Ben Lee has got a new album coming out and it´s called ”Ripe”. And if you are brave enough to download the thing, “why not take the $10 you would have spent on the album and donate it to your local charity (…) plant a tree, sponsor a child, help rebuild a local playground” (Lee on his blog). A via mail interview about the new album, the “perfect pop song”, how to spend free time and songwriting. Word to Benjamin Michael Lee!
Sonic-Reducer: Ripe is, by far, your record with the biggest touch of Pop. How did this,
in your opinion, happen and what`s the development behind this?
Ben Lee: I´ve always considered what I do to be pop music. Even when I was recording on a tape recorder in my childhood bedroom. Each record I´ve had a slightly bigger budget, so I have used better and better players and studios and stuff. It´s given me the chance to make a record that sounds like my music always sounded in my head.
Sonic-Reducer: ”Awake is the new Sleep” represented a certain mentality 2 years ago and
was inspired by people like Narayani Amma and Timothy Levitch. What does
”Ripe” in 2007 stand for?
Ben Lee: Ripe is still very much inspired by Amma. Without him, I´don´t think I would be where I am now. My music and spirituality are definitely linked. But this album feels much more full and whole to me. I feel more patient these days, less stressed and more capable. Ripe is about all of that
Sonic-Reducer: What ingredients would the perfect Pop song need to have?
Ben Lee: It can have anything, as long as a 5 year old can understand it to me, a child understanding a song of mine is the biggest compliment I could receive.
Sonic-Reducer: For the first time you recorded in a classic and big studio with producer
John Alagia (John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band). What differences did he
brought to it? And what were the major differences to the usual process and
was there room for improvisations?
Ben Lee: It was very similar to how I had more other records – quickly, intuitive, and fun. But we just went for bigger sounds on this one. I wanted the sound to be able to fill a stadium! All kinds of things that we didn´t plan for made it onto the record. That´s part of the fun in bringing in all the guests. They each bring their own flavour and make it unpredictable.
Sonic-Reducer: After years of constant touring and without a real home, you settled down
in sunny L.A. Has this experience affected your songwriting and lyrics in
Ben Lee: The more relaxed and centered I am, the more songs come to me. Having a home that I love allowed me to really let go, and let music take control. Days of sitting on the bed watchig tv with the warm California air blowing into my bedroom through an open window was just what the muse needed
Sonic-Reducer: Each of your albums has a specific sound. Do you have certain ideas in
your head of how it should sound like before going into the studio?
Ben Lee: The sound is sort of accidental. It´s based on who is around, what instrument they play, and what their style is. Also what the song dictates. Somehow, whit all these variables, you end up with a finished album.
Sonic-Reducer: You have tried out many new things over the years, acted in a movie,
composed music for other artists. Could you ever imagine yourself producing
bands or even write books?
Ben Lee: You never know. Life has given me many surprises already. I expect more.
Sonic-Reducer: Will your “Mixtape” – Project ever be released?
Ben Lee: Yes. It´s my apocalypse now! It´ll be done when it´s done…
Sonic-Reducer: How to you spend your free time, if you are not on tour or involved in
Ben Lee: Any kind of service makes me happy. Serving food at a soup kitchen is a great way to pass a day. Also going on hikes, meditating, seeing movies, eating great food. These are all good things. I am often in India with Amma, when I have a break (3-4 times a year). This really gives me the chance to unwind and focus on what is important.
Sonic-Reducer: What would your advice be on young musicians?
Ben Lee: Know yourself.
Sonic-Reducer: What`s on your Ipod?
Ben Lee: The new Jay-Z album, Against Me, Steely Dan, Rickie Lee Jones, Ted Leo and a million other things.
Sonic-Reducer: Looking back, was it good to be involved in the music biz at a tender
Ben Lee: I didn´t have a choice. Music called me, and I went.