IF YOU GO
* What: Birdsmell (Ben Bridwell) solo tour with Bryan Cates.
* When: 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9
* Where: Rhythm and Brews, 221 Market St.
* Admission: $20
* Phone: 423-276-4644
* Website: www.rhythm-brews.com
WHAT'S IN A NAME
Birdsmell, Ben Bridwell's
adopted monker as a
solo artist, is a call back
to a childhood nickname
his Band of Horses
bandmate Ryan Monroe
reminded him of. "It was
so damn funny that, with
this project being loose in
nature, it seemed like a
good way to make fun of
myself," he says.
With vocals that have been likened to Neil Young or Gram Parsons and the position as frontman of Grammy-nominated indie act Band of Horses, Ben Bridwell has plenty to be proud of. But when it comes to promoting himself as a solo artist, he's terrible.
"Without the professionals that are the five-headed monster of Band of Horses, the execution of this thing will be a lot different and probably kind of sad to watch at times," Bridwell says, laughing, in a recent phone interview about his first solo outing under the stage name "Birdsmell."
His eight-date tour of medium-size Southern venues will include a stop at Rhythm & Brews on Saturday.
Bridwell founded Band of Horses about a decade ago in Seattle, where it was based for several years before he relocated to his native Charleston, S.C. In that time, he has only played a single solo show, and he says even a few days on his own is a daunting prospect.
"It's not something that comes easy for me, so I wanted to dip my toes in and see where it progresses," he says.
A mostly self-taught guitarist, Bridwell learned to play in bizarre tunings that were more comfortable for his hands, relying on effects pedals to "make up for [his] lack of ability."
Despite his jovial self-deprecation, the set list should have Band of Horses fans salivating in anticipation. In addition to a handful of new material and "hilarious" covers, most of the 40 songs he's worked up are re-imagined Band of Horses tracks.
Originally, the plan was to road test new songs that could be used in the next Band of Horses release, but Bridwell says he has found himself unexpectedly fixated on reworking the older material. To adapt the songs for shows without his bandmates, Bridwell has had to adjust to a traditionally tuned guitar and a miniature drum kit played upside down with his left foot. As a result, many songs have been altered, sometimes radically, including one that has morphed into a "disco tune."
"It's been a really cool, eye-opening experience into the heart and soul of what the songs are trying to do," he says. "For those who listen to Band of Horses a lot, I think it'll be an interesting experience to hear a completely different take on it."
Bridwell admits the whole solo tour has the potential to blow up in his face -- hence its briefness -- but the goal is to learn to simply play music and shrug off the burden of expectation that comes with fronting a band with a national following.
If he can do that, he says, he'll consider it a success.
"This will give me a chance to be a bit more free with [the music] and reconnect with the tunes and hopefully learn more about what I do for a living, really," Bridwell says. "My initial desire to get into this thing was not to be successful, it was just to have fun with music, and this is a chance to [do] that."
Contact Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205.
Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...