What was it about him that made things click?
He’s a good fucking songwriter, and he’s a really easy person to talk to. I think that’s why I had no hesitation in saying, “Yes, let’s make a record.” I think we have a lot in common just as songwriters. It’s not that we’re insecure, it’s that we’re very self-effacing in the same sort of way. I think we both come from the same planet of songwriters who feel like we’re constantly getting one over on people. Like, “I can’t really write songs, I don’t know how to write songs, how the fuck do we do this? I don’t know.” It’s a huge relief to know that probably everyone out there writing songs feels the same way. It’s just that you don’t talk to them very much. But Ben is so candid and open about himself. He and I can also sit around and talk about how easy it is to employ simple methods to songwriting that impresses people or even impresses yourself and you know that it’s just a trick. It’s sort of the way guitar players actually aren’t really applying much pressure to the strings but they’re out there sweating and groaning.
So it took you four years to find a songwriter you could really relate to?
I don’t hang out with a lot of musicians. I meet other musicians, but I don’t hang out and talk with them. Most of my intimates aren’t musicians. Many of them are artists, and some are musicians. But not many are songwriters. So I actually don’t get much of a chance to parlay with people who do what I do. And beyond the record itself, the best part of it is being able to hang out with someone who understands what’s it’s like to be me. And it’s not just that we both play piano. It’s that we both worship Jesus Christ Superstar and we’re not afraid to unabashedly sing it in the studio. We’re both fucking nerds. He comes from a more ’70s place and I come from a more ’80s place, but we have the same threads of punk rock woven together with sentimentality that makes us really hard for people to explain. I find that I can’t even explain Ben’s music to other people. You can hear a little of this and a little of that, but he rocks out, he plays hard. Listening to our music, it’s very different, but it’s been exhilarating to feel so understood . . . it’s like we’re different versions of each other in a way.
What made you decide it was time to do a solo album?
First and foremost, these songs had been piling up. There were always songs that got cast aside because they didn’t have drums. And there were songs put aside because Brian didn’t like them. And ever since that pile started accumulating, I noted in my head that with many bands that I know the frontperson will take that stash of songs and eventually do a solo record. Brian was really supportive of it.
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