When Brendan Benson was evicted from his Nashville studio, he had to completely reconstruct his setup. The building where he recorded for many years, and since launching his own Readymade Records in 2012, was being demolished and turned into a parking lot, so he had to reconfigure some semblance of a working studio fast.
“I put most of my stuff in storage and moved into the basement of my home with a very stripped down setup,” Benson tells American Songwriter. “No drums, no loud guitar amps—I was forced to use other methods.”
Everything pared down, The Raconteurs’ guitarist and co-writer found himself experimenting with more digital elements and wrote “Good To Be Alive,” setting the theme of his seventh, full-length album, Dear Life, out April 24.
“I got into programming and what I could do using the software,” says Benson. “It was out of necessity, but I ended up really enjoying that process, too. I now have a proper studio again where I can get on the drums and crank up the guitars, but often I opt for the programmed stuff. I never know what will happen.”
More drum machines percolate throughout Dear Life, produced and performed nearly in its entirety by Benson at his Readymade Studio.
His first solo album since 2013’s You Were Right, and his first under Jack White’s Third Man Records, Dear Life takes on real life—family, music, love, mortality—of the producer and songwriter, who debuted in 1996 with One Mississippi. A decade later, Benson found himself alongside White, bassist Jack Lawrence, and drummer Patrick Keeler collaborating on The Raconteurs, who released a third album, and first in 11 years, Help Us Stranger in 2019.
No stranger to producing, Benson has already worked with Young the Giant, Robyn Hitchcock, and Keeler and Lawrence’s other band The Greenhornes. The consummate songwriter throughout his nearly 30-year career, he’s also co-written The Raconteurs’s tracks with White since its inception.
Dear Life is a collection of electrified and harmoniously erratic arrangements only Benson could concoct with 11 songs encapsulating his dynamic songwriting, bound by tight hooks and digitized beats.
Shifting around Benson’s musical orbit, Dear Life steadily moves from the rowdier “I Can if You Want Me To” to guitar-steered “Half a Boy,” and the punk-fixated “Freak Out.” Fatherhood and family are the base of “Richest Man” with Benson’s banter on life’s hardships on groovy closer “I Quit.”
Fused in piano and drum-drenched funk, new single “Good To Be Alive” leaves Benson cognizant of the pains of getting older, yet optimistically chanting It’s good to be alive.
Benson remembers a friend called the album “life affirming.” He concurs. “I thought it was a joke at first but then realized, well, it’s about life and death for sure,” says Benson. “I don’t know if that’s positive or optimistic or whatever, but that’s what’s going on with me.”
4/26 Washington DC – U Street Music Hall
4/28 Boston MA – Great Scott
4/29 Brooklyn NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
4/30 Philadelphia PA – Johnny Brenda’s
5/4 Toronto ON CANADA – Horseshoe Tavern
5/5 Detroit MI – The Loving Touch
5/6 Chicago IL – The Empty Bottle
5/7 St Paul MN – Turf Club
5/11 Los Angeles CA – The Roxy Theatre
5/12 San Francisco CA – The Chapel
5/14 Portland OR – Holocene
5/15 Seattle WA – Tractor Tavern