Ben Kweller | Humble Texan

 “My approach to music and appreciation for it has remained the same no matter where I am.”


When thinking of a “prodigal son” of Texas, many will conjure thoughts of famed football players or a typical cowboy aping the John Wayne look. Multi-instrumentalist, record label owner, and singer-songwriter Ben Kweller may not even ring a bell to some native Texans, but his return to Texas—music epicenter Austin, to be exact—has reverberated throughout the music community. On March 6, Kweller released his fifth studio LP, Go Fly a Kite, yet another timeless classic in the Ben Kweller canon. The humble workaholic, father, husband, musician—hell, everyman—never seems to have a spare second in his life. Somewhere between a visit to Japan, the ensuing madness of Austin during SXSW, prepping for tour, and running his own record label, The Noise Company, I caught up with Kweller to ask him about the million projects that compose his life’s work.

I read in an interview that “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles was a song that made you cry as a child because the melody moved you, and acted as a major springboard for your musical career. Do you feel that a lot of musicians have that kind of moment or need to truly experience a moment like that to create authenticity in their work?
Hmmm. I’m not sure. I know lots of artists who came in to this under different circumstances than me. We all approach creativity a little differently. I do believe that you have to be passionate about what you are doing to really be fulfilled in life. That’s true in all walks of life.
You’ve said that the songs on the newly released Go Fly a Kite are songs written during the same period of time as Changing Horses; those two albums are starkly different from one another in terms of style and a sort of theme. Did you systematically separate songs as you created them, like which songs were to be saved for one or the other album, or was it a more organic thing?
Exactly. As I write songs, I put them in different lists in my sketchbook. I always have a few album concepts happening at any given moment and I also have random songs lying around in a miscellaneous list. 
Your songwriting is impeccable and is a keystone of your awesome musicianship. It’s really hard to pick just one song to ask you to delve in to, but I’m giving it a go with “Full Circle.” Could you maybe tell the story behind the writing of the song? It’s intriguing, because it seems such an obvious sentiment for people to understand and people use it so freely as a cliché, yet everyone has their own story on how they view the idea of coming full circle—what’s yours?
I’m very proud of that song! Probably my favorite lyrics on Kite. When I left NYC and moved back to Texas, I very much felt like I was coming full circle. Life is very cyclical. Things come and go, and before you know it, you’re back where you started. There were many things at the time of writing that one that gave me the feeling of coming full circle. 
ben kweller 300What sort of life experiences helped mold Go Fly a Kite? Of course, there’s the birth of your second son, Judah, since your last album, and the move to Austin, but what other occurrences led to the creation of the album and the work that went in to it?
Man, it’s hard to say really, there are so many little things and bits of inspiration that went into this one. Different people I’ve known and things that went down. Lots of feelings about change and how, while it’s 100 percent necessary, it can hurt or be wonderful.
Has the move to Austin affected your music or how you approach your music or your appreciation for music? Has the move had an effect on your work ethic regarding your music and The Noise Company? What are some of the major advantages/disadvantages to being a successful musician in Austin?
I gotta say, my approach to music and appreciation for it has remained the same no matter where I am. Austin has just given me great freedom in my everyday life. It’s such an easy place to live. Regarding the new label, I couldn’t have started it in NYC, or really anywhere else. There are so many resources here, and people are super friendly and willing to lend a hand. That’s nice, and something you can’t find just anywhere.
What can we expect from The Noise Company? You said previously that you weren’t interested in signing other artists to the label upon founding it but that it was a long-term goal. Anything in the works as far as signing other artists yet?
Not yet. Still in the plans. Just trying to get through this album cycle and we’ll then start thinking about our next move. 
Of course, a question you’re probably sick of: What was it like participating in The Bens? What were some of your favorite elements of working in a group like that? Do you think something like that could work now, or think something like that could happen again successfully?
Oh, it was one of the most creative experiences I’ve been a part of. It was like the quickest, most intense love affair ever. Hot and heavy, but short-lived. Collaborations like that can always happen again, and the three of us want it to happen again. It’s just a matter of time.
Lastly, any plans of releasing Radish’s sophomore album, Discounted Fireworks?

That, too, is in the works. I would love to see that dusty, old album get released. Wish me luck! | Jenn Metzler

Ben Kweller will be in St. Louis March 30 at Off Broadway, with Sleeper Agent and the Dig opening. Tickets are $21 in advance, $23 dos.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply