Comedian, singer and actress, Scout Durwood, is funny, and she knows it, which is a good thing. She got her start on the MTV comedy show "Mary & Jane," and Oxygen's "Funny Girls." From there, she decided to put her comedic chops and singing ability to good use with the release of her first album, Take One Thing Off, which released on May 19. She worked with heavyweight producer, Dave Darling, who's known for his production work with Def Leppard, Queen Latifah, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, and Brian Setzer. The album contains 19-tracks of her comedic standup at the underground Los Angeles club, The Pack. We chatted with Durwood about working with Darling, why she thinks she's funny, and more.
AXS: When did you know you wanted to work with Dave Darling (your producer on Take One Thing Off)?
Scout Durwood: Dave approached me after seeing me in a musical called "Original" based on an album of the same name that Dave had produced with blues singer Janiva Magnass. At that point in my life I was pretty much full time a comedy person, but I missed singing so much that I auditioned for the the musical on a lark, and ended up getting the part. The show is incredibly serious, so when Dave found out I was a comedian, he was shocked. We both felt down to collaborate, however, so we put our heads together and piece by piece, the album was born! Our first day in the studio together we wrote Take One Thing Off. The entire process was pretty charmed with happy accidents from day one.
AXS: Do you think you would have made an album like this had he not been involved?
SD: Well, I had self-produced an album one year earlier of my comedy songs called Women of Whimsy, so I definitely had the itch to make music. Without Dave, however, I was really limited in the sounds I could create. I do think I would have continued making music, for sure, but the gift of having someone like Dave on the project is that the music gets to sound like real music and the jokes get to sound like real jokes. In comedy music it's difficult to do both. Plus, I play the ukulele, which is a ton of fun, but can be somewhat limiting phonically. Dave is the best. In a weird way, our voices really lined up perfectly on this album. We both want to make music that is accessible but not predictable. There are a couple of Dave-touches on the album that I love, like the horn on I'm Cool, Right? which is ever so slightly off beat. I hated it at first, but Dave fought for it and won. Now it's one of my favorite things on the album. It isn't about being perfect, it's about being you.
AXS: When did you learn you were funny...and good at it?
SD: Ha! It wasn't until after college, really. I was very serious before that, and thought I was destined for career in dramatic acting. I went to a very small high school, so I ended up getting paired with an acting partner who was super comedic by default. We competed together in "Speech & Debate," and because he was so physical and high energy, I got used to being his straight man. It wasn't until college when I started doing mini-monologues in my politics classes to try to get everyone to laugh that I realized I wanted to do comedy. Then as a burlesque emcee, I got to be quick on my feet and started writing jokes. By the time I hit LA, I was a little bit of everything. In all honesty, I'm still not that funny--for a comedian, at least. I like my dramatic moments a lot. Sometimes I think of my shows as racking up laughter points to buy back one big dramatic moment towards the end. On this album, that's My Funny Valentine. Being funny up top gives me the confidence to be serious in the end.
AXS: Take One Thing Off is comedic with serious songs...did you know that was how it was going to evolve?
SD: Nope! And lots of what we tried ended up hitting the cutting room floor, never to be seen again. This was an enormous process of trial and error. The first big decision we made was that we wanted the songs to be songs and the jokes to be jokes. Music is based on predictability and comedy is based on surprise, so marrying the two is enormously hard. You want a song that people want to listen to over and over again rather than a joke that rests on a single punchline. So that was the first thing. The second thing we knew, or maybe this was the first thing, I honestly don't remember now, is that we wanted the album to follow my life as a degenerative burlesquer in New York, thus the decision to start with a song called Take One Thing Off. We knew generally where we wanted the album to go. We knew we wanted a song about being a GoGo dancer and a song about drinking, but everything really took shape on its own. My favorite "behind the scenes" secret is the story of Falling In Love. The actual story is about the worst break up of my life. It destroyed me. The song is brutally honest about it--my next great adventure, your first big mistake--but it's so airy and light. It makes me so damn happy to listen to it and know that it came out such a dark place in my life.
AXS: What do you hope people take away from this album, emotionally and mentally?
SD: First of all, I want people to sing and I want people to dance. I want people put Take One Thing Off on their running mix and crank it up when it their favorite song comes on. Second of all, I want people get naked: physically, emotionally and mentally. There are so many pop stars telling you to "be who you are" but playing it very safe, and following orders themselves. This album is about removing all those expectations one at a time. This isn't "look at me! I'm dancing like nobody's watching" music. It's less about not caring what other people think about you and more about not noticing that they were talking about you in the first place. Whatever it is that holds you back from being your best you, your happiest you, your bootie-shakin-est you, take it off and let it go. You don't need it anymore.
AXS: When's the tour?
SD: We'll post dates as soon as we get them, or come to Las Vegas in September for Life is Beautiful. I'll be making noise in the comedy tent like a boss.