Ben Kweller

"I'll tell you this much. I've noticed my first grey hairs. You know, they say the president goes grey. Every president we have, the first few months they have in office they fuckin' go grey."


And while he's not expecting to shoulder the same load as he would leading the country, Texan troubadour Ben Kweller admits the pressure is on ahead of the release of his fifth studio album, ‘Go Fly A Kite', next month.


As well as the million-and-one things any artist needs to do ahead of a new release, Kweller is wearing a second hat this time around – that of label boss.


‘Go Fly A Kite' is set to be the first release on his new label, The Noise Company, and signals a break from ATO, the label Kweller spent an enjoyable and harmonious decade with.


Although there's the odd grey hair sprouting from his 30-year-old head, it seems there's still plenty of the fresh-faced kid from Radish in Kweller and he puts it all down to a strict regimen of rock ‘n' roll.


"I will say rock ‘n' roll keeps you young," he said. "I know a lot of people my age that seem so old. I'm definitely stressed out right now because the album is about to come out and all hands are on deck... there is so much to it so when you have your own record label it really makes you respect the good record labels that are out there.


"It is hard work but soon I will be able to get back into just being an artist full time which I'm really looking forward to. I can't wait to get on that tour bus or aeroplane, hit the stage and play these songs for the people."


Australian fans don't have long to wait until they get to hear Kweller's new wares, the album due for release through Shock Records on February 10.


They'll also have the chance to revel in his trademark energetic and fun-filled set with three shows scheduled for the East coast capitals in early-March.


Kweller is no stranger to Australian audiences and credits our country with inspiring some of his most prolific songwriting during several previous trips downunder.


He toured as part of The Bens alongside Ben Folds and Ben Lee and in support of his four previous studio releases throughout the ‘noughties'.


But on-stage highlights aside, his crowning glory on these shores came when he was performing for an audience of one.


"I've had great, some of my best, some great times in Australia, many great times," he said with an obvious verve for the country. "I've written some of my best songs in Australia, actually the first two songs on ‘Go Fly A Kite' were written over there. I always get inspired in my hotel room in Australia for some reason.


"The biggest stand out moment though is that I proposed to my wife in Australia... I proposed in Melbourne, there you go."


Now happily married to Liz and with a couple of young sons at home in Austin, TX, Kweller has packed plenty into his decade as a solo artist – and is obviously proud of his achievements.


"I will say it kind of feels like 10 years... We've crammed a ton into those 10 years and I feel like I've done so much and maybe that's why it feels like 10 years to me because I have done so much.


"I was recently organising photos, actually I got a new computer and I'm putting tons of photos into it from hard drives and scanning old photos, and there were a lot from the Sha Sha days and photos from recording the album. I definitely look a lot younger.


"I have really good memories of when I was starting out in New York and I have good memories of the Radish days but I was a lot younger then and more naive."


While Kweller's albums to date have seen him explore distinctly different parts of his musical psyche, the biggest change to wash over the music industry during the course of his career has been the growth of the Internet and social media.


Now, musicians and artists are able to reach their audience without even leaving home and with his ‘label boss' hat back on Kweller admitted to being staggered at how much things have changed since he was pounding the pavement in days of yore.


"It's huge. You can reach your entire fan base globally with the click of a button and that's an amazing thing," he said. "I still have a floppy disk, the old school floppy disks, that has 2000 addresses on it... that was our original mailing list and we used to mail everything, like our newsletters were in the mail ‘cos there wasn't email, no one really did email. It's just funny how things have changed."


Long gone are the days of printing flyers and stapling them to telegraph poles around town.


"That was the reach you had, just a few square miles reach, now it's the click of a button and you're around the world."


"It's really interesting, it's really cool. I'm mesmerised by the Internet, the power of the Internet on so many levels even outside of entertainment."


As if to illustrate the point, an hour or so after our conversation, Kweller posted a picture on his Twitter account of the tour poster that had been spotted and snapped by a fan in Australia.


And just like that, 25,000+ fans around the world were given their first glimpse of the Aussie dates.


It's all part of taking care of business and while Kweller can't be accused of taking his eye of the promotional ball, he does fear our growing fascination with all things online is resulting in some worrying trends, too.


"The problem I have with the Internet is I feel like our attention span has gotten so small now and that's the biggest bummer for me because content is in our face 24-7 and a Twitter feed or Facebook feed....


"I've heard the shelf-life of a Facebook post is only 10 hours, meaning you only have 10 hours for people to see it then it's lost, just gone in the bottom of a feed. It's kind of sad. That just means it's a constant rotation of news and content so there's more pressure on musicians to create content and writing a great song and making a great recording isn't enough anymore. That bums me out personally as a songwriter and recording artist because ideally I would just love to make my music and get it out there somehow."


At the rate he's been making music throughout his career, it seemed fair to ask whether the prospect of a ‘Best Of' was on the horizon.


Happily, Kweller reported that he's still looking forward to more original releases, but that's not to say the potential for compilations is out of the question.


"I think about that stuff because I'm such an archivist. I save everything and the way I put together my albums I'm always writing songs and I put together different lists of songs until I have one album of material I feel fits together well. I'm always thinking about that.


"I have a dream of making an album of the Best of Ben Kweller Ballads. All my best love songs on one CD would be really fun. The New York Years...


"I have all these ideas but at the same time I'm not there yet. I'm not ready to make a statement on the past. I'm still really working on the future."


Of course, the immediate future holds the new album and tour and for fans of any or all of the previous BK releases, rest-assured there's something here for you.


"I think what I wanted to do with this album was really kind of make one concise album of everything I do, all in one," he said, explaining how the well-rounded sound on ‘Go Fly A Kite' had come to be.


There are definite hints of the quirky pop songs that characterised much of ‘Sha Sha' and the raw guitars of ‘On My Way'. There's more piano and poetic lyrics.


There's ‘Changing Horses'-style country as well, but rather than sounding stilted or muddled, ‘Go Fly A Kite' seems like proof that age isn't wearying Kweller.


Grey hairs aside, he's maturing like fine wine.


"Overall I'm a rock ‘n' roller at heart and you get that most of all in this album. There's harmonies and lush arrangements with pianos and guitars... it wasn't about me trying to throw back to those albums, it was just about me encompassing everything I do as a writer."

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