Ben Eyler on Ben Eyler

After listening to Ben Eyler's latest release, Good Luck Places, I was curious about the inspirations behind the songs. Often I think about what goes into a song, but I rarely get the chance to ask an artist about the backstory for each and every one on an album. So, this time, I thought I would try something new and get the artist to tell the story to you himself. Sort of like Behind the Music, but with underground musicians instead of burned out corporate rockers from the 80s.

So, Mr. Eyler was more than happy to give us a little insight on his tunes. Of course, it always helps if you hear the songs first, so head on over to Ben's site and take a listen. Then, hit the back button and find out what makes his songs tick.


LOVE WILL STRAIGHTEN YOU

A friend of mine recently pointed out that this title sounds kind of totalitarian - I wasn't talking about straighten in the sense of straight or gay. I could have called it "Love Will Cure Your Ills" or something like that. But, good heavens, I want to go on record saying I DO NOT think that love can make gay people straight. Despite the double entendre title, this is probably my favorite song on the record.

LET ME STAY CURIOUS

I recorded this once before, a couple of years ago, with another vocalist, Tamara Jones, singing lead. The fact that I rerecorded it and sang the lead myself had nothing to do with how I feel about Tami's vocal track - she sang it superbly. But it is kind of confusing to people when someone else sings lead vocals on your record - unless you're Santana.

WORTHY OF SUSPICION

This song started life as a title, which I thought sounded sort of funny - the song turned out kind of dark, though, which I did not intend to happen. But because it's such a dark song (the narrator asks himself "Is this the person I turned out to be?") it ended up fitting very well with a film about an alcoholic college professor who has an affair with one of his students who happens to be moonlighting as a call-girl. The movie is called "Penny's Destiny" and this song plays over the credits at the end.

LONG GONE SOON

This song - a light-hearted meditation on Death - features the first of three trombone solos on the record. Strange that they outnumber the guitar solos three to two. (Step off, Mr. Bacharach!) This was the first song I played for producer Scott Mann as we were preparing to make the record. Going back to my notes, I see that we'd originally planned on incorporating reggae backup singers, birdcalls, and swirling moog synthesizers. Sensibly, we chose the more straightforward approach of acoustic guitar and a brass section.

GREASY TOMATOES (FRANK & JOHN)

The plot goes like this: boy meets boy, boy agrees to knock over drugstore with boy, boy sells boy out to the police, boy shoots boy. We tried recording it first with electric guitars, a full drum kit, and Joe Cocker-style white-boy blues howl. We didn't get too far before we realized we were making the background music for a Ford truck commercial. Ever-resourceful lads that we are, we actually sent that track to Ford - and I believe a couple of beer companies as well - then razed the decks and started again with acoustic guitars and a beat box (that is, a box we beat on for percussion). I briefly considered inventing a name for the background singers who accompany me on this track such as the Three Blind Boys from Amagansett or the Sexually Stunted Dukes of Harmony, but couldn't bring myself to do it.

HONEY'S BEEN FEELING BAD IN THE MORNING

This song combines some things you don't usually see together in one song: the lyrics deal with morning sickness while the musical arrangement combines the Sound of Philly with a Crazy Horse electric guitar explosion at the end. I'm nothing if not ambitious.

GOOD LUCK PLACES

I've heard that the title track for an album usually takes on some kind of special significance. Actually, my original idea for the album title was "Ben Eyler In The Good Luck Places," but I thought that sounded too girly and too much like a concept album. In the end even the shortened version I ended up choosing, "Good Luck Places," sounded a bit goody-two-shoes to me. But there was a deadline. So we used a brooding picture of me for the cover art to offset some of the levity.

THE THING YOU LOVE THE MOST

It's a well-known fact that everybody loves gospel music. So, eager to please, I thought I'd try something that involves a churchy piano and a very earnest lyric. When I originally brought it to Scott to see if he thought it was worth recording for the album, he came out strongly against it. Fortunately for you, blessed listener, I insisted we do it anyway. As I like to say: Democracy is the Enemy of Art.

LAZYBONES

Not the Hoagy Carmichael song - I was not aware he had a song with that title until after I'd already written this. In any case, this was the last song we recorded for the album. I had forgotten about it until one night I played it on a whim at a solo acoustic show in New York City. The waitress came up to me afterward and asked if I'd written the song myself (one of my very favorite left-handed compliments) and when I told her Yes she seemed suitably impressed. I figured if the song could make an impression on someone who's professionally trained not to listen then maybe, just maybe, it could reach some other people too. I like to employ the scientific method whenever possible.

SOMEDAY I'LL LEARN

As we were sifting through the dozen or so songs I thought we should record for the album (I'm very prolific), Scott - the producer - started hounding me about writing with a clearer more simple message. It didn't matter how many times I'd try to argue that that song about a cake being left out in the rain was a huge international hit, recorded by some of the top names in Show Biz. Anyway, when I got finished losing the argument I went home and wrote this very simple song about a guy who wishes he wasn't such a jerk.

LONG GONE REDUX I loved the horns so much on "Long Gone Soon" that I wanted bring them back to end the album. So that's what we have here. Inspired by a trip to New Orleans made after recording the bulk of the record.

Ben Eyler Website



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