Our Old, Familiar Friend: A Conversation with Brendan Benson
In New York you played with fellow Raconteur touring member Mark Watrous. Can you see yourself reuniting reuniting with the Raconteurs and creating another record? I know the Deadweather are currently working on an album release.
I don’t know. I have my plate kind of full right now too, you know? I’ve got this record that I’m currently touring. Also, I’ve been working with this woman Ashley Monroe here in Nashville. She this great songwriter. We have enough material for a record so I’d like to do a collaboration with her next.
Yes I saw the video of the Raconteurs, Ricky Skaggs and Monroe singing “Old Enough”...
Yeah, that’s where we met.
That’s a great video. Where did the inspiration come from for the new album? Was there a certain theme or was it more a compilation of songs that came together?
It’s kind of weird how it came about. Slightly a weird record, as well. It’s more like a compilation of songs—One cohesive body of work that spans over a six year period. Some of those songs are really old. I wrote some touring solo the last time which was long before the Raconteurs. And then some of the songs were written while I was with the Raconteurs. One of them was written a week before I started making the record. So it’s strange. Gil and I got together, sat down and listened to the tracks. I had a ton of material, around 40 songs. So we just sat down, listened to them all and picked the best ones. They were written over this period of time, so the only thing they have in common in the end was the production I guess. That’s the only common thread, I think. I see it like that of course because I remember writing so-and-so song in a van cruising through the UK or whatever and I remember writing so-and-so song back stage at a Raconteurs show in Germany. So it’s hard for me to find a common ground for a body of work for this album.
So as you said these songs were written 2,4,6 years ago. Were any of these songs in contention for one of the Raconteurs albums?
Yeah, “You Made a Fool Out of Me” was one I brought to the Raconteurs, but it didn’t work out, it just didn’t sound right. Shit, you’re not always going to get it right. I brought a lot of the songs to the Raconteurs…
Others on your current album?
No, I mean a lot of the songs that are on the Raconteurs two albums I was a part of. When I proposed something it would always be like, “Yeah, cool, perfect.” And then there were songs that I kept for myself that I didn’t want to give up. I felt the Raconteurs would do a great version of “Feel Like Myself” but I wanted to save that one for my solo record.
Keep it in your pocket…
For a minute there I was thinking, “I’m giving all my good songs away!” [laughs] Not away, cause I mean it’s my band, but I didn’t always get acknowledged in that band. So at one point I was like, “Fuck that, I’m keeping this one for me.”
Now that you reside in Nashville, has your musical direction changed at all?
I don’t think so. It’s like living in Detroit… Well in the sense of whether my surroundings affect my style and preference. I don’t think I’d ever notice or be able to comment on it. Either I don’t see it or it just doesn’t matter because I’m not home very much. A lot of times I’m touring and writing on the road. Or I’m just not noticing it. Maybe I’m too close to it and I can’t. The simplest thing to say would be that I live in Nashville now, so I’ll have a country edge to my music but I don’t [laughs]. I probably would have been more inclined to write a country record while living in Detroit than now. It would be the obvious thing to do. It would seem kind of silly to write a country record…well, now that sounds weird now that I hear myself say it [laughs].
What should we expect from you going into the New Year?
I think there’s going to be another tour. Next year I’ll definitely pick it up again. The manager thing just kind of broke the stride of the record. The momentum was slowed for a minute. It’s really just starting to pick up again so next year I’ll tour it—hopefully all next year into the summer and the festivals. And then after that I want to put out that record I’m working on with Ashley, I’m really proud of it. It’s great and we get along really well. I want to tour it with her, it’s really different. I think it’d be cool to play to a different audience. It’s sort of country, I guess, in its roots.