Old Familiar Friend
Brendan Benson has been around for a while. His first album, the hooky-as-hell One Mississippi, came out nearly 15 years ago. Since then, Benson has been one of the best things going in melodic, classicist rock music, which some might prefer to call "power-pop."
Despite putting out several critically lauded records, though, Benson largely flew under most music listeners' radar until he joined up with Jack White in The Raconteurs in 2005. This helped a bit, and hurt in equal measure — it put Benson in front of more listeners, who weren't necessarily there for him.
He's been back out on his own since 2009's My Old, Familiar Friend, getting back in touch with his audience. Last week Benson took a few minutes to talk about his current projects and his time in The Raconteurs.
Chatter: I understand you just put out a 7" with fellow Raconteur Mark Watrous.
Brendan Benson: Yeah, it's called "Well and Goode." It's interesting. He tours with me a lot for my solo stuff, and it happened that we were in Europe somewhere on tour, and I said, "Hey, I got a bunch of these unfinished songs, just ideas and stuff. Why don't you check 'em out. If you think you can finish any of them, that would be pretty cool."
So that's what he did. He was living in New York at the time, so when we were back from the tour, he sent me a song, an idea that he had kind of completed. I opened it up and added to it: sang, played bass, whatever. I sent it back to him and it was kinda that back and forth thing, and that's what we ended up with, was those two songs.
C: Is this a one-off or a way forward for you?
BB: Well, there's lots more where that came from, all this unfinished material that I have. It's just a matter of timing now. He's out with The Greenhornes, and I'm on tour, but I think if we ever get the time, he and I both would love to put out a full-length record. It's just logistics now.
C: What effects do you think your time with The Raconteurs has had on you and your music?
BB: That's hard to say. I don't really have a good answer. One thing I think I learned being in that band is the importance of recording a song that could be replicated, or could be performed live. I tend to go a little crazy in the studio, and when it's time to play the song for people, it's rough. I guess I learned the virtue of knowing when to stop. I think.
C: My Old, Familiar Friend seems to lean less on power and more on pop.
BB: Right. I think you'll hear it more in the next record. That record was recorded during The Raconteurs' second record, and it was also produced by Gil Norton. I don't think you're hearing the impact that The Raconteurs have had. Gil Norton had a heavy hand in it. He was really flying the ship. Really, if anything, you're hearing his influence on the record.
Tis the season for giving, so here are a few music-related Houston-area nonprofits for your holiday consideration:
Houston Blues Society: P.O. Box 7809, Houston, TX 77270; www.houstonbluessociety.org
International House of Blues Foundation: 1204 Caroline, Houston TX 77002; www.ihobf.org/locations/houston
Musicians Benevolent Society of Houston: P.O. Box 66253, Houston TX 77266-6253; www.mbshouston.com
KPFT/Pacifica Radio: 419 Lovett, Houston TX 77006; www.kpft.org
2110 Portsmouth, 713-526-9272
1. Dr. Dog, Shame, Shame
2. Cee-Lo Green, The Lady Killer
3. Leon Russell & Elton John, The Union
4. Karina Nistal, Nistalgia
5. Kings of Leon, Come Around Sundown
6. The Black Angels, Phosphene Dream
7. Old 97's, The Grand Theatre Vol. 1
8. Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
9. Los Lonely Boys, Keep on Giving: Acoustic Live
10. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
1. Blink-182, "All the Small Things"
2. Dishwalla, "Counting Blue Cars"
3. Talking Heads, "Life During Wartime"
4. Green Day, "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)"
5. Pearl Jam, "Even Flow"
6. Smash Mouth, "Then the Morning Comes"
7. The Cult, "Fire Woman"
8. Blind Melon, "No Rain"
9. Edwin McCain, "I'll Be"
10. Tonic, "If You Could Only See"
(lists compiled by Chris Gray)
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