Besides my writing and editing life, I'm also a musician, and for years I've always been fascinated by the intersections of arts, whatever the media.
A while back I caught up with an old friend, Ben Arthur, who grew up with me in Harrisonburg, Va., and went to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (where he opened for singer/songwriter Tori Amos once at Cabell Hall). He now lives in New York with his family and he's working as a singer, songwriter and composer – and also a novelist. We talked when he came through Roanoke and played for an evening at WVTF public radio, and not too long after his first book, The Lure of the Distant Sound, came out. His next project, due out late in 2011, combines music and prose. Upcoming music gigs include appearances in New York, Philadelphia and the U.K.
An excerpt from that interview is below. You can read the full transcript at a new music blog I've started, Accidentals.
Ben talks about the voice in his music as opposed to the voice in his prose writing:
BA: ...Songs are so brief, you know, compared to a novel, almost instantaneous, that you can try on voices and stories and whatever you like, very quickly, and it’s very rarely that I feel like I’m actually trying to write about myself directly. In fact, the closer you get to writing, I find, about your own experience, doing what I do, the shakier it feels as far as being clean and true... I wouldn’t be good at doing the nonfiction/autobiography thing at all. It makes me intensely uncomfortable to not hide behind something else [laughs] and the books are likewise... in fact I find people who read my prose often say, “oh, I expected it would be a book about a musician – I don’t know, one who lives in New York City, say!” and that’s not at all what I write about…
CEM: Talking about place – you grew up in Virginia, you moved to New York – it’s been quite some years now.
BA: Ten years. Yeah, maybe even 11 or 12 years.
CEM: Why New York – personally, artistically?
BA: My wife and I originally went there because she wanted to go to graduate school at Columbia, and I felt, and feel, that I can fail as a musician anywhere in the country – it’s sort of the universal language, and you musicians out there know what I’m saying. But, I don’t know – we actually thought we would be coming back to Virginia to live, for raising the kids and stuff, but we just can’t tear ourselves away – it’s such an extraordinary, interesting city. Not that Virginia isn’t gorgeous too – every time I come here, the night air, that sort of dense, sweet night air, always makes me a little homesick, but I don’t know – I’m crazy about the city, what can I say?
Ben Arthur's "On a Sunday" named as NPR's Song of the Day
Ben Arthur on MySpace
Ben Arthur on Facebook