Ben Kweller Interview
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Interviews, Music.
Finding the most critical acclaim from his most recent self titled album, singer/songwriter Ben Kweller now looks to take a rest from touring before continuing the international leg of his endeavors next year. While latest album interrupts his past writing process by completing a shift towards a fuller, complete musician, he still seems able and almost curiously willing to try and find something that would still startle his most dearest of fans. In this interview Kweller discusses his recent video accompaniments to his album, who he feels to be the most well rounded living multi-instrumentalist and sharing songs at Brian Wilson’s house.
What was the inspiration for your One Minute Pop Song series?
Ben Kweller: We had a ton of footage of me working in the studio. I didn’t want to make a DVD with it but I wanted my fans to see some of the footage so I came up with the idea of a TV show. YouTube was really taking off at that point so I thought it would be a fun experiment to use that as the channel. It was very fun!
In one of the episodes you mentioned that your dad was the person who introduced you to the drums. When did you first begin to take interest in a wider variety of instruments?
Ben Kweller: Soon after I learned the drums someone showed me heart and soul on the piano. I immediately wrote 5 songs with those 4 chords. I was about 8 I guess…when my hands were big enough, at 10, my dad showed me “E” and “A” on the guitar. I wrote a song with the 3 chords and never looked back. I took real lessons on guitar and piano but dropped out due to my lack of interest in learning other people’s music. Now of course I regret that! But I did get a head start at writing my own music which has probably helped me more than the classics I would’ve learned. One day ill go back and restudy all that again.
Sort of jokingly, you rated your ability to play a variety of instruments on a scale out of 10 during the One Minute Pop Song series. Who are some of the best living multi-instrumentalists in your opinion?
Ben Kweller: Best living multi-instrumentalists are: Jon Brion, Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren, John Kent, Prince, Nils Lofgren, Tony Scalzo and Mike Stroud.
You’ve worked with a ton of musicians, many of which can play a variety of instruments. Following your self-ranking you note that it’s not really who has the most technical skills that make for the best musician, but rather who is the best at interpreting the music. How do you interpret the music?
Ben Kweller: I try to figure out what I’m feeling by the music, find the emotions that are happening and make the lyrics true and direct, not sugar coated. It’s actually a very hard thing to explain now that I’ve tried to!
Both good and bad, my father has seemingly always has a story to tell and yours’ about your road manager Kitt was a great one. The situation that allowed his father to befriend Neil Young is remarkable. Is there a situation in the not so distant past has allowed you to meet or get to know someone you idolized?
Ben Kweller: When I was 15 I was invited to spend the day with Brian Wilson at his house. His best friend Andy, wanted to sign my band Radish so we hung out with him and Brian at Brian’s house. I played songs on my guitar for Brian and he played some for me on the piano. It was magical and I don’t really talk about it too much.
If you had one final show to play, who would you most like to share the stage with?
Ben Kweller: If we knew it was my final-final show, it would feel like a funeral; sad about the end but a celebration of life as well. Instead of having my idols, I would have my most important people by my side as well as some great artists to make the show good! My father, my mother, Lizzy, my son Dorian, Mason Jennings, Conor Oberst, Mike Stroud, Fred Eltringham, Roger Greenawalt, Julian Casablancas and Adam Green.