang along to every word and Rumer snapped photos.

The electric dynamic between the two was pretty evident. Between songs, the two mentioned growing up together in Idaho and writing songs on Gus' stoop. During Gus' solos, Scout was his biggest fan, even cheering him on onstage with a beer in hand.

At one point, Scout dedicated an emotion-packed song to her sisters, addressing each sister with each verse, and even mentioning mother Demi. The song ended with a lot of emotion for the singer.
The set ended with Scout pushing over the mic stand and jumping into the crowd to be with her friends and family, including dad Bruce Willis who was off to the side.

The intimate performance felt like a garage jam with friends… friends who make really great music. Last night's upbeat vibe is just what you want at a show with mostly downbeat tunes, lively with some of touching moments. Though it was Scout's voice that stole the show.

Gus + Scout will perform at The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett, NY on August 30.
- NBC New York


On the verge of tomorrow's release of their self-titled debut EP, musicians Gus + Scout (that would be Gus Wenner and Scout Willis) stopped to chat with us about all of the excitement and nervousness that comes with launching a music career. For them, navigating the music industry's already-difficult terrain comes with added complexities. For one thing, Scout is still a full-time student at Brown University (where the two first started making music together), and plans to return to campus just days after the EP debuts, while Gus remains in NYC. And, for another, the two have had to win over critics whose first instinct may be to write them off as mere Hollywood (or music industry) progeny (Scout is the daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis while Gus's father is Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone Magazine). But, for those who listen to their music (like "Big Love From Big Sur," which recently premiered on PAPERMAG), it's clear the two have chops: Scout's emotion-laden, soulful voice accompanied by Gus's own vocals and able guitar-playing combine to create bluesy, folk music with a dash of country that leaves an impression on the listener far after the song ends. Read on to hear about how the two would spy on each other across an Idaho ski lodge, when was their first time making music together and what it was like getting up at 5 a.m. to perform on a Canadian morning talk show.

So you guys actually met in Idaho as kids?

Gus: Yeah.

Scout: We were neighbors in Hailey, Idaho. I was always aware of Gus. Our lives had been on these parallel courses. We were never really friends or connected as much as we did at Brown.

Gus: We had play dates when we were younger but not cognitive play dates. There was a teenage period where we'd see each other across the ski lodge.

Scout: I'd be like, [whispering] "That's Gus Wenner!" And I was like, "Ahhh!"

Gus: My girlfriend when I was 16 was friends with Scout.

Scout: I knew her from Idaho.

Gus: Well, you guys kinda had beef a little.

Scout: We didn't have beef!

Gus: Then when we got at Brown, we really became extremely close.

Scout: During my freshman year and Gus's sophomore year, we were introduced by a mutual friend. We just started hanging out and clicked and became really good friends. [One night] I was walking to the library and Gus was on the back steps of the dorm playing his guitar --

Gus: I was working on a song called "Guilty Man" that I just started writing. I had the melody in my head and a couple lyrics and I was sitting on the back stoop of my dorm and Scout was walking by and I was like --

Scout: "Come help me!" And in half an hour we wrote the song.

Gus: That was when we decided to start writing music together.

Scout: That was the end of the school year.

Gus: The next year, I was at my apartment and I was working on another song and I called Scout to come over and she came over and we wrote two songs in one night. We wanted to share that outlet and commiserate with each other over the emotions we were writing about.

What are your music backgrounds?

Gus: I was in a band in high school. I took guitar lessons when I was 11. My dad forced me to take them and I hated him for it -- I was so upset. But now, of course, it's my favorite thing in the world. Beyond that, I fell in love with music through playing guitar and I latched onto certain people like Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt and John Fahey and other guitar players

Scout: I approach music very intuitively because I don't play any instruments. I was in jazz band in high school and I think I did choir when I was a kid. I had one or two voice lessons here and there growing up. In the middle of high school, I stopped singing for a long time until I got to Brown.

Why was that?

Scout: I don't know. I guess I felt a little weird about it. I felt a little embarrassed by it. I never really thought I was that great. At Brown, it was a really open environment. There were a few nights in the dorms when we were playing music and I was singing and everyone stopped and was like, "Whoa. Why don't you sing?"

Were you listening to anyone in particular while you were working on the EP?

Scout: Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline have always been two of my biggest influences.

Gus: Gram Parsons.

Scout: Barbara Dane is an old female folk protest singer that we both love a lot.

Gus: The Band.

How was recording together? Was it your first time recording in a studio?

Scout: It was my first time. It was nuts.

Gus: I had done it before but this was definitely the most [time I'd spent in a studio]. We were up there for ten days.

Scout: It was a learning curve because it was also the first time we incorporated a full band.

Any other music highlights from this summer?

Gus: Yeah. We played in Canada on a TV show.

Scout: Canada AM! In Toronto. It came up because we got invited to play North by Northeast Festival -- the sister festival to SXSW -- so we took a roadtrip with the guys that are our band now to Toronto.

Gus: It was fucking awesome.

Was the TV show separate from the festival?

Gus: Yeah, it was separate from the festival.

Scout: It was their version of Good Morning America and it was 5 a.m. and they're all peppy and awake and Gus and I are on the couch.

Gus: We were so exhausted and they said, "Okay, there's three million people and you're on in five..." and I was the most nervous I'd ever been, definitely.

Do you want to make a career out of being musicians?

Scout: In a perfect world, yeah.

Gus: It'd be amazing. It's what we both love to do. It's our passions.

What's next?

Scout: I'm going back to Brown. We're releasing this EP on the 28th and then I'm going back to school and that's my number one priority -- to go and finish. I need to keep writing music for my own sanity and peace of mind so I'll be coming up there to do that and we might try to play a few shows.

Gus: Next summer we're going to really [go for it].

How do you want people to see your music and the two of you as musicians?

Scout: I think we both are hoping that people listen to the music first before making any assumptions or judgments. There's no specific way we want to be viewed.

Gus: We just want to play.

Are you concerned at all that people will make judgments based on the fact that the two of you come from high-profile families?

Scout: I think that people will think what they want to think and people will always be interested. People in interviews always ask us, "How have your parents [helped you]?" and our parents have as much to do with our music as anyone else's parents. It's got nothing to do with what Gus and I are doing as a musical duo besides the fact that they could inspire a song or two.

Gus: I think that Scout and I would be writing these songs and playing no matter what.

Scout: It is funny because there are a lot of people who are just incredulous enough to be a little bit insulting. They're like, "You know? I listened to you guys and you're actually really good!" Thanks, I guess.

Gus: "I thought you might be really shitty and I was planning on hating it."

[Both laugh]

Scout: They can listen to the music and if they like it, they like it and, if not, then listen to something else! We're just going to keep playing music and anyone that wants to come and listen, then please be a part of it and, if not...

Gus + Scout comes out August 28 and you can catch the two this Thursday (8/30) performing at Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett.
- Paper Magazine


For Gus Wenner and Scout Willis, a twist of fate determined their musical relationship. The pair grew up as childhood friends in Idaho and reunited when their paths intertwined at Brown University, at which point Wenner (son of Rolling Stone founder Jann) and Willis (daughter of Bruce) formed a folk-rock band heavily influenced by classic country music. The musical duo will be putting out a self-titled debut EP, featuring both musicians' raw, powerful vocals, before the end of the month. A full-length album is on the band's radar, too, but finishing up at Brown is a top priority for Willis (who has one more year to go). Hopefully, we'll hear a bit more of the band's Patsy Cline-meets-Bob-Dylan style in the meantime.

We spoke with Gus Wenner and Scout Willis on re-connecting, making emotional music, and speaking a universal language with their fans.


ILANA KAPLAN: How did this project start? I know you guys grew up in Idaho and were reunited. How did you both decide to get in music?

SCOUT WILLIS: We were interested in music separate from each other. We met at school. I wasn't really playing much music, but we started playing together. We realized that there was something really cool going on there.

GUS WENNER: I think that, since Scout and I had known each other since we were really young in Idaho, it was really familiar. When we started writing music together, it was extremely natural. I think in most parts because we had known each other as kids.

KAPLAN: How long did you guys live in Idaho for?

