Lils and I felt so privileged to be able to meet and speak to a few of the rising musical gems at SXSW. Style, for us, can embody anything from a white T-shirt to a suit so long as you're willing to open yourself up, share your stories, and, in the process, uplift people and humanity. All of these artists greatly enhanced our week and reminded us of why, despite all the crowds and bureaucracy, the connection is always worth it.
Setting himself apart by bringing back a time when men possessed pride and confident masculinity, Willy Moon (pictured above) performs his wildly exciting Elvis-meets-Jagger song-and-dance in attire as polished as his Alexander McQueen suits. "It’s a much harder path to be different," ruminates Moon."For a lot of people its very scary because it will force them to ask so many questions about themselves." Moon, though, is used to it. The up-and-comer from New Zealand combines 50s rock with hip hop and explores any musical combination that will challenge him and lead to a new sound. Being the only kid in a Salvation Army green turtle neck (all the others wore standard hoodies and baggy jeans) set Willie up with the tools to be singular.
Gus & Scout.
"We never try to dress as someone else, we never try to sound like someone else" declare the indie folk duo, Gus + Scout -- a statement that reveals the relationship between personal and musical style. The two met while growing up on the same street in Idaho. Gus feels that Scout (a SLU muse, by the way) unlocks a creativity in him and she feels the same way. Though you will not see Gus in anything close to the outstanding emerald green pantsuit that Scout performed in on the day we caught up with her at Southby. He's the perfect setting to her sparkle in his jeans and tee.
Lianne La Havas.
Upcoming SLU muse Lianne La Havas's colorful shirtdress and turquoise guitar did not overshadow her down-to-earth demeanor, magnetic smile, and robust voice. She's honest and forthright, informing her audience that her hit, "Is Your Love Big Enough?" is not actually about loving a boyfriend but about loving your own self.
Seeing Dan Croll perform outside on top of a bus while the audience lied on the ground and hoola hooped was a throwback to how I dreamt SXSW was meant to be. Croll's eclectic band, all from Liverpool, did, among other songs, their catchy pop rock tune, "From Nowhere." Intellectual, unpretentious, nerdy -- Croll's in full authority.
Jesse Boykins III
Io Echo's Ioanna Gika and Leopold Ross are friends whose diverging tastes have a decided impact on each other. The saying -- which goes something like "if you take two rocks and hit them together sometimes you get sparks" -- embodies their creative bond. Ioanna grew up with a taste for the spiritual and the East. Her high school days teemed with Enya, kyoto harps, and kimono collections. Leopold, of course, preferred the antithesis: Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Public Enemy, and the requisite all black wardrobe. Now, Leopold describes himself as floral jacket-clad goth on ecstasy, while Ioanna's kimonos has been beefed up with acid wash jeans and a wild fox fur. The tandem produced an album with layers of Asian instruments under electric guitars. Their lyrics link to the Japanese sense of flowers. They admire the beauty of things in their decay as much as in their bloom.
A church in Austin at SXSW was the perfect setting for the blue-eyed soul of multi-instrumentalist, composer and lyricist, Jarle Bernhoft. A descendant of Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, early Blues, and African and American spirituals, it's unsurprising that he had a come-to-Jesus moment at 15, standing under the cold Norwegian starry sky and listening to jazz, he realized he was meant to be a musician. Asked to take off his bohemian bowler while growing up in his tiny town, Nittedal, he soon hightailed it to Oslo where he put the bowler back on, pierced an ear and never looked back. "I don't see myself as a singer songwriter," Bernhoft reveals. "I'd sound boring if I sung a song straight up and down."