When your days are filled with classes for school, any diversion helps to clear your mind. Chelsea native Ben Daniels knows the feeling. It was while he was in audio engineering school in Arizona that he began experimenting with song writing, and decided to explore producing music.
Seven years, four additional people, and four albums later, The Ben Daniels Band has become a mainstay in the midwest alt-rock landscape. Members Ben Daniels, George Merkel, and Amanda Merte talk about their time in the spotlight in anticipation of their concert on August 1 at Bell's Brewery.
Here's an edited excerpt of the interview:
On describing the band's sound:
George: "It's a pretty traditional rock lineup. We have two guitars, bass drums, and vocals, but the genres we draw from are pretty wide-ranging. We do a lot of rock, and then Wesley, our drummer, will play some mandolin, so that's more of a folk influence. And we do some blues and jazz so it's just kind of a review of 20th century American music.
On their movie/album 'Old Gold'
Ben: "The album plays from front to back and all the songs go seamlessly into each other. The movie kind of is also the beat and also the songs, and just a story that we made and filmed. Some things worked out really well, like walking through a field and going up to a fence with a bunch of cows and all the cows start walking with me. That was not planned. So a lot of cool little things like that made it even more special to me.
[The idea] came out of nowhere, really. Pink Floyd, The Wizard of Oz - there's a thing you do where you play The Dark Side of the Moon, and you play the CD when the lion's roaring in the beginning, and it syncs up the whole time. It's a pretty cool thing, so that inspired me.
On playing alongside his father, actor and musician Jeff Daniels:
Ben: "It's pretty fun. He usually gives me some pretty funny looks. He knows what he's doing. We're going on tour with him in August for three weeks. We'll play our music and then we're also going to play the band with him and play some of his songs. There'll be some funny moments but we're going to try to make it about the music too. He's really good at that."
On why they decided to remain in Michigan, as opposed to moving on to Los Angeles or New York, or Nashville:
Ben: "Well, a lot of our family is here so we've kind of set up a base that we can go to and from and with the touring...kind of build up a network around Michigan and the Midwest and just kind of build from there. We've gone to New York and Nashville... everybody down there is trying to make music. It's great, but-"
Amanda: "Being at home in Michigan is a lot better because you have your family, you have your support system, and they will always be there at your shows and they'll always be there for you. So it's a lot easier to keep on wanting to do what you're doing when you're being supported by all these great people. When you're somewhere else and you're away from home you kind of forget you have those people behind you sometimes. It's a lot harder and a lot of people like doing that because it pushes them further somehow, but I think we really like to be at home. We're doing this for Michigan as well.