By Evan O’Brien and Jim Anderson
Photo Credit: Liberto Peiró
Brendan Benson’s soulful vocals, honest lyrics, and tasteful guitar chops have gained him critical acclaim as a solo artist and as a collaborator. From his 1996 debut release, One Mississippi, to 2002’s Lapalco, and 2005’s The Alternative to Love, Benson’s music has evolved from raw to refined as he has honed his brand of energetic folk rock.
Benson is also co-founder of the Raconteurs, contributing guitar, keyboards, and vocals to that group, as well as co-writing the band’s music. His fourth solo release, 2009’s My Old Familiar Friend, was recorded in between releases with the Raconteurs, and truly showcases his expressive sound. That album reached #110 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart in the U.S.
He also contributed vocals to the Stooges’ 2007 release, The Weirdness, and is featured on Margaret Cho’s 2010 comedy album, Cho Dependent.
His latest project, Well & Goode, includes friend and Raconteurs touring member Mark Watrous in the fictional duo consisting of “Midas Well” and “Upton O. Goode,” and was released in October 2010. The duo plans to record a full length album in 2011.
Benson and Watrous just completed a tour of Ireland in early October, and Benson is currently co-headlining a U.S. tour with the Posies. We were able to get a few minutes with Brendan to talk about his latest projects, his time on the road, and his VOX guitar.
VOX: How did you begin your artistic career?
Brendan Benson: I started a punk band in high school. I learned enough guitar to get by. Inevitably, every band I was in broke up. So I decided to start writing and performing on my own.
VOX: My Old, Familiar Friend was released in 2009 and well received…did you approach writing and recording any differently than The Alternative to Love?
BB: Yes, I worked with a real producer for the first time. Gil Norton had a huge influence on My Old Familiar Friend. I wanted it that way from the start; someone to call the shots, drive the ship.
VOX: You’ve been touring pretty extensively this year. Are there any recent performances or stories from the road that stick out to you?
BB: I just did a tour of Ireland which was a blast…very different than what I’m used to. I played acoustic in very small venues. It was challenging and fun.
VOX: You’ve always kept yourself quite busy, whether it is on your solo work, producing other artists, your side projects like the Raconteurs, doing cameos for Margaret Cho’s comedy album, etc. What’s next on the horizon for you?
BB: A co-headlining tour with the Posies. Jon and Ken are going to play two sets; one backing me and one as the Posies. It should be interesting.
VOX: Let’s talk guitars. What drew you to the VOX 55?
BB: I was curious about what VOX was like these days. I’ve always liked the older stuff, but I wondered what this new line was all about. I was pleasantly surprised.
VOX: Any favorite features? What would you say separates it from other guitars out there?
BB: Well, it sure is versatile…which is extremely advantageous when sometimes playing those places where you might have to rely on a rental amp. You can easily dial in a tone that is cool.
VOX: You use an AC30 as well, right? What about other VOX products?
BB: That’s about it, really. My AC30 is a 1963 (I think) with blue bulldog speakers, a copper top, and factory top-boost. It’s insane!
Thanks again for your time, Brendan. Good luck on the road!
Find more info on Brendan including tour dates, visit www.brendanbenson.com.