Band of Horses frontman, from homeless to tour
Sunday, April 14, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A few weeks before taking off on Band of Horses’ current tour, frontman Ben Bridwell decided to make a pilgrimage of sorts to his old haunt Seattle to meet with old friends, stop by familiar landmarks and dodge umbrellas as he “walked in the ghost of my own footsteps.”
The 34-year-old singer-guitarist thought the trip might spur a songwriting rush. Instead, he came away with a lot of unexpected emotions as he revisited memories of homelessness and the early days of his band.
“You know, it’s funny,” Bridwell said by phone. “I get here and I’m staying at this fancy hotel and it’s two blocks away from this parking lot, now a vacant parking lot, that they used to have Ryder trucks on — a rental place. And I used to actually sleep on those trucks. I’d get thrown out of the truck at 6 a.m. in my sleeping bag. It’s just funny. It’s two blocks away and I’m now on the balcony of this big hotel. I’m a bit reflective.”
And there’s plenty to reflect on since his band formed nine years ago. Band of Horses has played before audiences of tens of thousands and released four albums — the last two of which, including last fall’s “Mirage Rock,” debuted in the top 15 of the Billboard 200. Now based in the Charleston, S.C., area, Bridwell’s married and a father of two.
Bridwell talked with The Associated Press last month about adjusting the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle to family, being an overprotective dad and his band’s latest tour, which began this week and included a stop Friday at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival:
AP: Did you bring your family with you to Seattle?
Bridwell: I’m here by myself. I was home for like a month and a half and tour’s about to start again, but I really needed a little break to come out and look at the trees AND the forest, as it were. It’s a dangerous thing, though, right? They always say you can’t go back home or whatever. It’s a dangerous thing, but it’s at least interesting. As long as you don’t put too much stock in it.
AP: You have kids now. How do you handle family while living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle?
Bridwell: It’s an interesting balancing act that I think at first was really tough to try to balance. Not only the touring aspect and missing them and feeling guilty about not being there when there’s a crisis or something, but even just like being home and the day-to-day want to create at all times. I want to work on music all day like a video game junky would with Black Ops or something, you know? ... It’s good to be forced to step outside of your own mind and your own needs.
AP: Have your daughters shown any interest in music?
Bridwell: Yeah, man, I’m almost like afraid as a parent to show them what you’re really into, like you’re forcing it on them or something. I’m afraid my kids will grow up to be cheerleaders in spite of their parents being cool. So I kind of kept it to myself. But obviously I’m always playing music. As soon as they wake up, I play them something that will help them have a nice day or something. So I’m literally shoving little songs here and there without being overly dramatic about it. As far as playing in front of them, I’m just really mellow about that. And I think by doing that, it’s really perked the interest of my oldest to be like, ‘I want to do what daddy does. I want to be a singer.’
AP: You ever thought about taking them on tour?
Bridwell: I just don’t think it’s time yet honestly. I’m a worry wart, man. I don’t know if it’s because I have two girls (age 4 and 2) and I’m just like, ‘Be careful on that balance beam that’s 2 inches off the ground, you might break your ankle,’ you know? I think it applies to traveling. I just worry about their safety on a bus. It’s not like you’re wearing a seatbelt.
AP: You’ll play in front of thousands at festivals this summer, but you also play small clubs. Are those shows different?
Bridwell: In a club, you play a longer set, as opposed to a festival show where you play 40 minutes to an hour if you’re lucky. (At festivals) you want to give a nice, concise overview of the band’s most popular stuff. I tend to be a pleaser by nature and I want people to get the best music that we have. The most bang for your buck, really. With the club show you can tailor the set list a little more to the deep cuts, for the people that come for the more extensive review of the catalog or something. They’re both really fun. I really relish the challenge of putting the set list together. I look at set lists from four years ago. If it’s Baton Rouge again, I want to make sure that it’s different.”
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