After an album of stripped down country songs, Ben Kweller is back to his rockin' ways. The Texas-native's latest record, Go Fly A Kite has a familiar ring to for his legions of fans. As the singer embarks on his latest tour, we caught up with him at his home in Austin to hear what he's been up to.
OC Weekly: What made you go back to your electric ways after stripped down sound on the previous album?
Ben Kweller: Rock & roll is my first love. Change Horses was more the side route for me. I've always loved folk and country music. Over the years I'd write those songs like “Fight,” “Wantin' Her Again” or “Gypsy Road” would come to me and I'd put it in my sketchbook and I started this list of songs that would go well together and that's how that album was born. One day I had 12 or 13 and I made that record. I always knew at the same time of that album that I was writing songs for Go Fly A Kite since the majority of what I write are rock n roll songs. It was more that the country songs was the weird move for me. Go Fly A Kite was a normal record for me. It was a bit weird.
But weird is good though, it makes you stretch yourself.
Oh yeah, 100 percent. When Changing Horses came, that was the question I got, “what is up with this?” Obviously I'm always pushing myself to do something different. At the same time, there's a certain aesthetic that I'm drawn to when I'm in the studio.
Can you believe it's been 15 years since you first started and still have continued success?
I'm not surprised I'm still doing it, but the success is a shocker. I got into music when I was 8 when I heard “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles and it made me want to write songs. From that moment on, I just knew this is what I wanted to do and what I had to do. I've always had an incredible amount of will power, determination and drive towards music. I've never had a backup plan. I'm a high school dropout who left to play music. Anything else has never been an option. I feel lucky that it's worked out to the point where I can pay my bills and have an interesting life and I need to do is make music to support that. It blows my mind.
What city are you looking forward to playing on this upcoming tour?
I always enjoy playing in California. All of those stops are exciting. I've always loved that run but. I'll always play the 5-6 places but throw in another to keep it interesting. This time it's Amarillo in the panhandle of Texas. They usually don't get shows there except for local cover bands so it should be fun. If you're out on tour, you might as well go somewhere new if you can.
What's it about California that brings you back on every tour?
It's one of those things that's hard to put your finger on. The weather, being near the ocean, it's such a great vibe. I was born in San Francisco so it's always fun to go there, even though we moved to Texas when I was 1. I have a lot of friends in Southern California so it's great being down there too. There's such great food down there that I always have to go there. You just want to rent a convertible and have the top down.
Big plans for the rest of the year?
Touring and more touring. I'm playing in England then have a few one off festivals and some more random shows too. I've been writing some songs, which it's even too soon for me to speculate when the next album will be like, but I'm sure I'll write a bunch of different stuff between now and then. Probably start recording stuff soon I'd think.
Ben Kweller will be playing The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on April 24. Tickets are $18-$20. Sleeper Agent and The Dig will appear as well.