On a float down Fish Creek in 2021, Walker Young and Ben Musser connected over shared musical influences and repertoire. Soon after, they started collaborating, creating dueling harmonies that would have you believe they’d been singing together since childhood.
Now performing as Young & Musser this roots power due performs with Young on accordion, keys, and vocals and Musser on guitars, drums, and vocals. And with a new solo record by Musser and producer Scott Mathews (who has worked with The Beach Boys, Van Morrison, and Eric Clapton) in the works, Young & Musser came into the KHOL studio to perform songs from Musser’s upcoming LP plus Young’s new solo material.
In advance of their performance opening for The Olson Brothers Band at Music on Main on Thursday, July 20th, Walker Young & Ben Musser joined us in the KHOL studios.
The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on Tuesday, July 18th.
JACK CATLIN/KHOL: What are some of your individual influences and do they differ from those influences that came together for this duo project?
WALKER YOUNG: I grew up in Georgia and my dad was really into bluegrass and so a lot of four-part harmonies. We sang a lot together growing up. Country music and then in high school, I got really into the Grateful Dead. So it was kind of just like finding that connection with people, I think was what I loved about that band. And then I realized that just singing is therapy for me. So when we sing together, I feel a lot better.
BEN MUSSER: I would say that for me Black soul music has always been a thing in my life that has made me feel alive and happy. And then as I got older, I kind of got into roots and Americana and even some country music as well. And one of the common threads that we figured out, when we were floating the river was a guy named Malcolm Holcombe from North Carolina who’s a great singer-songwriter, and I had worked for him. And long story short, it’s a pretty crazy connection to have because he’s a one-of-a-kind human being.
KHOL: You focus on dueling harmony and lead vocals and you have a mixture of soul and country. How did this concept kind of take shape?
MUSSER: Well, meeting him opened up this thing in my life that I hadn’t had for years and years and years. Like, I hadn’t actually played music for fun in 15 or 20 years, like, sat down with someone and just jammed. Everything had been gig-oriented or goal-oriented for me. So it was incredible to just sit around and Walker would say, ‘Oh what about Billy Joel or what about Billy Joe Shaver? And we would just sit around and run through the entire catalog we knew of a particular artist just for fun. And that’s kind of how we started honing in on like, ‘okay, these are the artists that we really both appreciate and oh, these are the types of songs where the singing carries the song. We just had so much fun singing together that we were attracted to that type of repertoire.
YOUNG: Yeah, no goals. That was the key.
KHOL: How does this new Young and Musser act differ from your individual career paths up to this point?
YOUNG: Well, I was in a six-piece band called Truth and Salvage Company for a bunch of years from about 2007 to 2015. We did a lot of touring and it was a blast, but it was out on the road and we were doing it 100% full-time. And you know, with this group we don’t have any goals so we can just focus on singing and having fun. It’s good. It works. We genuinely have a good time together playing. And I think that shows when you watch. When I go and see a performer and I know they’re having fun, it’s something I feel and see.
Listen above for KHOL’s entire conversation with Young & Musser.