Raconteurs-man Brendan Benson on his foray back into solo artistry, his adopted home of Nashville and why it might not be the end of the worlad for the Jack White supergroup...
Roisin Dwyer, 02 Nov 2012
“Oisin from The Lost Brothers says ‘Hello!’” is Hot Press’ opening line to sometime Raconteur Brendan Benson.
“Oh, hey, that’s great! He’s a lovely guy. I loved working with them, they’re great people really talented and very mellow. And very polite!” he laughs.
Benson oversaw the Irish outfit’s last album. It may have seemed in recent years his production duties almost eclipsed his solo work as he ratcheted up a slew of credits including Young Hines, The Greenhornes and The Nice Device. With latest release What Kind Of World he reminds us that, versatile as he is, Benson is primarily a songwriter – and a talented one at that.
This long-player sees him once again join forces with Brad Pemberton, best known for his role as Ryan Adams’ skinsman.
“When I first moved to Nashville, I met Brad’s wife and she was really cool,” remembers Benson. “She introduced me to her husband who was playing with Ryan Adams. At the time I was looking for a band. He wasn’t available. Then, a couple of years later, he became available and I snatched him up! We had been touring together quite a lot before making this record. We already had a nice rapport.”
The LP is out on Brendan’s own Readymade Records, the origins of which can be traced to the mid-’90s.
“The first record I ever made came out on Virgin and my friend did all the artwork and for some reason I said put Readymade Records on there,” he explains. “I think it was a sort of fantasy I had about having a label. I think where I came from, listening to punk and hardcore music I noticed these small cool labels and so I wanted my record to be like that. I didn’t want my first record to be on Virgin, this huge corporate thing.”
Readymade now counts The Lost Brothers, Young Hines and Cory Chisel And The Wandering Sons amongst its acts and will soon include Eric Burdon.
“I invited Eric on stage at SXSW and we jammed together!” exclaims Benson. “Then he came to Nashville and we recorded some songs that will be coming out on Readymade Records. I’m putting out Eric Burdon’s record! At SXSW we did ‘When I Was Young’ and then we did ‘Inside Looking Out’. It was amazing."
Benson’s album also includes a duet with country ‘n’ western starlet Ashley Monroe.
“We met on a Raconteurs video shoot for ‘Old Enough’,” says Brendan. “She and I started writing on the set. By the end of the day we had a song! We decided to get together and keep writing. We wrote a bunch of stuff.”
Now the R word has been mentioned we feel it appropriate to enquire about the status of the White/Benson collective. So are The Raconteurs finished now or is it just that you’re all very busy and it might be revived again?
Pause followed by nervous cough and guarded response. “The latter!” (laughs)
On a related note what did Benson think of Adele’s cover of ‘Many Shades Of Black’?
“I love it, I loved it then – and that was before she took over the world!” he enthuses. “It was all arranged through management. I always thought a woman could sing the hell out of that song. Maybe now since she’s been so successful it will be revived.”
Although now settled in Nashville Benson still has a close affinity to his birth city of Detroit, so was obviously delighted when one of his Michigan heroes requested that he contribute vocals to an album.
“That was surreal! I was touring in Europe and Iggy Pop just asked me to sing on the next Stooges record!” he beams. “I was over the moon so I flew from Europe to Chicago for the night. I was in and out just to sing four lines! It was surreal driving back to the hotel with them in their van, Ron Asheton driving, Iggy in the passenger seat, I’m sitting in the back closing my eyes and thinking to myself ‘I’m on tour with The Stooges’ (laughs). They were hilarious, they were so funny together.”