Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
A few years ago, when I made it to Austin, Texas, it was a quick trip, just after the new year turned. Surprisingly, the weather way down south wasn't all that different from what we were experiencing here - something that never happens just after the first of the year. When you go to Austin, you immediately hit up its great record and book stores, its BBQ and, if you're of a certain mind, you throw on some running shoes and take a half-oval along Lady Bird Lake. It happened to be such a nice day, that January day, that - even with an early wake-up call - there was a desire to find a honky-tonk that night and listen to a little country music, while drinking a few pitchers. Ben Kweller seemed up for it as well, with the one guideline that it would have to be after the kids were down for bed. It's one of those caveats that I've made, what seems to be a few hundred times now, over the last five or so years, and it's as good as they come. It's not an excuse at all, just a priority that needs tending to, and for most on the receiving end of the request, it's fine because that's still well enough early for the child-less or wife-less. They will have plenty of time to get to the blurry point of not realizing how it got to be so late and how they got so hungry. It got to be past this bedtime hour and the text came down the line that the kids wore him out and he was crashing early, so it meant, no honky-tonk or pitchers of beer, but the hell I couldn't sympathize with the poor guy.
At the moment, I'm writing with two eyes that feel as if they're half-shut and nothing's going to get them propped open enough to make it through the rest of the night the way they need to be. The point is that times change and there's nothing you can do sometimes but surrender to what you've got in front of you - especially if it came of your own hand. The early mornings and the late nights - often sprinkled with the bad nights that involve next to no sleeping - are what we get. We deal with them. Kweller's long been a writer of songs that have been pinned to that very specific time in his life. There were those batches of songs that were about chasing love and about youthful abandon (a few of those songs exist here -- in a session taped during the summer of 2014). Then there was the batch that focused on the transition from that to domesticity.
The songs that he's written lately are indicative of a man who gets gassed during storytime, around 7:30-8pm, when there's nothing anyone can do to make you not feel like you've been mowed down and drained of blood, your eyes blinking through the paste that's overtaken them. They are songs written by a man who's thinking about bigger things than himself - who is worried about the shitty things that his dating and single friends are going through, those struggles to be happy and find that all-important companionship that everyone craves. Anyone who writes a song, like "Jealous Girl," about the controlling and withholding girlfriend of a buddy that the guys never get to see anymore comes from a place where things have settled in and married/family life is the good life. Watching your two-year-old son play "B-I-N-G-O" on the drums, before a sold out crowd, while in his pajamas and up past his bedtime is the best entertainment you could have. You're able to hit the hay early and you're able to call everyone with petty grievances out because things are in-hand.
*Essay originally published May, 2012