WILLIS: Well, I was born there and lived there until I was 8.

WENNER: I would just spend the winters there. I grew up in New York City. I spent a lot of time there. My Dad kind of lived in Idaho.

KAPLAN: You're obviously both from pretty famous families. How did that influence your interest in the arts?

WENNER: Scout, do you want to take this one?

WILLIS: Well, just growing up, I saw my parents doing what they were doing. I saw everything that went along with it; all of the bullshit, the stress and invasion of privacy. It always seemed really horrifying to me. I never wanted to pursue anything that would put me in that line of fire. It was only really when I started playing music with Gus that I realized that stress could be worth it. Despite what your parents do, if that is something that you want to pursue, you have to make that decision yourself.

WENNER: I think in my case, I grew up with so much music around. I had the good fortune to be able to see bands when I was young and be around people who could teach me about so many different kinds of music. They made me discover what I love and how I want to express myself through music. Those are things that make it really natural for Scout and I writing together, because we connect on that level.

KAPLAN: You guys have such a great vibe when you sing together. What's the most interesting feedback you've gotten so far about the connection between your voices?

WENNER: Hmm...

WILLIS: It's been really incredible. I remember one of our first shows, we played at this pseudo-folky environment on the outskirts of SXSW. We played this one really incredible show with candles all around and everyone sitting on the floor. It was the first time that we had a big emotionally dramatic effect on the audience. There were people crying while we were performing. Gus and I were completely overwhelmed, and we were taken by surprise how positively people have reacted to this music. We're doing this because we love it. When we hear that our songs spoke to them or touched them in a certain way, it's so satisfying in a way I never imagined.

WENNER: I think that initially it was our friends and family and that was obviously so emotional to put ourselves out on the line for them and show them something we worked so hard on and labored over emotionally and physically. It was incredible to have them give us a good response and whatever. When we started, we went up to Canada and played shows in Toronto to rooms full of complete strangers and kind of connect with them and have them come up to us afterwards how affected they were by the music; that was really surreal and amazing. It really made me and Scout feel how much performing live allowed us to speak this universal language with people we know nothing about. It was really cool.

KAPLAN: Definitely. Who have you guys been inspired by? There's a little bit of country, rock and folk music in your songs. Where does this all come from?

WILLIS: Gus and I have such varied and diverse music tastes. It can fluctuate on a daily basis. Gus and I are both very fond of older country music. A lot of Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline, so that's where vocally it comes from. These older country singers.

WENNER: I'm influenced by Graham Parsons and Levon Helms, from that kind of same country and blues tradition. As we started to play live more and more with our full band, our set has gotten really raw musically. I've gone back and listened to a lot of power trios and stuff. The band has been a big influence: incorporating the drums, bass and tying it all together. Definitely with more of a band, and not just Scout and I sitting there. I would definitely say country music has influenced our songwriting.

WILLIS: It's been a longer process. It started with Gus and I and a guitar. When we recorded, we had to figure out and learn how to incorporate all of those other elements. I think the tracks that we're recording now are a marker of where we were when we were in January. Since then, I think we've grown, changed and have become better musicians.

KAPLAN: How did you start this project?

WENNER: It started when we were at school. I was just working on a song that I was just writing by myself. Scout was just walking past and I just called her over and asked her to help me finish it. We just clicked. Then we decided to continue writing together.

WILLIS: Last December was when we started writing really seriously and working towards an album.

WENNER: Yeah. Eventually we would set aside two-hour periods, three times a week to sit down at my kitchen table and write songs. It turned into so much more than that because we would talk for hours. It was all a part of the songwriting. We would be up late at night sitting, listening to music and playing. My favorite part of the process so far is how natural the progression has been. It was all a very slow progression up to where we are now: playing live.

KAPLAN: Have you guys garnered any comparisons to She and Him? That's immediately what I thought when I listened to you guys play.

WILLIS: I think it's the comparison that they're one the only male-female performers out there right now.

WENNER: I've never heard that, actually, but I could see what you're saying.

KAPLAN: There's a first time for everything. Are you guys coming out with a full-length after your EP?

