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BRENDAN BENSON

Brendan Benson

Low Key

    Not every two-year period measures out the same, noted Brendan Benson, the 51-year old Grammy- nominated singer-songwriter and co-founder of The Raconteurs. Benson had just finished his well- received seventh album, "Dear Life" in 2019 when his world came to a stop. "I was rehearsing for South-By-Southwest and gearing up for a tour and had a band ready and then, of course, the world shut down," he said in a recent interview. The lockdown then began to reroute lives, societies and ambitions worldwide. "Everything changed," Benson said. "I went to work on some songs so I'd have new material when things opened up." Over months with minimal interactions, those songs coal- esced and took on lives of their own, he said. Two years of semi-isolation, of fading relationships, of the natural inward turn that comes with less human contact unexpectedly pushed Benson's song- writing into new places.

    Instead of being an afterthought, Benson's solitude evolved into, "Low Key" the eighth album by the idiosyncratic songwriter who has enjoyed both world-wide popularity with the Raconteurs and a devoted cult following for his numerous solo projects. Low Key, the Nashville-based artist said, was his chance to explore how lives and relationships changed during the lengthy isolation from the normal interactions of everyday life. Benson might not have written songs such as "People Grow Apart" and "Whole Lotta Nothing" prior to 2019, he said. "The lockdown afforded people the opportunity to cut ties - or maybe it caused people to do that," he said. "Whatever the case may be, a lot of people fell out. But then relationships ending is one of my favourite topics for song writing," he said with a laugh.

    This isn't to say that the 8-track effort recorded in Benson's own Readymade Studio in Nashville is a grim look at the state of human condition. Just the opposite. The catchy, upbeat lead track "Ain't No Good," pokes fun at destructive self-absorption while the guitar-heavy "Whatever's On My Mind" skewers Benson's own hyperkinetic, stream-of-consciousness thinking. And then there's the most unlikely track of all: A cover of Gerry Rafferty's smooth 1978 hit, "Right Down the Line." The cover was suggested by a friend. "She's always been saying I should do that song. I don't normally pay attention when people say that stuff. But then I happened to hear it one day and I said, 'Dang. This is good.' "

    Greg Calbi, the album's mastering engineer at Sterling Sound says: "Brendan combines the classic 80's style song-writing in the Squeeze, Crowded House vein with some incredible contemporary sonic magic, the kind of album which entices the listener to get tickets to a live show immediately."

    The lockdown that left him mostly with himself, professionally speaking. Confined to his Nashville studio, Benson played every instrument on Low Key and handled all of the initial production. The end result was exactly what Benson had been searching for - even if he didn't know it at the time. Those years spent honing his craft as a songwriter, producer and touring musician, turned what could have been a liability of isolation into something far deeper, a body of work he described as the best of his career.

    TRACK LISTING

    Side A:
    Aint' No Good
    I Missed The Plane
    People Grow Apart
    Right Down The Line
    Side B:
    Whole Lotta Nothin
    Whatever's On My Mind
    All In
    Something A Little Like Home

    Brendan Benson

    Dear Life

      “There's something about this record,” Benson says, describing his Third Man Records debut album Dear Life. “A friend of mine called it ‘life-affirming.’ I thought it was a joke at first but then realized, well, it’s about life and death for sure. I don’t know if that’s positive or optimistic or whatever, but that's what's going on with me.”

      Brendan Benson finds himself in an enviable spot as he enters the third decade of a remarkably creative, consistently idiosyncratic career – an accomplished frontman, musician, songwriter, producer, band member, husband, and dad. Benson’s seventh solo album, and first new LP in almost seven years, Dear Life is this consummate polymath’s most inventive and upbeat work thus far, an 11-track song cycle about life, love, family, fatherhood, and the pure joy of making music. Produced and almost entirely performed by Benson at his own Readymade Studio in Nashville, the album sees the Michigan-born, Nashville-based artist – and co-founder, with Jack White, of The Raconteurs – reveling in a more modernist approach than ever before, fueled by a heady brew of cannabis, hip-hop, and a newly discovered interest in software drum programming. The result is an untapped playfulness that elevates expertly crafted songs like the opener, “I Can If You Want Me To,” and the first single, “Good To Be Alive,” with voluble arrangements, elastic grooves, and incandescent power. Imbued with revitalized ambition and confidence, Dear Life is Brendan Benson at his very best.

