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- Posted on Jul 9th 2009 3:30PM by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
But later this summer, Benson will shift his focus from yard work back to music in support of his latest album, 'My Old, Familiar Friend,' which was named for reasons that weren't readily apparent to him. "It's a lyric in one of the songs," Benson says. "It leapt out at me. I had a hard time thinking of a name and then I was listening to the record, trying to think that it might provoke a name. Sure enough, that just kind of popped out at me. I wasn't sure why I liked it. After doing these interviews and answering that question, after being with the Raconteurs and coming back now to my solo stuff, it's like my old familiar friend."
Recorded in Nashville and London, the album was tracked with producer Gil Norton (the Pixies, Maximo Park, Foo Fighters) and mixer Dave Sardy (the Rolling Stones, LCD Soundsystem, Oasis). Benson credits Norton with removing the Raconteurs' influence on the album. "It wasn't really allowed to happen because of working with Gil," Benson says. "He was the producer and he has the biggest effect, the biggest influence on the record. Working with the Raconteurs never really figured into it. All I hear on this record is Gil's part in it, which is a big part. His way of producing was very hands-on and heavy-handed. I think he brought a certain slickness, which I'm not really used to."
Although he likes the results, Benson admits that working with Norton wasn't always easy. "It was hard at first," he says. "He's very methodical, very meticulous and kind of like a perfectionist so at times it wasn't very fun. Sometimes it's kind of a drag to try to be perfect all the time. I like things to sound out of tune. I like tempos to fluctuate. I don't mind if my pitch isn't perfect but to Gil, that was not an option."
One influence that does stick out is the Motown vibe on the track 'Garbage Day.' "I think that drum pattern is very much Motown," Benson says. "The strings too. They have a little Motown vibe. It wasn't something that I did too intentionally. Gil and I kind of ran with the idea but we never said to each other, 'Motown.' But the way the song was sculpted did ultimately sound like a Motown song."
And while working with Norton could be a chorse, Benson says his time with Sardy was just the opposite. "Oh man he's great," Benson says. "He's just cool, man. He's a really, really funny guy and I think he's just got great taste and great ideas. I did some vocals with him and it was just quick and easy, very fast. He put up a couple mics, saw which one sounded better, chose one and just went to it. I like that rather than laboring over which mike sounds good. Sometimes the process just gets in the way. I just want to do it."
Now, Benson is preparing to bring the songs to the stage. In addition to shows in New York and Boston, Benson will make an appearance on 'Letterman.' "I think it's pretty cool considering all the controversy surrounding him," Benson says of David Letterman's incident with Sarah Palin. "It's kind of put him back on top. I really like him a lot. But for awhile there I think people thought he was an old fogey." The appearance is scheduled for August 18, the same day 'My Old, Familiar Friend' hits shelves.