The MusicNerd Q&A With Brendan Benson

Photo by Adriel Denae

Critically beloved songwriter/producer and co-founder of The Raconteurs, Brendan Benson is one of power pop’s finest artists. He released his most recent album You Were Right this past December, celebrating the album’s release at Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium with guests including The Posies’ Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer, Jack White, Butch Walker and more.

Stylistically, You Were Right holds true to Benson’s power-pop ideals while also proudly reflecting the maturity and growth expected from a songwriter who has been making music for the past two decades.

Brendan Benson spoke with The MusicNerd Chronicles earlier this month:

You had released some of the songs from You Were Right as singles throughout the year leading up to the release of the album but you also wrote new material for the record as well. Were you at all concerned about how the songs would mesh with one another in the bigger context of an album?

I wasn’t worried about the flow of the record specifically. As a music fan, I have never minded too much if a record wasn’t so concise or didn’t have that continuity. I always thought it was more fun to listen to a record where things jump around a little bit otherwise the record ends up sounding like one long song.

Do you feel the album as a format is going to survive in this singles-driven, iTunes world we live in?

I would like to think that the album format will continue to be viable although a lot of people just don’t have that sense of ownership anymore. What I think will happen is that people are going to miss the tangible aspect of owning music. So many people have a music collection like people would collect baseball cards because it was something that you could hold and understand and that was yours.

You were affiliated with a couple of different record labels before launching your own label, Readymade, with your own roster of artists. Do you sometimes wish you had taken the route of label owner earlier in your career?

Running a label is great but with that comes the tremendous responsibility of helping other artists care for their careers and lives. There are still a lot of things that you have to worry about but it is gratifying to be directly working with a team of people, making sure that we are firing on all cylinders all of the time.

In another two years’ time, it will be the 20th anniversary of the release of your debut record One Mississippi. Did you expect that you would still be making music 20 years later? 

I’m a little blown away by that fact, to be honest with you. It is a little creepy to think that 20 years have gone by [laughs]. I keep thinking that any minute now, I am going to be discovered as a fraud or a talentless poseur. I still feel like that some days but overall, I am a little more secure. I’ve got kids now so making music work as a career is much more important these days than it was 20 years ago. The stakes are higher now but it still feels like I am getting to live out a dream.

An edited version of this interview was published in the February 27, 2014 edition of Here Magazine