Dear Life

Dear Life

Brendan Benson ran into some setbacks during the writing and recording of his seventh studio album. “I recorded a few songs in my studio in Nashville, and then I got word that they were destroying the building,” Benson tells Apple Music. “They were going to tear it down and build a parking lot—so I had to move my studio into storage and that was it. I set up a little rig in my house and I started recording a few more songs.” The singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and co-founder of The Raconteurs worked on Dear Life in fits and starts over the course of two years, getting back into the swing of things once he rebuilt his studio, Readymade Studio, at his present Nashville home. Benson saw those unforeseen circumstances as a blessing in disguise, experimenting with new approaches to give a new flavor to his vibrant power-pop songs. “Although it took a long time and it wasn't the ideal situation, you get a cool record because it sounds different—since I didn’t write them all in a small time period,” he says. “That happens sometimes. You make a record and it’s very samey—so it wasn’t a terrible problem to have.” Here, Benson runs us through his journey, track by track. I Can If You Want Me To “I was on a walk around Radnor Lake in Nashville, Tennessee, having a talk with myself. I just started singing, ‘I can if you want me to, I can if you want me to’—it was kind of a mantra. I said it over and over and over, so by the time I got home I kind of had the song written out, written already in my head—and it was just a matter of recording.” Good to Be Alive “‘Good to Be Alive’ was written at home when I had to move out of my studio and into my home, where I couldn't really set up drums and I couldn't play guitar very loud. So I did a few songs in the box, so to speak. I used a lot of software instruments and software drums instead of setting up the real drums, because I couldn't really make noise at home. So I think it was an exercise in that, in using software instruments. I had a different arrangement for a song rather than guitars and drums and the same old, the usual lineup. I just went poking around for different sounds, and I was excited about what I came up with.” Half a Boy (Half a Man) “It was the first song that I wrote for this record. I didn't realize I was writing for a record or anything, but it happens to be the oldest song on the record. It's pretty much self-explanatory, just kind of like, 'I'm not ready to go just yet.' When I had kids I started to realize my mortality, and I think this record is a lot about life and death. So 'Half a Boy' pretty much kind of sums it up, I would think.“ Richest Man “I'm a simple man with simple needs, too. I used to sing all about finding a girl and being happy and having a family. So now I have achieved all that. That's kind of what I'm singing about. Like, 'All right, here I am, I've arrived.'” Dear Life “Well, there's a few different stories in there. I think it's like a few vignettes. I don’t normally do that sort of storytelling thing, but in the end, I thought it had a real charm. And I love the title of it. I feel like naming this record was pretty easy. I thought, like, 'Oh man, it's got to be Dear Life—this is perfect.' This sort of sums it all up. Life is precious and it's fleeting, and you don't realize it until it's too late—and there's so much to really to ponder about life.” Baby’s Eyes “It was written with [Nashville singer-songwriter] Will Hoge. It was a co-writing session that went really well, and I can’t say that about many of those. I was really excited to meet someone like Will, who’s like-minded. And also, we got this great song out of it, and I thought this sounds like a Brendan song even though it was co-written. I feel like it belongs on the record, maybe because it’s more like what people would expect from me. It should be worth mentioning that Jack White sequenced the record—I asked him to sequence it because I couldn't figure out a good order. But I love the flow of it and like how it has kind of this lighthearted thing in the middle—kind of whimsical, and then you’re kind of blasted again. I just thought that was a cool juxtaposition to 'Freak Out,' the way he did that. And starting the record with kind of an edgy track like 'I Can If You Want Me To,' I thought was a really cool idea. It’s a song that maybe would take people by surprise. My fans at least.” Freak Out “‘Freak Out’ is about a bad acid trip. Kind of a drug-induced anxiety. Simple as that.” Evil Eyes “That was one of the first songs. I think I wrote that after ‘Half a Boy,’ so maybe one of the second songs that I wrote for this record. I think it's one of my proudest moments. Vocally, guitars. I love this song—and it probably will go unnoticed. Because I feel like that happens a lot with me: Songs I love don't seem to get the notoriety. And conversely, the songs that were written in a minute and a half become popular. But 'Evil Eyes' is just one of those songs that I think I nailed it. It's just got such a cool mood.” I’m in Love “I think it's really hard-rockin' and it's super fun to play. I tried to get The Raconteurs to do it, but it didn't go over. I think that was kind of funny, but I get it now. It's a little like, what's the word? Like sort of cock rock or something. Or like machismo. So I don't think that's really The Raconteurs' style. But I thought it was just kind of fun, hard rockin', almost like Queens of the Stone Age. It just seems very kind of like bro, very like dude. Dude rock. But I like it. It's fun. I thought the record needed that too. Just something super hard and fast. Something fun. For the kids.” I Quit “This one’s super lighthearted. It’s very loose and it’s got that swagger I like. It was very off the cuff—I didn’t work much on the song. I think there's only three chords in the whole song. But I love the chorus and lyrics. And the chorus lyric about the fire is a reference to Peggy Lee, 'Is that all there is to a fire?' She had a song called 'Is That All There Is?' I love that song, and I like the sentiment too. Just sort of like, huh, really?” Who’s Gonna Love You? “That's a note to self, that one. It’s easier to hate than it is to show love. Or it's easier to just abandon something than it is to work on it. I think we can all relate to that. It's got a lyric that I used in a Raconteurs song ['Now That You’re Gone']. It’s something like 'Who's going to love you if it isn't me?' So I've kind of recycled that lyric just because I like it. And I do that a lot.”

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