Band of Horses’ frontman Ben Bridwell has begun his first-ever solo tour under the moniker Birdsmell. Temporarily leaving his bandmates behind, Bridwell has embarked on an eight-city southeastern tour that started Saturday in Carboro, N.C., and will end in Athens, Ga., Nov. 15.
Handpicked by Bridwell, Chattanooga is one of the cities on the tour, where he’ll be playing this Saturday at Rhythm & Brews. I recently talked to him by phone about the tour, stupid nicknames and his appearance on Nerdist.
Hear a sample of some of Bridwell’s new tunes here.
First of all, tell me about the Birdsmell tour. Why did you decide to do it?
I wanted to kind of road-test some songs before Band of Horses records its fifth album. And I wanted to see what it was like to start from scratch again, without the power of the professional musicians in Band of Horses behind me. Or the expectations of the kind of experience that comes with the Band of Horses territory. As I’ve gone back on stuff, I’ve found myself digging more into the Band of Horses catalog and really enjoying seeing what the nuts and bolts of what these songs are.
Are you nervous at all about going solo? I guess it’ll be a pretty different experience from traveling with Band of Horses.
Yeah. I mean, if I mess up, which is often, it’s covered up by a lot of really good musicianship behind it. So yeah, there’s some nerves involved knowing that when I mess up, you’re going to hear it. But I think that’s a good thing, too—that kind of ability to allow yourself to mess up and be OK about it will hopefully pay off.
With the venue you’re playing at here in Chattanooga, Rhythm & Brews, it’s a smaller, more intimate venue. But it’s more conducive to crowd interaction. It’s a fun venue to go to, so I’m sure it’ll be a fun venue to play, too.
Yeah, and that’s part of it as well. I’ve been very deliberate about the tour. It’s a chance to do things differently, to kind of leave a connection with something along the way. As a matter of fact, it’s a good time to start from scratch, to be in front of people and be interactive for sure.
You've basically picked eight Southern towns for the tour. Why is it so limited by number, and why is it specifically the South?
Band of Horses managed to hit a number of the smaller towns in the Southeast over the years, I think just because we’re all from here and because I think I’m more comfortable in that element in a way—granted there are places all over the world that have that element. But it just makes me feel a bit more relaxed.
You're known as the frontman of Band of Horses. But during this tour, you're going under the moniker of Birdsmell, which Band of Horses fans might not recognize or necessarily relate to you. Is that by design?
Absolutely. I’m sure in a way it’ll keep some people away and eliminate expectation in that respect. The diehards that pay attention to the band’s Facebook or something will go, "Oh crap, Ben Bridwell is doing something. I want to go see that." The name in itself was a nickname I had in elementary school. It was just a stupid nickname that’s repulsive. This is not going to be a very serious affair.
You've played Chattanooga before with Band of Horses. Why did you choose Chattanooga as one of the few places to play your solo tour?
A lot of these towns are also little dark horses in one respect, I guess, in the rock 'n' roll food chain. A lot of people would go, "Oh, you don’t go to Chattanooga to play, you go to Nashville." I’ve never been that way. If there’s a good vibe somewhere, I want to go back there. And that’s how I felt about all of the towns in this tour. There’s something about the little brother towns that ruminates with me.
I listened to you when Band of Horses was on Nerdist. It sounded like you guys had a good time. How was that experience? Was it as fun as it sounded?
It was as easy as you can imagine. Chris Hardwick just showed up to my hotel room, and directly after the introduction, he just started chatting. He’s a very enthusiastic individual. All of a sudden, before you even know it, he’s right into it. He makes you feel really comfortable, and he makes you feel like he’s one of your old buddies. And we had no idea where it was going to go. If you listen to it, you just go down these roads for 15 minutes about something as stupid as fart jokes.
After this tour, what's next for you?
There will be holidays. Well, Thanksgiving, at least. Then, Band of Horses is going to a little mountain cabin for a week or so and just play some tunes, no real expectations. We’re just going to go and play. It seems like we live so far apart from each other our practices are onstage in front of a couple thousand people. This is an opportunity to just hang out for a week and bring all of our instruments and be loud without anybody watching. Most bands get to practice. And this may not be practice. It may just be us covering a bunch of our favorite songs all day. But hopefully, it leads to a lot of songs written for our fifth record.
Thank you very much. I appreciate your time. I’m really looking forward to the Birdsmell show.
Oh man, don’t look too forward to it. It might be a terrible disappointment. I’ll see you in Chattanooga.
Charlie Moss writes about local history and popular culture, including music, movies and comics. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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