Band of the Day

2012.04.25

Brendan Benson

Sixteen years after his debut album, the power pop troubadour still makes great melodies
Cold hands, warm heart. We just need some time apart, and everything will be okay.
lyrics from Cold Hands (Warm Heart)

Brendan Benson (b. November 14, 1970) is a musician and songwriter originally from Royal Oak, Michigan. In addition to singing, Benson plays guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums. He made his debut in 1996 with the release of One Mississippi, which was first co-written and produced by Jason Falkner (of Jellyfish and the Grays) before Virgin Records sent Benson back to the studio with a different producer, Ethan Johns. Despite garnering positive reviews, sales of the album were poor and Benson was dropped by Virgin. In 2002, he released the album Lapalco independently, followed by 2005's The Alternative To Love (this time on V2 Records). As well as performing as a solo artist, Benson is also a member of supergroup The Raconteurs (which counts Jack White of The White Stripes and The Dead Weather, as well as Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler of The Greenhornes as core members). To date, Benson has released two albums with The Raconteurs and five solo albums. His latest album, What Kind Of World, was released in April 2012 on his own new label, Readymade Records. Benson is currently based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Considering he's been making music for over sixteen years, and has worked with some of the biggest names in music (like Jack White in The Raconteurs), Brendan Benson has always remained relatively below the radar. While many musicians dream of reaching the upper echelons of music stardom, and making millions of dollars to support their expensive bling habits, Benson seems happy enough living modestly with his wife and son in Nashville, Tennessee. He's the type of artist that's constantly involved in music just for the pure joy of it, plain and simple. Since first releasing his debut album One Mississippi in 1996, Benson has steadily put out a slew of solo albums, collaborative albums (as a core member of The Raconteurs), and—after being dropped by every label he's been on as a solo artist—has just started his own label, Readymade Records. For someone with such a prolific background, it can be daunting to know where to start. 2005's Alternative To Love is arguably his most popular album to date. “Spit It Out” is a carefree piece of power pop perfection, with plenty of foot-tapping moments leading up to a soaring chorus of “What's on your mind?/Spit it out, now!” Starting off with an acoustic guitar riff (most likely from Benson's pre-1970's vintage guitar collection), “What I'm Looking For” is one of those songs that's instantly easy to fall in love with. The lyrics are simple yet meaningful, sung in Benson's buttery croon: “Well I don't know what I'm living for/But I know that I just want to live some more.” On the power pop troubadour's fifth and most recent album, What Kind Of World, songs like “No One Else But You” show that he still has a knack for making melodies with the same kind of immediacy. His voice seems to start off with just the slightest hint of country twang and grit, perhaps due to years living away from his native Michigan in favor of Nashville, before building up alongside a jumble of drums and horns. Benson might not be the type of artist that's destined for superstardom, but by taking the reins on What Kind Of World, he's proved that making great music comes straight from pure passion for the craft.