Ben Bridwell, lead singer and songwriter for Band of Horses, makes success look easy. Each of the band's four albums has sold more than the last, with 2010's Infinite Arms reaching No. 7 on the Billboard album chart and earning the band a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Album (eventually losing to some nobodies, the Black Keys). That winning streak looks to continue with the release of Mirage Rock, due out in September. The record was produced by the legendary Glyn Johns, who has worked with other musical nobodies — Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, among others. Mirage Rock expands the band's breezy but epic falsetto rock to include songs with a more subdued, classic-rock-tinged flavor.
It all appears quick and effortless, but Bridwell's dogged work ethic has as much to do with his success as his songwriting. In a rare lull between working and caring for his two young daughters in South Carolina, Bridwell joined The Pitch by phone to talk about the new record, songwriting, and the Band of Horses' upcoming tour with My Morning Jacket. See both bands at Starlight Theatre Monday, August 6.
The Pitch: Where in the country are you? Are you also in the middle of a deathly heat wave?
Bridwell: I am in the Southeast part, around the city of Charleston, on a swamp, just hanging out at home. You know, [heat waves are] always kind of going on here. We don't really notice when the heat index is 120 or something. It's just kind of Wednesday. I don't know if you ever get used to that, though. I'm sweating now sitting down.
You've worked with smaller labels, big labels. You've done lengthy tours, and your songs have been used a lot in TV shows. Does a musician have to do everything, throw it all at the wall, to make a living making music today?
Absolutely. Yeah, really all aspects — all that promo and stuff. Lord knows, TV and film have been a massive help, a shot in the arm, to a lot of artists like us that have certainly been affected by the technology that has come up in the past 10 years. But shit, I'm doing fine. I'm doing much better than I should be, for sure. At the same time, to maintain that kind of thing, you can't rest on any laurels. You have to go out and do that promo and then go to a radio station and do an acoustic set. All of those things, in stores, all that shit. You really have to give people a personal experience and give them a reason to listen now.
I've read that you go off by yourself when you write songs. Where was Mirage Rock written?
Well, a lot of it was written here in Mount Pleasant. I have a storage garage that looks about as beautiful as that sounds — it's grimy with spiders and mice and shit. So I would sit there a lot when my girls would be at school, and just kind of clock in and write it. A lot of it didn't make the cut, but a lot of it did, and I guess on tours and stuff, too, if I had a day off, I'd walk to my hotel room and try to write something or just mess around. I'll go and work on stuff at a cabin in the woods or at a beach house so I can really jump into the mind-set of it and really wreck my brain on it.
You lived in the Pacific Northwest for quite a while and are now back in the South, where you're from. How has the geographical change influenced your music?