Brendan Benson

The singer/songwriter plays Detroit


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Despite having a successful solo career since the 1990s, Brendan Benson has enjoyed the spoils of mainstream success, mostly in the shadow of Jack White in the band The Raconteurs. Though he grew up in Detroit and New Orleans, his catchy rock tunes would be more appropriate in ’70s England. (Think Elvis Costello, Wings, ELO.) The pop-rock troubadour, who co-headlines the Majestic Theatre with The Posies on Nov. 9, took a break from touring in Ireland to answer some questions (via e-mail) about his life in Nashville, his relationship with Detroit — and becoming a father.

How much do your surroundings affect your music?

I’m not convinced that my surroundings impact my music in such an obvious way. For example, I never wrote a garage-rock song while living in Detroit during that whole surge. And the fact that I have written some country-ish songs with Ashley Monroe while living in Nashville is purely coincidental. I’ve always liked country music and, actually, I can remember recording a George Jones song while I was living in Berkeley, Calif. 

How often do you come back to Detroit? Also, what kind of relationship do you have with the city?

Detroit is filled with a lot of romantics and I’m one of them. I miss it and don’t miss it. Kind of a love/hate relationship. It’s hard to explain. I don’t get back there much. I have a lot of good friends there and I miss them. I’m also not home in Nashville as much as I would like. It’s one of the drags of being a touring musician; it takes you away from the people and places you love.

What would it take to get you back here? Or are you in Nashville for good?

I’m settled in Nashville at the moment. It reminds me of Detroit in some ways, actually.

How have your outlook on life and your approach to your career changed since becoming a father?

I have a new motivation. In the past, it was only me, and I had to be self-motivated, which wasn’t easy. But now, I just close my eyes and remember [my son] Declan, and then I have a great sense of purpose.

How much time do you spend on the road and how do you balance that with family life?

Since the birth of my son, I’ve been taking it easy and doing one-off shows and very small tours. At the moment, I’m touring Ireland for three weeks and I’ve brought them with me. Problem solved. As he gets older though, it won’t be possible to bring him along. I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I get to it.

What was it like working with Iggy Pop on The Stooges’ last album?

Unbelievable. I remember leaving the studio and getting into a van with them to go back to the hotel. We were all laughing and talking, and I felt, for a moment, like I was on tour with them in 1970. What a trip!

Is it a challenge to keep The Raconteurs separate from your solo career? Do you ever get any backlash from fans of your solo stuff over the success of the band?

No. It’s very different in so many ways. And I’m lucky to have fans who are real music fans and they seem to be interested in whatever I do.

What are the chances of another Raconteurs album?

We haven’t talked about it. But it’s not implausible.

Do you have any advice for musicians trying to break through the Detroit scene?

Love what you do. Do what you love. Cha cha cha.

What’s next for you?

I’d like to get more producing gigs so I can spend more time with my family. In the meantime, it’s more records and more tours. 

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