WILLIS: I have one more year at Brown. So, we'll see. We're going to keep working, and I'm going to go back to school. We'll see how it goes from here, I guess.

WENNER: We're going to work hard and write. I think we're going to wait a little before we come out with it. We want to write a bunch more songs and keep getting better before we come out with something longer. We're really excited to do that.


GUS + SCOUT WILL RELEASE THEIR SELF-TITLED DEBUT EP ON AUGUST 28. FOR MORE ON THE DUO, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE OR FACEBOOK PAGE. - Interview Magazine


For Gus Wenner and Scout Willis, a twist of fate determined their musical relationship. The pair grew up as childhood friends in Idaho and reunited when their paths intertwined at Brown University, at which point Wenner (son of Rolling Stone founder Jann) and Willis (daughter of Bruce) formed a folk-rock band heavily influenced by classic country music. The musical duo will be putting out a self-titled debut EP, featuring both musicians' raw, powerful vocals, before the end of the month. A full-length album is on the band's radar, too, but finishing up at Brown is a top priority for Willis (who has one more year to go). Hopefully, we'll hear a bit more of the band's Patsy Cline-meets-Bob-Dylan style in the meantime.

We spoke with Gus Wenner and Scout Willis on re-connecting, making emotional music, and speaking a universal language with their fans.


ILANA KAPLAN: How did this project start? I know you guys grew up in Idaho and were reunited. How did you both decide to get in music?

SCOUT WILLIS: We were interested in music separate from each other. We met at school. I wasn't really playing much music, but we started playing together. We realized that there was something really cool going on there.

GUS WENNER: I think that, since Scout and I had known each other since we were really young in Idaho, it was really familiar. When we started writing music together, it was extremely natural. I think in most parts because we had known each other as kids.

KAPLAN: How long did you guys live in Idaho for?

WILLIS: Well, I was born there and lived there until I was 8.

WENNER: I would just spend the winters there. I grew up in New York City. I spent a lot of time there. My Dad kind of lived in Idaho.

KAPLAN: You're obviously both from pretty famous families. How did that influence your interest in the arts?

WENNER: Scout, do you want to take this one?

WILLIS: Well, just growing up, I saw my parents doing what they were doing. I saw everything that went along with it; all of the bullshit, the stress and invasion of privacy. It always seemed really horrifying to me. I never wanted to pursue anything that would put me in that line of fire. It was only really when I started playing music with Gus that I realized that stress could be worth it. Despite what your parents do, if that is something that you want to pursue, you have to make that decision yourself.

WENNER: I think in my case, I grew up with so much music around. I had the good fortune to be able to see bands when I was young and be around people who could teach me about so many different kinds of music. They made me discover what I love and how I want to express myself through music. Those are things that make it really natural for Scout and I writing together, because we connect on that level.

KAPLAN: You guys have such a great vibe when you sing together. What's the most interesting feedback you've gotten so far about the connection between your voices?

WENNER: Hmm...

WILLIS: It's been really incredible. I remember one of our first shows, we played at this pseudo-folky environment on the outskirts of SXSW. We played this one really incredible show with candles all around and everyone sitting on the floor. It was the first time that we had a big emotionally dramatic effect on the audience. There were people crying while we were performing. Gus and I were completely overwhelmed, and we were taken by surprise how positively people have reacted to this music. We're doing this because we love it. When we hear that our songs spoke to them or touched them in a certain way, it's so satisfying in a way I never imagined.

WENNER: I think that initially it was our friends and family and that was obviously so emotional to put ourselves out on the line for them and show them something we worked so hard on and labored over emotionally and physically. It was incredible to have them give us a good response and whatever. When we started, we went up to Canada and played shows in Toronto to rooms full of complete strangers and kind of connect with them and have them come up to us afterwards how affected they were by the music; that was really surreal and amazing. It really made me and Scout feel how much performing live allowed us to speak this universal language with people we know nothing about. It was really cool.

KAPLAN: Definitely. Who have you guys been inspired by? There's a little bit of country, rock and folk music in your songs. Where does this all come from?

WILLIS: Gus and I have such varied and diverse music tastes. It can fluctuate on a daily basis. Gus and I are both very fond of older country music. A lot of Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline, so that's where vocally it comes from. These older country singers.

