Ben Kweller
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Ben Kweller

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It was exhausting just listening to Kweller detail his plans for the week ahead. Yet it was hard to ignore the fact that his smile could practically be heard over the phone. Kweller is in a great place right now, and he seems intent on sharing that positivity with everyone he crosses paths with.

After 10 years signed to the reputable ATO Records, Kweller has release Go Fly A Kite, his latest full-length on his own label, The Noise Company. And while Kweller hasn’t strayed from his honest fusion of rock and country with his own label, he admits that he’s undertaken some massive changes in his professional life. In a sense, the switch from ATO to The Noise Company has allowed Kweller to re-discover his roots.
“It really didn’t change anything as far as the creative process goes. What it changed however is that I’m now happy to do phone interviews on Sunday,” he says with a hearty chuckle.  “It’s changed the interest in the marketing side of things. I’m actually working hard and giving a shit about the business stuff now. I’ve always cared about that, but it’s always been in the hands of someone else. And now I’m handling things first hand as a record label and it gives me a lot of respect for the good record companies out there. It’s an honour for me to be able to put my music out on my own. It’s a big deal. In a lot of ways, I feel like I’ve come full circle. I started as a kid dubbing cassettes for my friends, Xeroxing black and white labels and taking flyers downtown, stapling them to telephone poles to promote your band’s show that weekend. All that DIY stuff I grew up doing, I feel like I’m doing it again. Just on a bigger level. It’s really fun actually.”

With Go Fly A Kite, Kweller has taken cues from acts like Wilco and Cake and added weight to an alarmingly truthful argument: web-savvy bands do not necessarily need record labels to release their own music. When asked if he believes this trend will truly shake up the music industry, Kweller concedes it may be an uphill climb. But it’s one worth taking.

“I don’t know if it will shake up the industry so much as it’ll have the major labels counting on a few more Adele’s each year to help them support their humongous overhead. But it’s exciting for me as an artist because this is the music I make. And to be able to cut out the middle man between me and the audience is really exciting. Especially with the internet; now with the click of a button we can staple flyers across the world. It’s pretty wild.”

There may be a certain element of risk involved with Kweller’s decision. But for the time being, he seems ready to take that risk. Kweller is not just playing the hand he’s been dealt; he’s changed the rules of the game altogether. And that’s certainly something worth getting excited about.

“I’m very interested in being self-sufficient and truly independent. I’d like to be in control of my own life. In my career, I’ve done that more and more through the years. I’ve got a small group of people that work with me. The whole business part of what I do is very different from the traditional set-up. I don’t have a manager, instead our team just works together. At the end of the day, I make the decisions. We have an office in South Austin in this old house from the ‘50s. All of our merch is done in-house. And this was all building before the formation of the label. It was my own little behind-the-scenes world. When I decided to start The Noise Company, all the pieces were already in place. It was the logical next step. And here we are.”

BY JOSHUA KLOKE