When asked which musical artists he aspires to, Austin's Ben Ballinger answers simply, "The Gods," by which he means Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and the like. He goes on to convey his deep respect for more contemporary artists like Fiona Apple and Father John Misty. Also, he adds, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra and Otis Redding, too.
From that list of prestigious inspirations alone, Ballinger's work sets high standards for itself. Standards that his all-analog recorded LP, Fabrication, passes with flying colors. The record is textured with orchestral strings, steel pedal guitar, and poetics and vocal delivery that clearly worship the Dylans and the Cohens of the world.
Born and raised in The Dalles, Oregon, Ballinger took the trek to New York City at a young age, eventually following a friend, Blue Mongeon of the band East Cameron Folkcore, to the songwriting mecca of Austin. Now traveling back from whence he came with a new suitcase full of sad songs, Ballinger is calling 2015 "the year of the road," and looks forward to releasing a new rock-and-roll-forward EP as soon as possible.
Source Weekly: Tell me about your 2014...
Ben Ballinger: 2014 was definitely one of the most exciting years for me. I toured the Midwest, West Coast and Southwest. I signed with a new label out of Austin called Good Horse Records and recorded an all-analog LP and released it on vinyl for the first time. I signed with a booking agency, 9 Mile Touring, as well as playing some awesome shows in Austin, including opening for Lydia Loveless and Wayne "The Train" Hancock.
SW: What are the differences in the Oregon music scene as opposed to Austin?
BB: Both are full of beautiful, talented folks, but Austin has such a deep history of songwriters that I've looked up to all my life, as well as being more music-centric in general. Live music capitol of the world, SXSW, Austin City Limits, etc.
SW: What does bringing orchestral strings into your songwriting add?
BB: Hopefully, a more cinematic, approachable sound. Plus, who doesn't like strings?
SW: I really enjoyed "One More Sad Song." Do you ever think there will be a final sad song or do they just keep coming?
BB: Well sad is relative, you know? Drawing from personal experience and beliefs or questions will never stop. I suppose for my own sake I hope I write more hopeful songs in the future, but writing songs, sad or not, has been the most life-giving thing I've found yet. I've no plans to stop. And only the future can tell what kind of songs will come.
9 pm. Monday, Jan. 5
Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr. $5.