Brendan Benson On Tour

Brendan Benson has been churning out introspective and timelessly melodic songs that fans, critics and musicians alike have latched onto since the release of his debut album, One Mississippi in 1996. Subsequent records Lapalco and Alternative to Love charted his growth as an artist and broadened his appeal to a wider audience. As a member of the Raconteurs, he and fellow bandmates Jack White, Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence sculpted a sound that embraced the full glory of rock’s golden age while imbuing a distinct and modern interpretation.  The endless comparisons to rock’s pantheon of legendary artists seem unnecessary – just listen to a couple of Brendan’s songs and you’ll understand that he is an artist in his own right with a compelling musical message to convey. Returning to solo work as the Raconteurs take a break, Benson is back with a new album entitled My Old Familiar Friend that showcases his unshakeable instinct for crafting powerpop gems. Glide Magazine briefly caught up with Brendan, who’s currently on tour, to discuss his latest release.


I’ve read great stuff about the tour — do you plan on including any more dates?


For sure! We’re really just kind of taking baby steps right now. We’re a new band and we’re still working out the bugs.


You can hear so many different pop references in the new album– there are elements of Nick Drake and Elton John in the song ‘You Make a Fool Out of Me’, McCartney in ‘Gonowhere’, a little Todd Rundgren in ‘Eyes on the Horizon’ and The Smiths & Elvis Costello in ‘Poised and Ready’. The album’s called ‘My old Familiar Friend’ – is powerpop or pop music in general, the “old familiar friend” you’re referring to?


Well, I hate to disappoint but there’s no direct reference in particular; it’s a line from one of the songs on the album — the song Eyes on the Horizon. I was having a tough time coming up with an album title, so one day, I sat down and listened to the record in its entirety and sure enough once I heard that line, I thought it’d be a great name for the record. I know that’s not a very exciting answer, but that’s really how the album title came about. You know, I also like the open-endedness of the title and for it to remain ambiguous and open to interpretation.


Musicians always talk about there being more autonomy with releasing a solo record – what were you able to explore with this record than say, with a Raconteurs record?


I don’t know – I mean the music is really different – but the songwriting process is still kind of similar. I don’t think there was anything I couldn’t do on a Raconteurs record that I could on a solo album and vice versa. But I think that being in a band like the Raconteurs, maybe I was able to get more direct and sort of instantaneous feedback on a musical direction I may have been heading versus working on my own. You know, collaborating with the other people in the Raconteurs provided me ideas that I might not have had or would have even thought of.


What were you looking for in a producer for your current album and what was it like working with Gil Norton?


I wanted someone who was gonna kick my ass [laughs]. I didn’t want to make another record by myself and be marooned in my home studio — I really enjoy playing with other people and being in the Raconteurs totally reaffirmed that desire to collaborate with other musicians.  So I said to myself  ‘okay — I’m gonna work with a producer and play with a new band and make a proper record’. And he was great! I mean I got what I wanted. He’s got lots of ideas and he’s very opinionated and kind of demanding – he cracks the whip a little bit. But I enjoyed working with him and again, I got what I wanted. Whether or not it was the perfect recipe sort of remains to be seen….


What are your plans following the tour?


Well, I made a record with Ashley Monroe who’s a singer/songwriter from Nashville. We’ve recorded a record and it’s about to be mixed so…I want to put that out and go on tour with her. I’m really proud of the record we made.

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