WENNER: I'm influenced by Graham Parsons and Levon Helms, from that kind of same country and blues tradition. As we started to play live more and more with our full band, our set has gotten really raw musically. I've gone back and listened to a lot of power trios and stuff. The band has been a big influence: incorporating the drums, bass and tying it all together. Definitely with more of a band, and not just Scout and I sitting there. I would definitely say country music has influenced our songwriting.

WILLIS: It's been a longer process. It started with Gus and I and a guitar. When we recorded, we had to figure out and learn how to incorporate all of those other elements. I think the tracks that we're recording now are a marker of where we were when we were in January. Since then, I think we've grown, changed and have become better musicians.

KAPLAN: How did you start this project?

WENNER: It started when we were at school. I was just working on a song that I was just writing by myself. Scout was just walking past and I just called her over and asked her to help me finish it. We just clicked. Then we decided to continue writing together.

WILLIS: Last December was when we started writing really seriously and working towards an album.

WENNER: Yeah. Eventually we would set aside two-hour periods, three times a week to sit down at my kitchen table and write songs. It turned into so much more than that because we would talk for hours. It was all a part of the songwriting. We would be up late at night sitting, listening to music and playing. My favorite part of the process so far is how natural the progression has been. It was all a very slow progression up to where we are now: playing live.

KAPLAN: Have you guys garnered any comparisons to She and Him? That's immediately what I thought when I listened to you guys play.

WILLIS: I think it's the comparison that they're one the only male-female performers out there right now.

WENNER: I've never heard that, actually, but I could see what you're saying.

KAPLAN: There's a first time for everything. Are you guys coming out with a full-length after your EP?

WILLIS: I have one more year at Brown. So, we'll see. We're going to keep working, and I'm going to go back to school. We'll see how it goes from here, I guess.

WENNER: We're going to work hard and write. I think we're going to wait a little before we come out with it. We want to write a bunch more songs and keep getting better before we come out with something longer. We're really excited to do that.


GUS + SCOUT WILL RELEASE THEIR SELF-TITLED DEBUT EP ON AUGUST 28. FOR MORE ON THE DUO, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE OR FACEBOOK PAGE. - Interview Magazine


For Gus Wenner and Scout Willis, a twist of fate determined their musical relationship. The pair grew up as childhood friends in Idaho and reunited when their paths intertwined at Brown University, at which point Wenner (son of Rolling Stone founder Jann) and Willis (daughter of Bruce) formed a folk-rock band heavily influenced by classic country music. The musical duo will be putting out a self-titled debut EP, featuring both musicians' raw, powerful vocals, before the end of the month. A full-length album is on the band's radar, too, but finishing up at Brown is a top priority for Willis (who has one more year to go). Hopefully, we'll hear a bit more of the band's Patsy Cline-meets-Bob-Dylan style in the meantime.

We spoke with Gus Wenner and Scout Willis on re-connecting, making emotional music, and speaking a universal language with their fans.


ILANA KAPLAN: How did this project start? I know you guys grew up in Idaho and were reunited. How did you both decide to get in music?

SCOUT WILLIS: We were interested in music separate from each other. We met at school. I wasn't really playing much music, but we started playing together. We realized that there was something really cool going on there.

GUS WENNER: I think that, since Scout and I had known each other since we were really young in Idaho, it was really familiar. When we started writing music together, it was extremely natural. I think in most parts because we had known each other as kids.

KAPLAN: How long did you guys live in Idaho for?

WILLIS: Well, I was born there and lived there until I was 8.

WENNER: I would just spend the winters there. I grew up in New York City. I spent a lot of time there. My Dad kind of lived in Idaho.

KAPLAN: You're obviously both from pretty famous families. How did that influence your interest in the arts?

WENNER: Scout, do you want to take this one?

WILLIS: Well, just growing up, I saw my parents doing what they were doing. I saw everything that went along with it; all of the bullshit, the stress and invasion of privacy. It always seemed really horrifying to me. I never wanted to pursue anything that would put me in that line of fire. It was only really when I started playing music with Gus that I realized that stress could be worth it. Despite what your parents do, if that is something that you want to pursue, you have to make that decision yourself.

