INTERVIEW: Ben Noble
Hi Ben, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Great! I can finally leave my house – the weather has been awful.
Can you talk to us more about your song “Cutting Teeth”?
Cutting Teeth is a song about growing, starting over, and the pain that comes with both. A lot of the imagery came from a poem called Lord Ullin’s Daughter by Thomas Campbell.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
My one-year-old daughter’s teeth were growing in and I had recently quit my job to pursue music full-time. Learning to grow in my artistry and “cut my teeth” in the music industry had been and continues to be painful; so much to learn and such little room for error. One line in particular sums up the main sentiment of the song: “row, though wilder blows the wind, into the river raging white, I’ll start again.” In starting a new career, I have had to re-invent my understanding of the world and myself.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
The video was made in conjunction with a group called Pony Rug (a Minneapolis-based live studio performance series). It features my band-mates Henry Donato (synths), Cooper Doten (bass), and Reese Kling (drums). It was a scramble to pull it together and we only had time for a couple takes but it turned out better than expected!
The single comes off your new album Whiskey Priest – what’s the story behind the title?
The title comes from a novel by British author Graham Greene called The Power and the Glory. It tells the story of the “Whisky Priest”, a priest who is haunted by his dependence on alcohol. Throughout the story he is defined by his vice, both in public opinion and in his own mind but all along the way he lives very selflessly, showing sacrificial love to all he meets. There is something beautiful about the blend of good and evil, light and darkness in him that captivated me. I see this blend in myself and in people around me.
How was the recording and writing process?
It was all trial and error; I had never attempted anything like this before. None of my recordings prior to this had ever been officially released. I took a single microphone and my guitar to a friend’s cabin and decided to experiment, to rely entirely on my ears to listen for what sounded right. The idea of the concept behind the whole record came about after I had been done with a few songs. I found that the Greene novel tied everything together thematically so from there it was a matter of writing more music to fill in the rest of it. It was originally slated to be a 5-song EP but upon hearing it, my wife told me to “write more songs”. Frustrated and daunted by the task, that night I went into my studio and wrote Cutting Teeth in about 45 minutes. The rest of the record followed shortly after in the next three weeks. Sometimes you catch the creative wave and everything pours out of you.
How did the rural and solitary environment influence the sound of this record?
I have always been inspired by Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago (who isn’t) so I decided to follow his lead a bit by “heading to the woods”. Solitude and wilderness are great for helping you find different sounds. There are a few spots on the record where I recorded ambience from the woods, footsteps, rustling leaves; all unique textures. Solitude also helps you leave room in your music to let your mind and soul breathe. Everything from individual song form to track order was carefully crafted to carry the listener through highs and lows, hopefully culminating in catharsis.
What role does Minneapolis play in your music?
Minneapolis is a great town for “art” music. It isn’t nearly as saturated as New York, LA, or Nashville and there is less focus on commercial success. For the most part, we make records that we want to make for the sake of art itself; we also try to impress our local Minneapolis friends. The weather also plays a big role in our music. I find a hilarious parallel to ancient societies; the nature of their gods was largely based on how rough their climates were…harsh climate harsh gods, gentle climate gentle gods. I’m over-generalizing but in Minneapolis we are stuck indoors from October to March making music about hard things while our friends in easy climates write about “that party life”.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
I had become a father a few months prior to my initial writing sessions. This brought all kinds of new thoughts to my mind, mainly bringing up my own insecurities and unresolved issues. I was largely asking the question: “how can I teach my daughter how to be a functional human being when I don’t have my own life figured out?” To dwell too much on our faults and weaknesses is to miss out on all of the good that we have to offer our kids and the world; we are all a mixture of light and darkness and it is in accepting that reality in ourselves and in others that we can build a better picture of humanity.
Any plans to hit the road?
Yes – currently stuck in the email graveyard though. I am looking at late summer / early fall. All updates can be found on my website and social media.
What else is happening next in Ben Noble’s world?
I have a couple more videos coming in the next few months as well as a number of local shows. I recently went back to my friends cabin to write for a future record; it might seem early to get back at it but these things take a lot of time. I am looking to get a couple singles out the door by the end of 2018 and hopefully a new record in 2019.
Hi Branson, welcome to VENTS! How have you been? – Great, just enjoying the smoldering …