Sweet Sounds: Benjamin Gibbard

Ben Gibbard's solo album Former Lives was released in 2012, but I just started listening to it.  Listen to one of my favorite songs from the ablum below, and read an interview with Ben Gibbard from Michael Hogan at the Huffington Post.  The full interview is here

Michael Hogan: Why are you calling yourself Benjamin Gibbard?
Ben Gibbard: I thought I'd use something a little more formal for the solo album. People call me Ben, but maybe go with something a little more regal. The full name gives it a little more elegance.
Is that what your mother calls you when she's upset with you?
Maybe once in a while. But I feel like naming it Benjamin was more of a formality than something people call me when they're mad at me.
It's interesting to hear an album of songs that were written over the past eight years. There are some that are more recent. The oldest song is eight years old, but the vast majority of them are more recent. They're not quote-unquote old songs, and I certainly don't consider them throw-aways -- which is why I wanted to make a record of them.
But they do reflect a more varied set of inspirations than you might hear on a Death Cab album.
Every record that we make, there tends to be a theme that makes itself apparent as we sift through the songs, and there tend to be sonic threads we want to put together, and that unfortunately leaves a song or two along the way as a deleted scene from the record. And I think these songs are more indicative of my dusty record collection than they are the sound of the band that I'm in.
On some of these songs, you can hear specific influences, whether it's Big Star or Teenage Fanclub. Do you think that's something we're losing in the Spotify, iTunes era? A recent blog post about the Brooklynization of musicargued that musicians today hear too much and have lost their connection to local scenes.
I think there's some truth to that observation -- that the reason indie-rock scenes were able to grow and flourish, certainly in the 90s, was that nobody had a camera pointed at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, or Seattle or Athens or any of these other towns where all of a sudden, overnight, it seemed that there were at least five great bands and a lot of other really good bands. There was a scene and everybody knew each other. These people had been playing music together for a long time and making 7-inches and tapes and swapping bands and all that sort of thing. And I think that what we've lost in the Internet age is any scene's ability to grow organically and be specific to the region that it's in. I'm certainly not going to take the position, now that I'm in my mid to late 30s, that there's nothing good anymore or it's not the same as it was in my day. I would never take that position, because I firmly believe that music has never been better, and the ability for weird-ass bands like Animal Collective to sell out theaters around the country is something that never would have happened when I was in high school. I think it's better to live in a world where people have access to the niches that they love, but I think what we do see -- I didn't read that article, but I can only assume that it makes this point -- when we look across indie rock are a lot of very similar production trends and sonic trends. And they're happening, you know, as an outcropping of maybe Brooklyn, but they seem to be happening everywhere, and that's a little bit unfortunate.
How did the Aimee Mann collaboration come together for this album, speaking of scenes cross-pollinating?
I've been friends with Aimee for some time now, and when I was writing that song I envisioned it as a duet. It's written from the perspective of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and I took a lot of inspiration from their writing but also specifically a book of letters that they wrote back and forth to each other called "Dear Scott, Dear Zelda." I wanted it to be a duet and I thought that Aimee would make a great foil. And she's wonderful. She's a legend, for Chrissakes, and she's also one of the funniest people I've met in my life. She sees the humor in everything, and I think that any good songwriter has to have a good sense of humor.
A couple years ago you sang with Jenny Lewis and Conor Oberst on a really wonderful version of "Handle With Care," which was originally recorded by the middle-aged rock stars of The Traveling Wilburys. Where do you hope to be in your career when you're their age?
I've lived my entire adult life never looking forward more than six months in the future, so that's kind of difficult to speculate on. But as I continue to move forward in my life as a musician, I just want to continue to accrue a body of work that people can place in the context of their lives and relate to, and find some joy in. And I am doing exactly what I want to do with my life. You know, outside of playing shortstop for the Seattle Mariners -- I didn't do that, but after that dream this became everything I wanted to do. And for all of the things that people get caught up in, press says this, press says that, people said this, message board that, I've long since cut that out of my life and realized, Listen, I get to do exactly what I want to do with my life. I get to make a really good living doing it. And there are people who have contextualized the music that I write into their lives in a way that it will be there forever. I can't ask for more than that.
-- grace 


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