WENNER: I think in my case, I grew up with so much music around. I had the good fortune to be able to see bands when I was young and be around people who could teach me about so many different kinds of music. They made me discover what I love and how I want to express myself through music. Those are things that make it really natural for Scout and I writing together, because we connect on that level.

KAPLAN: You guys have such a great vibe when you sing together. What's the most interesting feedback you've gotten so far about the connection between your voices?

WENNER: Hmm...

WILLIS: It's been really incredible. I remember one of our first shows, we played at this pseudo-folky environment on the outskirts of SXSW. We played this one really incredible show with candles all around and everyone sitting on the floor. It was the first time that we had a big emotionally dramatic effect on the audience. There were people crying while we were performing. Gus and I were completely overwhelmed, and we were taken by surprise how positively people have reacted to this music. We're doing this because we love it. When we hear that our songs spoke to them or touched them in a certain way, it's so satisfying in a way I never imagined.

WENNER: I think that initially it was our friends and family and that was obviously so emotional to put ourselves out on the line for them and show them something we worked so hard on and labored over emotionally and physically. It was incredible to have them give us a good response and whatever. When we started, we went up to Canada and played shows in Toronto to rooms full of complete strangers and kind of connect with them and have them come up to us afterwards how affected they were by the music; that was really surreal and amazing. It really made me and Scout feel how much performing live allowed us to speak this universal language with people we know nothing about. It was really cool.

KAPLAN: Definitely. Who have you guys been inspired by? There's a little bit of country, rock and folk music in your songs. Where does this all come from?

WILLIS: Gus and I have such varied and diverse music tastes. It can fluctuate on a daily basis. Gus and I are both very fond of older country music. A lot of Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline, so that's where vocally it comes from. These older country singers.

WENNER: I'm influenced by Graham Parsons and Levon Helms, from that kind of same country and blues tradition. As we started to play live more and more with our full band, our set has gotten really raw musically. I've gone back and listened to a lot of power trios and stuff. The band has been a big influence: incorporating the drums, bass and tying it all together. Definitely with more of a band, and not just Scout and I sitting there. I would definitely say country music has influenced our songwriting.

WILLIS: It's been a longer process. It started with Gus and I and a guitar. When we recorded, we had to figure out and learn how to incorporate all of those other elements. I think the tracks that we're recording now are a marker of where we were when we were in January. Since then, I think we've grown, changed and have become better musicians.

KAPLAN: How did you start this project?

WENNER: It started when we were at school. I was just working on a song that I was just writing by myself. Scout was just walking past and I just called her over and asked her to help me finish it. We just clicked. Then we decided to continue writing together.

WILLIS: Last December was when we started writing really seriously and working towards an album.

WENNER: Yeah. Eventually we would set aside two-hour periods, three times a week to sit down at my kitchen table and write songs. It turned into so much more than that because we would talk for hours. It was all a part of the songwriting. We would be up late at night sitting, listening to music and playing. My favorite part of the process so far is how natural the progression has been. It was all a very slow progression up to where we are now: playing live.

KAPLAN: Have you guys garnered any comparisons to She and Him? That's immediately what I thought when I listened to you guys play.

WILLIS: I think it's the comparison that they're one the only male-female performers out there right now.

WENNER: I've never heard that, actually, but I could see what you're saying.

KAPLAN: There's a first time for everything. Are you guys coming out with a full-length after your EP?

WILLIS: I have one more year at Brown. So, we'll see. We're going to keep working, and I'm going to go back to school. We'll see how it goes from here, I guess.

WENNER: We're going to work hard and write. I think we're going to wait a little before we come out with it. We want to write a bunch more songs and keep getting better before we come out with something longer. We're really excited to do that.


