Not too long ago, Ben Lovett spent a number of years living what he describes as a “rambling” lifestyle. The expense of the Georgia native’s college tuition paid for him to travel as far as Greece, with some money left over to spend on recording equipment. There, he began to land occasional work composing film scores and producing records his friends were working on. This, somewhat accidental career move developed along with Lovett’s technical skill as a composer and producer. After returning to the States, the Georgian established himself within the independent film scene, creating scores for a number of well-received festival productions. As a producer, he continued to work and collect friends throughout the industry. After almost a decade of helping other artists realize their visions, Ben now prepares to unveil his own, in the form of his debut album, “Highway Collection.” The record showcases Lovett’s distinctive falsetto vocals over a number of richly produced tracks that signal a wide range of influences, from Broken Bells to The Beach Boys. When the LP is released next month, his “rambling” career will have arrived at a surprising destination. A few days ago, Lovett (he’s now dropped the “Ben”) spoke to Blast about the journey that brought has him to this point.
Speaking from Asheville, N.C., after some matter-of-fact acknowledgment of his background in production and film composition, Lovett moved on to explain how his transition from soundboard controller to songwriter came about. Still in possession of his southern drawl and polite mannerisms, the thirty-two year old explained:
“In some ways, that was always where it (my career) was heading. I didn’t come to a conscious decision to make that change. I was always doodling sketches of songs and having different ideas, and cataloging and recording them. It was just a case of being so busy with other things. But, like with anything creative, you eventually hear the knocking on the door. You have to make a conscious decision to stop and create time. I reached the point in my life that I was ready to make more time for myself, and it all naturally evolved from that.”
BLAST: Do you consider this album to be a culmination of everything you’ve been working on individually, so far?
LOVETT: “I do. I think that all of those experiences have informed the process of writing these songs. I haven’t always, necessarily, been writing songs; I’ve always been making music. A lot of the stuff I was really interested in doing, earlier on, was to deviate from any sort of song structure as much as possible. So, the idea of writing in a ‘chorus/verse/chorus’ structure: I couldn’t have been less interested that. But, eventually, I came around to it. It became an interesting challenge, after I’d explored away from it for a while.
When I started the record, every part of making it was already familiar to me, except the role of being the lyricist and the singer. I had shared those roles in collaborations, but it was a kind of new adventure to take on the role as the sole songwriter.”
BLAST: The album was recorded in a number of locations all over the country, and there are a number of collaborations. Are those things related?
LOVETT: “I went through a period of a couple of years where I didn’t really live anywhere. I just, kind of rambled around in my car, visiting people and going places to work on particular projects. I’d work on something for a while and stay with friends, and then, I’d ramble on somewhere else. During that time, I’d see friends and musicians who had studios. I started tracking people down who I wanted to collaborate with on these songs. When you’re working on music for films, it comes be, that you spend most of the time alone. I didn’t really have any intentions of making an album full of me playing twenty different parts of a song. I think the fun of recording a song is, simply, playing with other people you enjoy playing with.”
BLAST: Of those collaborations, were any particularly meaningful for you?
LOVETT: “One person who really made a significant impression on the thing was Chris Wollard. He was the singer and principle songwriter in a band called Hot Water Music. He was always a songwriting hero of mine and became a good friend over time. He plays guitar on a few songs on the record. At certain points, when I had somewhat lost my way, or when I was nearly finished with some songs and couldn’t figure out how to unlock certain things; he (Wollard) was really instrumental in just not letting me give up and finding simple ways to alter my perspective. His experiences and advice were tremendously valuable to me.”
BLAST: The album has a pretty eclectic sound in terms of styles, tempos, and sounds. Is there an overall feeling or focus that runs through the record?
LOVETT: “I don’t think so, in terms of an overall musical tone. That’s just because, I’m not a band. So, each song has a different group of people involved. Song by song, story by story, thought by thought, it was a question of how to best capture the mood of the song’s content. I think that approach comes from having worked on other peoples projects and helping them create a vehicle for their ideas, and also doing things with film that create the texture and mood of a scene. I feel, as I continue, it will always be about what choice feels best for that song. Its not really about me, I’m just trying to help get the idea across.”
BLAST: Do you have a favorite song on the record?
LOVETT: “Oh, you know, which ever one’s playing. I’ll say it like this: (the album) evolved with so many different people. A combination of friends, musicians that I admire, and on almost every song there’s a collection of random people I didn’t even know. I couldn’t get everyone’s name; we’d have sessions where we pulled people from the bar next to the studio to do some stomping and clapping. There was an atmosphere of old friends and new friends, infusing the feeling into the record. Because of that, its easier for me to enjoy it as a thing I was a part of, as opposed to a highly detailed masterpiece ship in a bottle that just I created.”
BLAST: Given your somewhat nomadic background, a tour seems appropriate. Do you have plans to go on the road?
LOVETT: “Sure, we’re going to South by Southwest to play some parties happening at the festival. I’ll probably get people playing in the park or in the street and through our own party, too.”
BLAST: What can audiences expect to see at a Lovett show, given the wide spectrum of musicians who’ve contributed in the past?
LOVETT: “Well the first show that we played was in LA and there were thirty people in the band, the next was in Atlanta and there was about eighteen people and they were all completely different. So, who knows? Its fun though.”
Lovett’s Highway Collection will be released on March 15. Ahead of the album’s release, a free download of the romping opening track “The Fear” is available at benlovett.com. The debut single from the album, “Heartattack,” was released on Valentines day.