“My life as a gypsy continues,” Ben Kweller says of his current tour, in support of his new, self-titled record.
The album, his third full-length release under his own name—you’ll remember that he was the leader of rock band Radish in the nineties, when Kweller was 15 years old—is quite different from his previous releases, less rock ‘n’ roll and more sixties pop, with pianos, bells and whistles, and Kweller playing every instrument.
“Gil Norton [the record’s producer] was like, ‘You gotta play all the instruments,’ and I was like, ‘Man, you’re crazy!’” Kweller says. “And he was like, ‘These songs are so personal, if you do it all it’ll bring out the personal aspects of the songs.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ It all really fell into place.”
The album shows a newfound maturity in Kweller’s songwriting—while most of the songs look back, nostalgically, to his teenage years, it’s evident that, at 25, he’s gotten older and wiser (in fact, he’s a new dad). “I did a lot of reflecting back on my high-school years and being a teenager. I think you can only talk about that stuff when you’re ten years from it, to look at it objectively.”
Kweller says that he hadn’t planned on making an overtly personal record. “For me what happens,” he says, “is that songs influence me. They sort of tell me what the record’s gonna be. I started to think of stuff like Phil Spector and Brian Wilson, and Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run.’ I started to think of male rock singers, how there aren’t any out there anymore. There are great frontmen—like Jeff Tweedy or something—and there’s like James Blunt and John Mayer, but there’s no Springsteen or Petty or Rod Stewart when he was cool with ‘Maggie May.’ There’s no Van Morrison. Where the fuck is Van Morrison?” (Tom Lynch)
Ben Kweller plays October 7 at Metro, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-0203, at 8pm. $20.