Lilly Scott formed Varlet with her brother David when she was still in high school. In 2009, after playing some low-key local shows, Lilly decided to audition for American Idol. After spending all day at Invesco Field before her audition, Scott ended up in the hospital with appendicitis. Fortunately, she made the cut, and although she was eventually voted off, she displayed an immense vocal talent that was obvious to anyone who was listening beyond the filter of nostalgia.
At the time, guitar wizard Cole Rudy was in the band, and with the addition of percussionist and songwriter extraordinaire Will Duncan and genius keyboardist Vaughn McPherson, Varlet has since benefited from not just accomplished musicianship, but a rare and compelling synthesis of impeccable pop songcraft, raw talent and a spirit of experimentation. We sat down with the band to talk about the Idol experience and its aftermath, as well as its roots in the Denver music community.
Westword: It must have been odd having dealt with your experiences trying out for and being on American Idol.
Varlet CD-release show, with Mike Marchant's Outer Space Party Unit, the Legendary River Drifters and Doo Crowder, 8 p.m. Saturday, November 26, Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street, $8-$10, 303-291-1007.
Lilly Scott: I battle every day whether I regret it or whether I'm thankful. I think it'll always be fifty-fifty. When I was trying out for it, it was really just like a new-age yearning for me to try and make it with my music. But I don't know what I was thinking, because I was never going to get to play my original music on the show. I think I was just fucking with myself really hard.
It did give me a lot of fans, but that's the struggle now — turning those forty-something moms into Larimer Lounge bar-goers who are actually going to come to our CD-release show. It doesn't cross over, is what I've learned. In terms of my ultimate goal, being a touring artist and playing live is what I want to do. And most of those people aren't going to go to dive bars to come see me. I wish. In a perfect world, forty-year-old moms would be rocking it and raging in the bathroom with us.
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With some of the outside attention your band has received, have you thought about relocating? And if not, what do you like about being part of what's going on in Denver?
Vaughn McPherson: I feel like the Denver situation is a double-edged sword. In one sense, I do wish there was more enthusiasm and less competition among small acts trying to get somewhere. But at the same time, there's a reason everything becomes so incestuous, because everyone plays with each other. On one level, it's a very tight-knit musical community.
David Scott: Everyone on the record that helped us out are all in the community. That's the bonus, honestly.
VM: It's not just musicians getting together. It's a bunch of friends who really care about each other's creativity. Therefore, something really special comes out of that when you work that closely with someone.