Ben Weaver interview
With his heart set on the wilderness, and with a UK tour just around the corner, Ben Weaver talks to Jade Tullett about walks, writing, and the inspiration of the wild.
On your latest album, 'Mirepoix & Smoke', most of the tracks feature barely any other accompaniment apart from your vocals, a banjo, or a guitar. What made you strip back on the record?
I listened to the songs many times before I went into the studio to record them, and was talking to several guys I intended to use as a band. Each time I listened to the songs I was never able to hear more. They just kept asking to be left alone. I think that is my greatest responsibility as someone who writes songs - to listen to the song, and honor what it is asking - because it knows more than I do.
Do you believe that simplifying music makes it more meaningful?
Not always. I think it is more a question of adding only what is needed. Sometimes that is a lot and sometimes it is not. An example being 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' [by Lucinda Williams]. That is one of my favorite records and there are millions of tracks on each one of those songs, but not one of them takes away from the feeling of the song. It never feels overdone or gratuitous. If people stay honest to the song then there is usually no problem.
A lot of your tracks make reference to your love of all things wild. What sparked your animal attraction to the wilderness?
Wildness has always been a huge part of who I am. From the time I was very young I spent a great deal of time in the woods and outside in general. I like how it feels to be around things that are as close to their natural/wild state as possible. I seek this aesthetic in the food I eat, the music I listen to, the conversations I find myself engaging in, and the places I want to go. I think the state of things as they are, is nature, and wildness is like the topos of that nature. This is where I like to live.
How does the wildness of the Midwest feed and inspire you lyrically?
I think we are all inspired by what is around us, and possibly it is like a lot of concentric circles going outwards, from the things which are physically closest to us. Depending on time of year, season, interest, job, pursuits etc... I am very inspired by the plants and the trees and mushrooms and things that grow on their own that can still be found within the city. It is these things that I have access to on a daily basis that inspire me the most. After that it is the trees up in the woods, or the wild grasses and birds out on the plains and prairies, but those things are not right outside my door so it is a different kind of inspiration - less immediate.
What comes to you first when you're writing new material; the words or the music?
It is not consistent. Sometimes the words. Sometimes the music. It is a mystery. I like mysteries.
Is their a particular place you go to write?
Usually I write at my desk at home. I can write anywhere though if the ideas are coming.
Many dates on your February tour are in intimate venues. Do you enjoy playing this type of gig?
Very much so. I prefer them.
What reaction do you aim to create when you play live?
I simply hope that it is a chance for people to connect in real time to the words and feelings that I am connecting myself to as I sing my songs. I would hope that people feel comfortable to get lost in the song, the moment, the life, to have whatever experience they feel pulled to have.
How would you like your American Dreaming to be received across the Atlantic, here in Blighty?
I travel with as few expectations for anything as possible. I love what I do, so I just try and share that. Anything beyond the chance to do that is a blessing.
What do you think 2011 holds for you?
I am going to finish a book of poems I have been working on and start writing more songs. Beyond that I have no idea. One day at a time and a lot of long walks.
Ben Weaver will be touring the UK this February, click here, or visit his Myspace for more info.