Ben Lee is awake and dreaming

By Michael Petitti
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Ben Lee is an Australian-born singer-songwriter who has been making his version of pleasant pop music since 1994. His latest release, "Awake is the New Sleep," is a collection of 14 new, dreamy pop songs. The troubadour took some time out from his busy current tour, with Har Mar Superstar and Maria Taylor, to chat about his music:

Wildcat: How is it touring with Har Mar and Maria?

Lee: It's good anytime you can put together a good bill that's pretty diverse and made up of friends. You just try and take out a good package of music for people to enjoy.

Wildcat: How did you and Har Mar meet?

Lee: We first met years go when he interviewed me for a fanzine in Minneapolis, that was probably eight or nine years ago, and then we met back up in L.A.

Wildcat: Is that how he ended up on the album and tour?

Lee: Yeah, everything happens pretty casually in the Ben Lee world.

Wildcat: Do you live in New York now?

Lee: I don't have a home, I live everywhere.

Wildcat: What are some of the differences between places like New York and Australia?

Lee: More Americanized. For me, though, I just go where the opportunity is for people to hear my music. I provide a service, so I like wherever I can go to provide a service. It's not that I have a preference.

Wildcat: What was the process like recording "Awake is the New Sleep?"

Lee: I did it with Brad Wood who I hadn't worked with in a lot of years and I did it with a lot of musicians, so it was a real collaborative, loose process. In some ways it was very planned, in others no plan. I just didn't let the music do what it wanted to do.

Wildcat: What is your songwriting process like?

Lee: I dream them pretty much. Even when I'm awake they still come fully formed.

Wildcat: And the instrumentation?

Lee: That comes from whoever's around and whatever instruments they have. It's a product of the moment.

Wildcat: Can you talk a little about the video for "Catch My Disease?"

Lee: I knew I wanted Evan Bernard to direct it and he helped guide it to be colorful and really spontaneous and he just came up with all those ideas and we just had fun for a day.

Wildcat: You did a tour and EP with Ben Kweller and Ben Folds as The Bens. How did that come about?

Lee: I met Ben Kweller at Evan Dando's wedding and I supported Ben Folds Five in '98 or '99, so we were just all friends. One day Ben Folds just got off from touring with Dylan or something in Australia and he wanted to do something more fun and he called me and said, 'I really think we should do this." I said yes to the tour, but I also thought we should record something because I love recording.

Wildcat: Do you have any future plans?

Lee: I don't have plans. I just try and do what feels right.