GUS + SCOUT WILL RELEASE THEIR SELF-TITLED DEBUT EP ON AUGUST 28. FOR MORE ON THE DUO, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE OR FACEBOOK PAGE. - Interview Magazine


Gus + Scout has been a long time in the making. Gus Wenner and Scout Willis (yes, their parents are Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner and Bruce & Demi, respectively) met while growing up in Hailey, Idaho, but lost touch until the were re-introduced as students at Brown University. Instead of doing the usual collegiate partying (well, that may have happened too), they started writing and playing music together, and before long they had turned their band into a school project for credit. That independent study is the basis for their self-titled debut EP, which comes out today. The collection of five stripped down, alt-country tracks features the duo harmonizing on lines like, "When your jeans so tight / Can't cross your legs / So you sit upright / While you're lying in bed / And baby I know you felt it too / Tell me is there nothing I could do." We caught up with the duo--Gus called in from Long Island while Scout reported from New York City during her last days of summer break (she's got one more year to go)--to find out why their songs are like having a heart-to-heart with a buddy and what type of advice their dad's gave them.

Knowing each other as kids, did you ever imagine coming back together and working on a project?
Gus Wenner: When we hung out as kids, we were really young. But it didn't take long once we were older and freshmen in college to want to do something together.
Scout Willis: I remember my mom or dad telling me later, "Oh, Gus Wenner, you had dinner with him as a kid."

So when did you reveal your musical talents to each other?
SW: He lived in this building where they would do open mics, and by the fall he was playing. And I was like, Wow this kid's really good. I was always embarrassed [to sing] in front of people. And then late at night we'd start jamming and playing music, and it felt like something awesome was happening.
GW: It wasn't like I heard Scout sing, it was more on a personal level; it was something where we connected emotionally, and I saw how i could transfer it to songs. We were just talking one day and started just fucking around, and we started writing.

What is your song-writing process like?
SW: I don't really play an instrument--I don't have the technical background that Gus has. But I am very musical and I have an ear for it, but I've never been in a band before. Playing music with Gus, I was singing him a melody, or he would give me a poem he had written. It's all just this really beautiful, natural amalgamation of both of our creative inputs.
GW: One element to our songwriting process that's kind of amazing to me is that I can think of one or two songs that I had written before I even knew Scout, and I don't know exactly what she would do, but would bring them to life in this really amazing way, and she'd push me to put more into it. It would become more than the sum of its parts.

How did you convince your teachers to accept your band as a school project?
SW: That was basically to make time for ourselves. We decided last December we wanted to put serious time and effort and practice into writing this album. So at Brown you can do this independent study, so we wrote this whole thing. We had to check in and show the teacher the songs we were working on, and we had a huge final presentation.
GW: [Our advisor] saw that we were really serious about it. Independent studies are all over--you can really game the system that way--but Scout and I took it really seriously and worked really hard on it, and he really loved it. He really loved the music. We felt so fortunate to have hours and hours to sit and do that.
SW: Which in hindsight we would have done anyways, but it was really awesome to have anyways. It's saved me [in school[ this year; playing music with Gus is the thing that keeps me sane.

There aren't any bells and whistles and synth-bleeps to the songs--and even the name seems really stripped down. Are you striving for honesty in the music?
GW: I don't think there was ever a point where we considered making a different kind of sound. We just make the only sounds we could. And that, fortunately, was a very honest and natural one.
SW: And Gus and I just realized that we've both been struggling to play the music we've been wanting to play our whole lives and just didn't have people to play it with. This music's been coming out of me my whole life. It's personal because it's the music we need in our lives to be sane and express ourselves; the fact that people would want to listen to it and be so enthusiastic about it is beyond our wildest dreams.
GW: The way it's set up, with me and Scout singing together, it's like having really deep conversations with one of your best friends. There's nothing better than that in life.

Coming from such creative families, you must have gotten some good advice on being successful in an artistic endeavor.
GW: I think Scout and I both learned a lot from my dad, actually, just talking to him about the music we're making. The kind of music that we make is something that for him and Scout's dad is very real for them and their experience growing up and whatever.
SW: It's amazing talking to Gus' dad because he's come to a ton of shows and he'll be very, very honest. Usually he waits until the show after to be like, "That was so much better!" It's great to have such an incredible resource.