      Beginning with his now-classic 1996 major label debut, One Mississippi – recently reissued by Third Man in its first-ever vinyl pressing – and its masterful 2002 follow-up, Lapalco, Benson has always infused classic craftsmanship with contemporary invention. Along with his own critically acclaimed canon, Benson is of course co-founder – with Jack White, Jack Lawrence, and Patrick Keeler – of The Raconteurs. The band first convened in 2006, winning worldwide acclaim, Grammy Award nominations, and a chart-topping smash single in “Steady As She Goes,” with their now-classic debut album, Broken Boy Soldiers The Raconteurs returned two short years later with 2008’s Consolers Of The Lonely. Like its predecessor, the LP proved a popular and critical phenomenon, earning the Grammy Award for “Best Engineered Non-Classical Album” as well as a nomination as “Best Rock Album.”

      Dear Life came about gradually and organically after a self-imposed creative hiatus rooted in the happy arrival of his son and later, a daughter. Having spent the majority of his adult life on the road, Benson decided he’d prefer to stay home for a change and just be a dad. “I just couldn’t bear the thought of leaving,” he says. “I was so enamored with my kids, I just sort of lost touch with my career. I just didn’t want to go back to work.” Instead, Benson directed his musical energies elsewhere and fast proved an in-demand producer/engineer (Robyn Hitchcock, Young The Giant, Trapper Schoepp, The Greenhornes) and collaborative songwriter, with a CV that includes partnerships with Jake Bugg, Iain Archer (Snow Patrol), and The Kooks’ Luke Pritchard, among others. Despite his successes, after a few years in this voluntary wilderness, Benson surprised himself in 2017 by writing and recording the rocker “Half A Boy (And Half A Man).” “It just felt really good,” he says. “I felt like I was like born again. Seriously, it was almost a religious experience, like, oh my God, I love making music. I had forgotten. That’s how it started. It was kind of a spark. A re-ignition.”

      TRACK LISTING

      SIDE 1
      1. I Can If You Want Me To
      2. Good To Be Alive
      3. Half A Boy (Half A Man)
      4. Richest Man Alive
      5. Dear Life

      SIDE 2
      1. Baby's Eyes
      2. Freak Out
      3. Evil Eyes
      4. I’m In Love
      5. I Quit
      6. Who’s Gonna Love You

      Sometimes, all you need is a little push. After acclaimed singer-songwriter Brendan Benson released his 2012 album What Kind of World, his manager suggested he launch a monthly singles series. He was a bit hesitant at first, but eventually he came around. And now, just a year after What Kind of World, Benson is back with You Were Right, which collects both the releases from the series as well as reworked versions of songs that didn’t quite fit on his previous albums. You Were Right finds Benson squarely in his jangly power-pop groove, while also finding room for him to explore his more experimental impulses.

      Benson recorded You Were Right in his own Readymade Studios, and will release the album on his own Readymade Records in the US with label partner Lojinx releasing it in the UK & Europe.

      Being in charge of both the production and release gave Benson the peace of mind to make exactly the record he wanted, all on his own terms. From his home in Nashville, Tennessee, here is Benson on being the boss and finding his place in the music industry.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. It's Your Choice
      2. Rejuvenate Me
      3. As Of Tonight
      4. Diamond
      5. Long Term Goal
      6. I Don't Wanna See You Anymore
      7. I'll Never Tell
      8. Swallow You Whole
      9. Shes Trying To Poison Me
      10. Purely Automatic
      11. New Words Of Wisdom
      12. Oh My Love
      13. The Fritz
      14. Swimming
      15. Red White And Blues

      Brendan Benson

      What Kind Of World

        Self-produced and recorded in the analog-only environs of Nashville’s ‘Welcome to 1979’ studios, What Kind Of World features members of Big Star, Ryan Adams' the Cardinals and Phantom Planet.

        Co-founder of The Raconteurs, Benson has spent a lifetime spread across four states, from a childhood spent on the outskirts of New Orleans, to his years in Detroit, Michigan, sojourns in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and a more recent relocation to Nashville, Tennessee. With five solo albums, one as Well & Goode and two albums apiece with The Mood Elevator and Raconteurs, he has captured his own America in finely hewn power pop.

        Created as an outlet for his own writing and production work, Benson’s Nashville based label Readymade Records & Publishing will follow the release of What Kind Of World with the debut album from Young Hines in May, produced by Benson himself.


        TRACK LISTING

        1. What Kind Of World
        2. Bad For Me
        3. Light Of Day
        4. Happy Most Of The Time
        5. Keep Me
        6. Pretty Baby
        7. Here In The Deadlights
        8. Met Your Match
        9. Thru The Ceiling
        10. No One Else But You
        11. Come On
        12. On The Fence


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