Our Old, Familiar Friend: A Conversation with Brendan Benson
It’s been thirteen years since the release of Brendan Benson’s debut album, One Mississippi and the Detroit native hasn’t strolled leisurely since. Following a two album relationship with Jack White and The Raconteurs, Benson is back with a current tour riding saddle off his August album release, My Old, Familiar Friend. All in all the decade has been good to Benson, as in addition to his work with The Raconteurs, U.K. music magazine NME included his album, Lapalco in its Top 50 album list of the past ten years.
Jarrod Dicker spoke with Benson about his current tour, the recent album, future recordings and more…
How have your fans on tour reacted to the songs from the new album, My Old, Familiar Friend?
It’s been good. Actually, it’s been really good. It’s been kind of slow to get things moving, however. I had an incident with my manager, not an incident, but I had to change managers a few months into it. This was obviously kind of a bummer. But other than that it’s been absolutely great.
Are they getting into the new material? Have you noticed that the audience has changed at all?
I don’t think it’s changed a whole lot. I’m not even sure that there are Raconteur fans present. To be honest, I’m not even sure how much the Raconteurs changed things for me. I thought it would but I don’t know…it really didn’t. I think the Raconteurs was more of a Jack White thing. I don’t even know if people put it together that I was in that band? [laughs], you know? I was kind of hoping it would.
On this new album you worked with Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters) and Dave Sardy (Rolling Stones, Oasis), what was it like to work with two heavy hitters of the modern music industry?
Great. I’ve never really done the whole “producer” thing. I usually do my records myself at home. I intentionally wanted to work with a producer this time who was going to kind of, crack the whip, so to say. I didn’t want to go back in my room and write, record it, produce it, play it [laughs] you know what I’m saying?
That does sound a bit repetitive…
After the Raconteurs especially, I just couldn’t bare the thought of it. After having played in such a great band. So I thought the first thing I should do was get a producer. A friend of mine suggested Gil Norton. I wasn’t really familiar with him, but I checked out what he’s done and I liked that they were all real cool records and all really different. And none of them had the same repetitive sound. Some producers come with a sound and I liked the fact that I couldn’t detect any kind of sound, a trademark or anything with Gil’s work. And so there it was. He did turn out to be awesome. He was intense, took a lot of notes, real serious about the whole thing. And Dave was kind of the opposite [laughs]. Dave was very laid back, hilarious, super funny. He mixed the record and kind of produced a little of it. But the production was mostly Gil. It was cool, I’d definitely do it again.
Being that you’ve participated in group work with The Greenhornes and Raconteurs as well as solo work, do you hold a preference to lean one way over the other?
Well…It’s tough. I really love working in a band. But I’m so used to doing stuff on my own. I don’t know what it is, but I developed a solo frame of mind. I kind of grown into this visionary I guess…Visionary… wow[laughs]. When I write a song I tend to see all sides of it. I see all of its parts because it’s sort of like I’m an only child in music. I don’t ever rely on anyone. So it’s difficult sometimes, if you look at it in that kind of way, to be in a band. It involves making confessions a lot of times and compromising. I’m not used to that.
So the way it sounds, you’re not looking to be in a band situation right now?
Well..at the same time I do love it. I do love the co-op effort. It involves group effort and it should be like that too. It’s hard to say [laughs].