Exclusive Q&A: Ben Lee Takes Us 'Deeper Into Dream'
Making a dramatic shift in how you approach songwriting can be incredibly difficult, especially for those who’ve been set in one way for a long time. So, when you look at the case of Ben Lee, who’s been making his mark in the music industry since he was fourteen, solo and in the band Noise Addict, it makes his latest output all the more impressive. With his recently released album Deeper Into Dream, this indie pop mogul made serious adjustments and improvements in his craft to the delight of many music critics who panned his previous release The Rebirth of Venus. To give us some insight into what experiences and reveries went into this revision of technique, Ben Lee took some time to explain his new writing approach, how he approaches collaborations and tell us who he’s excited about in the music industry today.
OS: About Deeper Into Dream, you’ve said that you wanted to take a more personal approach to writing this album. Did you run into any difficulties making that shift? Do you find that it’s easier to be more personal when writing lyrics for other people to sing?
BL: Well, it’s all relative. My music has always been personal, but I guess what I mean is I wanted to be more vulnerable. Sometimes I think I’ve found it hard to admit weakness or my flaws (both in life and in music), so I was conscious of wanting to have more questions than answers on this album.
OS: One of the songs on the album is called “Indian Myna”. Is the story behind that song connected to particular experience, perhaps your wedding in India?
BL: It was inspired by an Indian Myna bird that we found on our doorstep during a thunderstorm in Bondi last Christmas. My wife and my friends Jessy and Nadav were there and we brought it inside and fed it, but it was clear that none of us had the time/ability to really nurse this little bird back to health. We ended up putting it back outside. It was a weird little moment that kind of summed up the sorts of moral conflicts we face on a day-to-day level.
BL: I began randomly, then I started finessing the order/structure. That’s how I usually work creatively”I start by mining the unconsciousness and looking for connections that exist outside my normal realm of consciousness, and then I try to use my conscious mind to make it cohesive.
OS: Do you find, when making a new record, that your work is shaped in reaction to your last record (in this case, The Rebirth of Venus)?
BL: Only in that having albums bomb either makes you try harder to appeal commercially or to care less. In my case, it was the latter.
OS: You’ve collaborated with a lot of artists ranging from Mandy Moore to Cary Brothers. Do those experiences affect your songwriting at all?
BL: I like the opportunity of being allowed into someone’s creative process. I consider it an honor. It always teaches me stuff.
OS: You’ve done some covers of relatively newer bands like MGMT. Are there any up-and-coming artists that have caught your eye recently, with whom you’d be interested in covering or collaborating with?
BL: I’m producing albums at the moment for Appleonia, Samantha Shelton and The Silver Lake Chorus. So, those are the up-and-coming artists I’m excited about. Also my friend Alexa Wilding. I’d like to collaborate with her on something at some point.
BL: I’m not sure it’s the place. It’s more the people. But, it might be the place.
OS: Now that you’re a family man and a bit farther along in your music career, what advice would you give your fourteen-year-old self who was just starting out?
BL: Relax. It’s a long journey.
You can find out where to pick up Deeper Into Dream at Ben Lee’s official Web site and pick up a free download of the song “Get Used To It” while you’re there.