10 Questions You've Always Wanted to Ask Scout Durwood About Ukuleles...And About Life
First introduced to the Hawaiians at the tail-end of the 19th century, the ukulele has long been a staple of Hawaiian music. Much smaller (and often more affordable than a guitar), the ukulele is one helluva way to bring people together — no matter if you’re on the mainland, or if you’re basking somewhere in the sunlight of one of Hawaii’s many, many beaches.
There is perhaps no more peaceful a sound than the one that reverberates from those tender nylon strings; and that’s why we’ve decided to bring in a Blue Élan artist and ukulele expert to talk all things “uke” on this national holiday.
Oh yeah, and when you sign-up for Scout's email list below, you'll get an exclusive unofficial mix download of the song "Sad Ukulele Song" just for your listening.
As much as this is a story about ukuleles, it all begins with comedian, singer, and actress Scout Durwood. Many years before she made audiences laugh, starring on MTV’s Mary + Jane, and Oxygen’s Funny Girls, Scout knew that being different was her greatest strength. Somewhere in between Scout's appearances at the 2019 Streamy Awards for best Indie Comedy Series for Take One Thing Off, and the 2020 Slamdance Festival, where the YouTube series was deemed an official selection, we decided to ask Scout a few questions about life, and about the ukulele.
How did you start playing ukulele?
In my standup, I wanted to start doing music but I didn’t play any instruments. So my manager at the time’s husband was like, “hey let me help you, y’know, we’ll come up with a melody and I’ll teach you how to play on the ukulele because it’s simpler.” And that’s how it started, and it took me a long time to take the instrument more seriously. I will say, I’ve been to island-y places a couple times, and there when you see the ukulele fully exercised, it’s gorgeous. So, I started just kind of banging out chords and then eventually was like “ah, we are one, ukulele.”
How many ukuleles do you have?
I have two that I really play. I just got rid of one because I felt like I was hanging on to it kind of for no reason, and then I have a toy one that I use in videos, or if I ever need to smash something or swing it around? And I think that one is still the first ukulele I ever bought. But we’ve thrown it in the ocean for videos and stuff, so it’s pretty beat up. But I play two ukuleles. They’re Kalas. That’s another question. The ukulele that I play is a Kala.
If you could be any animal for a day, what animal would you be?
Easy, I’d be my own dog. She is excited to go anywhere, she’s excited to leave anywhere, she’s excited to get in the car, to get out of the car, and I think that level of optimism is what I strive for as an artist.
Corny joke time. What’s your joke?
Oldie but a goodie: what kind of cheese is not your cheese? Nacho cheese. I didn’t write it.
What’s your favorite word? What’s your least-favorite word?
My favorite word is alabaster. I like the way it rolls. I also like the word troche. Um. English term. Least favorite word, I can’t-I’m not gonna say. It’s dirty. I hate it. But if you ever say it to me, I’ll be offended. Why are you saying that word to me in the first place? I feel like this conversation is ended before it began.
Best terrible pickup line?
When I was in college, if there’s like a packet of sugar that says the word sugar on it, you can walk up to someone and drop it on the table in front of them and be like “hey, you lost your nametag.”
Everyone’s got a list of best made-up band names. What’s at the top of yours?
You know I think of them all the time and then can never remember them, so I just asked my friend. He goes “oh, you name a feeling and a day of the week, and that’s it.” So we decided The Cranky Wednesdays is my new band. I also always wanted to be in a band called Marilyn, after my mom, but unfortunately I am not in a band.
Name a popular song that would be vastly improved by adding the ukulele.
I’m gonna say, Patty Griffin's “Be Careful,” I think is really pretty on ukulele. And then my friend just said “what about Weezer’s Island In The Sun?” and I was like “totally, you could throw a uke in there.” I mean, what song wouldn’t be better without ukulele? I love a ukulele in a hard musical arrangement, and then throw a uke in there.
Do you have a hot tip for someone learning how to play?
You already know how to play the ukulele. The buy-in to go from not knowing anything, to being able to play a song, is super low. So don’t quit there. Get better from there. A lot of people like to hold the ukulele and like, gently stroke a C chord, and you can do better. So, believe in yourself.
What's your favorite ukulele song?
My favorite ukulele song would be my song called “Sad Ukulele” which is on my next album. It’s great, it’s all about the ukulele, so it’s like, meta, and I love it.