Band Of Horses – If Not Now, When?
Ben Bridwell seems like a guy you could sit on a porch and just shoot the shit with for hours. When we reach him at his home in South Carolina, the acclaimed singer songwriter is wonderfully open to discuss what the last five years of his life have been like while life and his new Band Of Horses record, Things Are Great, unfolded around him. The album is Band Of Horses’s first album in five years and it’s steeped in a gorgeous hazy nostalgia but never shies away from genuine emotion. As most of the songs that Bridwell and the band have crafted since 2006’s gorgeous Everything All The Time, are based on something so personal to him. As Bridwell describes the process of creating Things Are Great, you hear an artist that has, after almost 20 years, 6 albums and countless tour stops, has created his most personal album yet.
“There was a lot of touring that happened after, (the band’s last album), Why Are You OK came out,” explains Bridwell over the phone in his gentle drawl. “I wanted to hit it quick with this new record but I started to hit snags along the way. I think production wise and even material wise we got to the checkered flag part of the process and I thought to myself, ‘I don’t think this album is good enough’, so I had to make the decision to say let’s go back to the drawing board and I made the decision to take it back home to Charleston and work on it with my friend in his makeshift studio and give it a bit of a more back to basics approach.”
“Back to Basics” is a bit of a misleading way to describe Things Are Great as Bridwell isn’t leaning on anything he had done in the past, the album is just as raucous and emotional as you’ve come to expect from Band Of Horses but there is definitely a feeling of excitement in the songs that he captured here. “There was definitely some personal upheaval,” Bridwell says of the songs that make up the reimagined version of the album and the choice to start it all over again. “Some relationships dissolved and it all definitely added some fodder for some different songs. I felt like I needed to get rid of songs and replace them and then get the production somewhere to the point where it felt like us and not something so clean. It was good to be home and there was a definite lack of time constraints while working on the record but it was the energy of being a bit more free that was something that helped get this to where I wanted it to be.”
While Bridwell has been making records for the better part of two decades, there is clearly something here that drives him to do more than just try to sell a few albums. You’d think that things would get pretty easy by the time you start putting together your sixth album but as Bridwell describes that pressure is always there. “Looking back at it with the vantage point that have now, I can see the pressure points all along the way and with this one, I was like, ‘Dang,” he says with an understanding chuckle, “six records in, if I don’t take my chance to put my stamp on it, to say no I want to go in this direction, then when am I going too. At some point you’ve got to follow your own gut and if not now, when? We’ve been here long enough and I wanted to assert myself and say this is not good enough, I want to do it this way but this pressure stuff doesn’t go away and now there is four kids to support and I had a wife at the time for a lot of it, so the pressure is there to play the game of the life we kind of got thrust into and luckily, by the way, I ain’t complaining, just saying but the industry pressures are vast and trying to balance everything with all the touring and promotional things can be daunting, at least.”
Through it all though Bridwell and the group have remained true to themselves and the type of music they want to make. Listening through the songs that make up the Things Are Great, they all seem so deeply personal, even by Band Of Horses status. When asked if this was the most autobiographical album he has made yet Bridwell laughs and says, “That is one of the things I might kick myself in the butt about in a couple years but I did have to make an effort to avoid all the metaphorical, smoke and mirrors type stuff. I wanted to make an effort to tell the story as cleanly as I could and because I was going through a lot of personal distress, it wasn’t hard to have the material to talk about, it was more of a matter of having the guts to say it out loud.” It seems like the hidden thesis of the new album tied all of these things together for Bridwell. The need to be honestly emotionally not just with the people around you, personally and professionally but with yourself as well. “I think a lot of it is emotional maturity maybe. I guess I’ve learned some of that in my 43 years on this ball but it does come back to, ‘if not now, when?’ When are you gonna start being honest with not only the people you are working with but yourself, especially when it comes to these stories.”
The world is a tough place that is just getting tougher by the day. Bridwell outlines something really interesting here that is a great lesson for us all. The need to be honest emotionally and musically is something that has carried Band Of Horses throughout their career and with Bridwell and the groups insistence on keeping that the driving force of what they do, professionally and personally, then we should best lucky to continue to have many more of their wonderful records to years to come.
Pre-order Things Are Great by Band Of Horses HERE
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