Artist: Ben Lee
Played at City Winery: February 25, 2012
Q&A With City Winery
Your music career took off when you were really young, 14 years old. Was age ever a problem for you? Were you at all overwhelmed?
Well, at the time I just desperately wanted to get out of school and the regular, mundane teenage life. But now, in retrospect, I think I was on the younger side to deal with some of emotional issues: the criticism and other pressures. But, everyone’s life has different challenges, so that’s where I dealt with a lot of stuff.
Were you ever turned away or not able to do something because you were too young?
Sometimes when I’d play in a pub I’d have to go in and out the back door, I wouldn’t be able to hang out in the dressing room at all. And there were some gigs with bands like Pavement in the 90s when I was so excited about the gig but I wasn’t aloud to watch them after we played. It’s kind of silly.
You got your start with the band Noise Addict. How did your experience with them affect and/or help shape your solo career?
I’ve never really separated the two. Making music, and just being a human being, it’s a daily learning experience. There’s definitely been a continuum, where each project and each experience has led to an appreciation or internal ripening that’s led me to the next thing. I’ve never felt like anything was wasted.
You grew up in Australia but you now live in LA. Do you consider yourself an Australian artist or an American artist?
I’ve always been more interested in boundlessness. I’ve never been a nationalist person, I’m more interested in experience, and connection, and emotion. So that’s not really a big question for me. People are obsessed with where you live and where you’re from. But, I could easily move somewhere else!
What’s your favorite song to play live?
It changes a lot, but the song we sound checked with today, “No Right Angles,” I always enjoy. There’s a song off the new record called “Lean Into It” that I also really enjoy.
Do you have a song that you always connect with, even if the crowd isn’t into it?
Yeah, all of them. I always cynically assume no one’s going to be into it, and I always try and connect with it on my own. There are a few, like “Catch My Disease,” that I do every night because it’s expected by the audience. So for those it’s sometimes a little harder to connect with emotionally because the rebellious side of me says, “Ugh, I don’t want to do something just because it’s expected. “
You put out a new album this past October, Deeper into Dream. It was a concept album of sorts, right? What inspired that idea?
For almost the last ten years, my central interest in my records and my music is consciousness, and different ways of interacting with it, and creativity and connection. And dreams come from the same place, where the psychological, spiritual, creative surges of inspiration come from. So for me it was just another way or examining what it is that’s making the motor run in this whole thing. I did a few years of dream analysis, and that really opened me up to looking at dreams as a portal into the unconscious. I always right what I’m interested in. I used them as a jumping off point to explore what we don’t know about ourselves.
Any big plans for 2012?
At the moment, I’m working on a musical of the book B is for Beer by Tom Robbins. And my new album’s almost finished, it’s called Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work, which will hopefully be out sometime around September.