Benjamin Gibbard Goes Country On “Former Lives” Tracks

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(Ryan Russell)

(Ryan Russell)

When you think of Death Cab for Cutie frontman Benjamin Gibbard’s songwriting oeuvre, country music is not among the first things that pop to mind. But a few tracks on his new LP, Former Lives, have that certain twang on them. While it’s not exact Keith Urban territory, there is a touch of the old time honky tonk to them.

When Gibbard talked to CBS Local, he sheepishly admitted that he’s come around to an appreciation of certain country acts.

“The reason George Jones is so amazing is you hear George Jones sing and you’re just like, ‘Oh God, that voice. So incredible!’ Anything he sings sounds so great. He takes songs he didn’t write and makes them sound like he wrote them. I have really got an appreciation for that. There’s a little bit of steel on the record here and there, [but] I wanted to be careful to try and not make a record that was completely of a genre that I don’t quite have the authority to dip too far into. But to just kind of nod to it here and there because it is something that I really love.”

The tracks he refers to include “Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke),” which features an almost flamenco guitar and Southwestern feel, and “Broken Yolk In Western Sky,” which has a bit of steel guitar and is reminiscent of the Bakersfield sound that northern California country is famous for.

When Gibbard says he prefers older country artists, he isn’t kidding. The acts he mentions as aspirations are largely from the ’40s and ’50s, of course with a nod to George Jones who remains a stalwart fixture at country music awards ceremonies, as a marker of better times gone by.

“I like, I don’t want to call it classic country, but I love George Jones and Buck Owens and Louvin Brothers. As I’ve gotten older I’ve started to appreciate things about different genres of music that I might have been dismissive of at a younger age. When I was in my teens and early 20’s, I think like a lot of people I was very much obsessed with contemporary music and didn’t care that much about music that existed before the time I was living in. I felt very much that the only vital music to me was music that was happening in my own time and space. The older I’ve gotten I’ve started to realize, oh my god there’s a century of recorded music that all has something to offer me, just as a listener; let alone as a musician and a songwriter. I’ve, I wouldn’t say ignored, but only in the last five to 10 years have started to embrace.”

Gibbard will take his new appreciation for country music on the road, playing these songs and more, across the country this fall and winter. Former Lives is available now.

Nov 01 Assembly Hall at the Women’s Club Minneapolis, MN
Nov 02 Athenaeum Theatre Chicago, IL
Nov 04 Somerville Theater Somerville, MA
Nov 05 Town Hall New York, NY
Nov 07 Keswick Theatre Glenside, PA
Nov 08 Sixth & I Historic Synagogue Washington, DC
Nov 10 Haw River Ballroom Graham, NC
Nov 11 Variety Playhouse Atlanta, GA
Nov 13 Palace of Fine Arts Theatre San Francisco, CA
Nov 14 Wilshire Ebell Los Angeles, CA
Nov 16 The Showbox Seattle, WA
Nov 17 Washington Hall Seattle, WA
Nov 18 Crystal Ballroom Portland, OR

-Courtney E. Smith, CBS Local

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