Band of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell has been looking for a way to start over. He wants to do things differently, to reconnect with audiences on a much more intimate level, to play songs the way he wants to play them. And he’s finally found a way to do it.
On Saturday, November 2nd, Bridwell played the first show in his first-ever solo tour; an eight-city romp through the Southeast under the moniker Birdsmell. It started in Carboro, North Carolina and will end in Athens, Georgia on November 15th.
Touring as Birdsmell (his childhood nickname) is a way for Bridwell to travel under the radar, to play smaller venues, to interact with audiences who might not necessarily know or recognize who he is without the rest of his band. It’s a way for him to connect with his roots. But, as Bridwell notes, the moniker actually serves another purpose: “I’m actually too nervous to say ‘Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses,'” he says. “At this point, I think I’m not ready for that.”
So, for right now, Birdsmell is an experiment.
“I wanted to kind of road test some songs before Band of Horses records its fifth album,” Bridwell says in a phone conversation. “And I wanted to see what it was like to start from scratch again, without the power of the professional musicians in Band of Horses.”
When Bridwell was living in Minneapolis in 2008, he recorded the George Harrison song “Your Love is Forever” with some buddies, which ended up on a Starbucks compilation. “Around 2007, I think I really, finally exhausted enough of the Beatles catalogue that I was just starting to really dig in to the solo stuff and I started gravitating toward George Harrison’s material, probably first, more than John Lennon’s or Paul McCartney’s or Ringo’s, for that matter. There was just something about him that really resonated with me.”
A few years later, he and those same musicians recorded a few of Bridwell’s songs that had been sitting around for a while. The feeling that came with the casual recording instigated Bridwell’s desire to do something simple and low-key, a sort of back to basics project. And Birdsmell was born.
The tour will showcase a few new songs but will also be a chance for Bridwell to play some Band of Horses in a different way. ”As I’ve gone back on stuff, I’ve found myself digging more into the Band of Horses catalogue and really enjoying seeing what the nuts and bolts of what these songs are,” he says. “So it’s morphed into a new life where I thought it was going to be more about playing new stuff and it’s not so much. It’s cool. It’s interesting to get out and play without expectations.”
And because it’s his first time solo since the success of his band, Bridwell admits this will not be a polished or serious affair. “When I mess up, you’re going to hear it,” he says. “But I think that’s a good thing, too. That kind of ability to allow yourself to mess up and be okay about it will hopefully pay off.”
After the tour, Bridwell and his bandmates will hole themselves in mountain cabin for a week and just play. “Hopefully it leads to a lot of songs written for our fifth record. So, that’s really the next thing for us.”
Check out some of the new Birdsmell tracks below:
“Throw My Mess Around”
“Why Were You Born?”
“Don’t Take It Too Bad” (Townes Van Zandt cover)
“Why Were You Born” and “Tulsa” will be pressed in to 7″ vinyl singles to be sold exclusively at each of the shows.
Here’s the complete Birdsmell tour lineup:
11/2 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
11/4 – Charlotte, NC – Evening Muse
11/6 – Asheville, NC – The LAB
11/8 – Knoxville, TN – The Bowery
11/9 – Chattanooga, TN – Rhythm & Brews
11/11 – Birmingham, AL – Bottle Tree
11/13 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
11/15 – Athens, GA – 40 Watt