Ben Weaver: I'm doing things on my terms
Photo by Austin Aho
Singer-songwriter Ben Weaver has teamed up with his long-time friend Charlie Parr to put together a 7-inch vinyl that has each of them telling their own folksy-bluesy tales. Titled Ramblin' Bones Outlastin' You is their way of sharing something and giving each other a nod of approval -- although both are the most unassuming, humble musicians you could ever meet.
Before his release show at Bryant Lake Bowl on Thursday, Weaver spoke with Gimme Noise about how he's been getting to his gigs via bicycle and how Parr has influenced his musical career.
Gimme Noise: How did the bike tour come about?
Ben Weaver: It was basically because my whole life I've been trying to find my place in this world, and music was one way of figuring that out. I love music, and I love writing, but there was so much that being on tour did to me -- living in that world.
I would always ride my bike when I was home, and last winter, the one before this last one, I started thinking about what I wanted to do the next summer -- getting the record out, playing shows -- so I decided I would try riding my bike. I'd been playing shows around town where I was biking to the gigs, so I thought about doing a few small tours on my bike.
While I was doing that, I was working on my upcoming album, and one of my best friends who's a novelist and I only see once a year had this dream. He called me up and said, "I had a dream that we rode to New Orleans together, and I quit smoking." So I said to myself, "Alright, that's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna do a big tour on my bike when the record comes out," and until then I hadn't figured out where I was going to go.
So are you doing this bike tour more for mental or environmental reasons?
It's all really connected. The real root of it goes back to when I was a kid. I've been a skater and cyclist my whole life, so riding outside and being with the terrain is something I love more than anything in the world. It's really a simple thing; I ride everywhere. Nowhere is ever too far; I just get on my bike and go.
This winter, I was taking my kids to school -- that was an interesting social experience. We got all kinds of commentary -- positive and negative from motorists. The environmental side of it is more of a lifestyle, because you're out there every single day in the elements and embracing them. For me it's what I love, but I don't do it to prove a point. After doing it for so long, it's had an effect on me, and if I could do this, anyone can. It has been such a positive effect on my life, and I want to have a positive effect on other people's lives. Wouldn't it be great if people could learn from these sorts of things? It has a message attached to it, but I'm very careful of that, because I don't like how it feels when people preach to me. It's a very fine line to find and try to walk.
All of your songs have a natural element to them. Does biking and being out in nature influence this?
Nature has always been a humongous part of my life, and it's become more prevalent as I've gotten older, because I've started to relate differently to the things around me and I see my place more clearly than when I was younger. I think a lot of it is me subconsciously trying to tell stories about things that I love and a lot of that is nature. I'm definitely someone who looks at nature, and I think, "Why is the world so complicated?" You look at all of these ecosystems that take care of themselves, and here we are trying to invent something to do something else, but ultimately all we're doing is sinking the problem because the initial invention we made broke.
How did the 7-inch record with Charlie Parr come about?
Out of brainstorming. I haven't been playing much, and when I was, I've found myself doing shows with him over the winter and the last couple of months. It seemed inevitable that we would do something together. I proposed that we do a 7-inch, because I haven't put anything out for a while, and I thought it would be a good way to experiment with him and I had some ideas for shows. I want to make shows that are more of a curated experience and offering people a little bit more.
Did you both write something specifically for this?
Charlie did a song he'd already written, and I did a song from my upcoming album, but we recorded them together, so it's unique to the 7-inch.
What do you think draws you to Charlie so much?
We've known each other for a really long time. When he was first starting to play in Duluth, close to 12 years ago, we did a KUMD radio show together. There's so many people I've encountered on the music side of the business -- sometimes myself included -- have so many ideas about how it should be and what you need to do to make it or be known. Charlie has always been this guy who does what he does in the bluesiest sense of the blues.
He can do this thing that most people are afraid to do -- overexposure or playing in a shitty bar where no one's listening, and then playing in a theater a week later. He can do that, because he is there to play music regardless of what's going on. That speaks volumes to me about why he does what he does and who he is. I really like being around that energy, because it helps me find who I want to be. My bicycle is my answer to being like Charlie. I want to do things on my own terms and be happy and glad to be alive and making music and art with people I care about.
Ben Weaver will release the 7" Ramblin' Bones Outlastin' You at Bryant Lake Bowl on Thursday, June 12, 2014 with Southwire.
18+, $8 adv, $10 door, 7:30 pm
Purchase tickets here.
GIMME NOISE'S GREATEST HITS
53 things you might not know about Prince
73 things you might not know about Bob Dylan
Brother Ali: My fans are kicking the sh*t out of me over Trayvon Martin
Here's why we didn't sign the Foo Fighters photo waiver
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.