Uncanny magnetism marks Ben Kweller, a man of the people and potent old soul who’s been around a while in a young man’s body. All you have to do is mention his name and people light up, falling prone to effusiveness. Ben Kweller?!
Everybody who’s been touched by the young legend has a personal Ben account. That’s his magic. Like a spiritual teacher whose physical presence impossibly appears to each seeker awash in assembled throngs, or like Willie Nelson, who’s always smiling and looking directly at you (and everyone else in the crowd) when he plays, no matter how big the venue, Kweller, with his genuine, friendly warmth, masterfully connects on a personal level, taking root in the hearts of all those in range of his forcefield.
Part Texas punk, part rock icon, part guru of sorts, Kweller cruises along on perfectly aligned stars, loving up his rabidly devoted fans by feeding them just what they’re hungry for: more of himself.
Hands down, Kweller is the ultimate performer. While he commands with gentle yet bullish confidence, he also involves and participates with his audience, lending his shows the quality of conversation vs monologue.
In his songwriting, Kweller takes cues from good old boys and a lone star state lifestyle (no put-on), effortlessly integrating familiar ranch aesthetic with wholesome virtuousness plus apparent depth and intelligence to craft doozies (country variety these days) that stick like burrs to your pantleg. In between delivering these welcome punches onstage, Kweller engages his audience with humble, jesting self deprecation or lovingly humorous stories about his parents and the van he used to drive or intimate shares about how he was feeling when he was writing a particular song. You get the feeling Kweller regards you as a friend.
So skillful is the BK that he pulls off cult icon status as an outgoing nice guy who sings songs about happy and good things, always maintaining masculine dignity. In other words, Ben Kweller’s no weenie. He loves the music, that’s for sure. When I fetched Ben for his Luxury Wafers Session, he was singing pieces of a new song amidst answering a barrage of emails, text messages and phone calls. It’s natural to him. Kweller’s been living and breathing and sharing music and songwriting since he was in the single digits. By the time he was eligible for a learner’s permit to drive, BK was signed to Mercury with his band, Radish, dispensing grungy garage rock on tour and the late night tv circuit and on their album, Restraining Bolt. You really should go listen. Not only is it fun to hear recordings from his teens, but he’s also astonishingly the same in signature catchiness of tunes and that distinctive, sensitive Ben Kweller voice. Since then, Kweller’s gone mainly solo with a few collabs here and there, including an EP with The Bens (Kweller, Folds and Lee) as well as the song, I Hope Tomorrow is Like Today with Guster. This one really surprised me. Probably because I discovered the tidbit later the same day I was cruising the Trader Joe’s aisles, buying up their stock of sparkling water, when I noticed it was an all-Guster evening at TJ’s in Studio City. I think it was an omen.
If you’ve gotten this far and you’re still reading, then I probably don’t need to tell you the details of Kweller’s career. That’s the nature of Kweller’s fans – they devour even the tiniest BK offerings with gratitude. It’s a proud, dedicated relationship.
I confess I’ve only recently jumped on the love wagon for Ben Kweller. When I first met him, awe struck and respectful silence befell me on account of his big energy. At the studio, he quickly, charmingly and professionally knocked out a few songs for us at Luxury Wafers, adding his personal touch (check out “Luxury Wafers” in the lyrics of Things I Like To Do) and making it easy for our crew to photograph, record and film him. By the time we’d packed it up and dropped him off at his tour busses, I felt pretty sure this guy was the real deal. Sincere thank yous and goodbyes to the band took place, followed by a final goodbye to Ben. A hug was the right thing. Perfectly awkward, we leaned in to a brief, friendly squeeze that nearly morphed into a European cheek-kisser but just missed. We smiled at each other and Ben said, ‘Oh, I almost sucked your ear off.” And there it was: my initiation, my personal Ben Kweller story.
We made sure to see him perform that night where he worked his magic for a crowd who found themselves in heaven, surrounded by friends, celebrating the simple good things in life. Now when I think of Kweller and his songs, I grow a smile from the inside out. The joy makes me want to jump up on the top of some bleachers, shake pom poms and salute the grandness of being with every cell inside.
Hope you enjoy these lively, pedal steel-embellished tracks as much as we do.
Listen to the Exclusive Live Tracks (option/click to download):
Buy Ben Kweller’s latest, Changing Horses.