Steady As He Goes: An Interview with Brendan Benson

Brendan Benson
What Kind of World

Brendan Benson has had a fascinating career, moving from relative unknown, to local legend, to renowned songwriter, to co-frontman alongside Jack White in a supergroup called the Raconteurs. All the while he’s grown in popularity and learned enough to become a more-than-seasoned veteran songwriter. To put it mildly, he’s a musician with a lot of history behind him and was more than willing to speak about his roots and his early influences, and how they progressed: “I think I was about 14 or 15 and started getting into punk rock, specifically DC hardcore. I realized that the bands were my age and it kind of gave me the courage to try it myself. I got interested in songwriting so I ventured out and studied Wings and the Zombies and Todd Rundgren. I guess it just kind of continued to evolve and still does to this day.”

Recently Benson launched Readymade Records, which has gotten off to a quick start and features a promising talent in the form of emerging artist Young Hines. When asked about the decision to launch the label and why Hines was the first artist he signed, Benson responded, “I produced six albums in a year, including my own; so it just made sense to release them under the same family. Especially since we were playing all over each other tracks as well, it’s fun and makes sense. Young [Hines] was first, actually, as I know my manager was really blown away with his music and that kind of lit the fire on what has evolved into what will be five full-length releases and an EP with Eric Burdon and the Greenhornes for this year.” Then he added simply, “Fun stuff.”

He then spoke plainly of his collaborative efforts and whether or not there were any trends in repetitious patterns when it came to certain artists (there weren’t). When I asked about his hesitancy to play up his guitar proficiency on solo albums after showing his impressive capabilities with the Raconteurs, he spoke humbly, saying, “I don’t think of myself of a great guitar player and I think when I’m in the studio, it’s nice to have other people come and play who are specialists, no matter what the instrument.” His response prompted another question about how many self-edits each of his solo full-lengths routinely go through. “I didn’t edit myself on What Kind of World as much on previous record. I think I’m just learning to say it and to stop editing myself so much. It’s always more interesting to see what happens when you don’t overthink it,” Benson responded.

Of course, like many musicians before him, Benson does occasionally tire of music and a career as a musician but admits that “It’s what I do and I can’t imagine myself not constantly coming back to music.” From the interview, it was apparent that this is what Benson was meant and intended to do. For the remainder of the year, he’ll be spending a lot of time producing various projects, working in the studio, and playing a select few shows. If one gets announced in a city near you, take advantage of a golden opportunity to see one of the hardest working and most respected songwriters in the industry.