With Scout still in college, what's the plan for this coming year?
GW: The most exciting thing about this whole project so far is how much room there is to grow. We want to take this year to write as much as we can and just perform and get better. And when the time comes we want to make the best record we can possibly make.
SW: School is very important to me, and there's no way that I'm leaving with a year left. But it will afford us opportunities to grow; even since we've recorded the tracks on the EP, we've grown as musicians.
GW: I have a lot of friends in bands and sometimes people can take opportunities too soon. I think this next year will be really amazing, and we just want to be more mature and better.
- Nylon Magazine


Discography

Gus + Scout EP - 2012
Tracklisting:
1. Don't Bother You Much
2. I'd Do Anything For You
3. Big Love From Big Sur
4. Guilty Man
5. Gone, Gone, Gone

Photos

Bio

The idea that a relationship is a matter of fate is generally a concept reserved for movies, but sometimes a situation arises for which there is simply no better explanation. Such is the case with the pairing of Gus + Scout (Gus Wenner and Scout Willis) – a sanguine musical partnership that sounds as if it were all but inevitable.

“I was born in Hailey, Idaho,” explains Scout, “And Gus and his family lived on the same street. We kind of lost contact when we were little kids, only to meet again while we were both in college at Brown University in Rhode Island.”

“Even though we hadn’t seen each other for years, there was some immediate warmth and weird familiarity,” says Gus, “It seemed instantaneous. We just clicked.”

Not long after crossing paths again at school, the two began casually making music together, but it wasn’t until after a random bit of spontaneous songwriting that they realized the true nature of their musical relationship. “I was sitting on a stoop outside my apartment with a guitar, trying to finish a song I’d been working on,” says Gus. “Scout just happened to be walking by, so I yelled for her to come over and help me finish what I had started. In less than thirty minutes we’d written a song together called ‘Guilty Man’…At that point, it wasn’t so much about starting a band, but rather we couldn’t help but continue to write music with one another. It felt perfectly natural.”

Since the two began to spend the majority of their time at school playing music together, they decided to apply for an independent study to accommodate their new project; an endeavor that would give them course credit for working on new songs and playing them live each week for a group of professors. Though to the naked eye it seemed like an easy way to get a grade, the duo was able to fully focus their creative energies on the songs that would ultimately become their first recordings. “We took it very, very seriously,” says Scout, “I remember nearly coming to tears performing a song we had written called ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’ in a large auditorium. The room was completely empty except for the two of us on stage and two course advisors sitting in the tenth row of seats.”

For Gus, who began playing the guitar at age 11, growing up in a house filled with music was a constant source of inspiration. “When I was younger, I was always interested in the history of rock and roll, doo-wop and soul music,” he says, “But it wasn’t until I started listening to Bob Dylan that I really understood what it meant to emotionally connect with a song. Dylan does it to everyone, I guess…the first song that Scout and I ever really played together was ‘Silver Wings’ by Merle Haggard, so that kind of set the tone for how our band would go.”

On August 28th Gus + Scout will release their self-titled debut EP; a five song collection of simple, country-inflected folk tunes that highlights Gus’ sense of melodic skill as a vocalist and guitarist and Scout’s sublime voice. Recorded at The Clubhouse in Rhinebeck, New York with producer Charlie Klarsfeld, the record showcases the honest and natural progression of the duo’s songwriting. On tracks like “Don’t Bother You Much” and “Gone Gone Gone,” you can hear the influence of the forlorn country of Jim Reeves or Gram Parsons with Scout’s voice like an emotional, distant cousin to folk heroines Barbara Dane or Karen Dalton.

“We really never had any agenda in regards to what sort of music we wanted to make,” says Scout. “Gus would start playing the guitar and we would start to sing and these were the kinds of songs and emotions that naturally came out of us.”

With this impressive introductory EP under their belts and another album’s worth of material ready to go, Gus and Scout are currently honing their live show, which now includes a full backing band. Both are eager to see where Gus + Scout will lead, but the two seem to relish playing music together over all else. “I want to make music that’s a little more lasting, that isn’t about a trend or fashion or wearing some sort of costume,” says Scout. It’s a sentiment echoed by Gus. “This isn’t about attempting to achieve a certain sound or to be perfect – we are just trying to communicate some genuine human emotion in the best way that the two of us can. Or, rather, the only way we know how.”