Event: Marco Benevento
Venue: 1904 Music Hall, 19 N Ocean St, www.1904musichall.com
Date/Time: January 12, 8pm
There is a moment in the Daniel Lanois documentary Here is What it Is in which Brian Eno explains making music and the origin of a song. “People need to understand that music comes from nothing,” remarks Eno on the false notion that musicians are born with an innate ability to produce great art without study, practice, or failure. No matter how fertile the ground, he says, a great song is born from nothing. Ideas must take root and, when conditions are ripe, the seed of a song will grow. “I recommend everybody watching it,” says keyboardist Marco Benevento. “People think you’re born with talent and music just comes to you, but it doesn’t. It comes from nothing. It’s a tiny little seed and you have to nurture it and mess with it and try all sorts of versions of it before it actually becomes something. I never really dismiss an idea as a bad one, because it just needs a little finesse and a little time to turn into a song.”
Benevento is a fearless composer, bending indie rock, jazz, and improvisation into layered and colorful experimental pieces. He performs his genre-blind mashup of sound January 12th at 1904 Music Hall (www.1904musichall.com).
“Sometimes the smallest step, a drum machine loop or sound on a Casio keyboard, can start a whole thing,” he says. “Sometimes you can just play a song or a piece of a song for people and, just from them being in the room and listening to the song, you hear it a different way. You’re watching their reaction and it gives it a new energy.”
A catchy melody draws listeners in but it’s the structure and form of a composition which Benevento says shapes the direction of his work from verse to chorus. “The melody is the detail work but the form is the bigger picture and that’s very important,” he says. “You do think about that as a composer. Does this song go anywhere? Is it okay if it doesn’t go anywhere? Does it have a climax in another area, or is it just a steady rhythm for just three or four minutes? There is no right or wrong way to call a song a song.”
For more than a decade, Benevento has amassed an extensive résumé of composition and collaboration, partnering with such acclaimed musicians as Carl Newman, Mark Eitzel, and Matt Chamberlain. In addition to his successful career as a solo artist, Benevento performs with group projects like Garage A Trois, Surprise Me Mr. Davis, and The Benevento-Russo Duo. His current band includes bassist Dave Dreiwitz of Ween and drummer Andy Borger, who has toured, played, and recorded with such greats as Norah Jones and Tom Waits. Both have played with Benevento for the last five years and are featured on his new record The Story of Fred Short, scheduled for release in April. “It’s easy for me to bring people into my house. I love bringing people on stage and having them sit in with my band. I’m so open to the people in my band and what they’re bringing to the table and how they respond to the music I write,” says Benevento. “They do what it is I’m asking for, but then of course they’re doing subtle changes, and I love that. I love collaborating and seeing what people can make together.”
In a group setting, Benevento is mindful of how far to let a piece wander and when to rein it in. That collaborative effort requires a level of attention for the piece as well as the other artists. “There’s a time when people look at you on stage and it’s like it’s your time now, go, and you go for it with a solo or improvisation. You’re not tuning out anybody else. If anything you’re tuning them in more. I always find that if I don’t get a reaction on stage then basically they’re not listening to me, and I wish they would sort of hone in and try and support what I’m doing. Let’s have a musical conversation because that’s kind of what we’re all going for.”
The Story of Fred Short is the first project recorded in Benevento’s new home studio, aptly named Fred Short. It’s also the name of the fictional character created by Benevento and the concept is represented on one side of the record. He recently released the track ‘Dropkick’ as a 7’’ inch single, available at soundcloud.com.
“I haven’t had a studio ever in my life, so now that I live up in the country and have more space, I was able to build a studio to work in, write in, and record in,” Benevento says. “I’ve been calling my place Fred Short, and the band would come up and write. We’d have dinner and then record until 2am and crash and do the same the thing next weekend until eventually we had 11 tracks. The whole record was conceived and recorded there, and that’s the first time I’ve ever done that so I’m excited for people to hear it.” Be sure to catch Benevento at 1904 on January 12th, and check out marcobenevento.com for more tunes and info.