ben wright smith

The Great Divorce

I like the idea of just letting the song be what it's supposed to be so I think we try to do that naturally.

Ben Wright Smith

Hi and thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Musicology.

You’re welcome. Its nice to speak to you.

The recording process for The Great Divorce was an epic one, taking 24 months and that was just the time you spent in Nashville! Was it a case of going to the states with some loose ideas and slowly padding them out or simply evolving and fine tuning what you already had?

When we got to the states I had a bunch of songs which I was keen to play with a band and see if we could record them. During that time though I began writing more and more stuff and each new direction seemed to take me further away from what I originally thought I was going to do. So we recorded an album's worth of material but by that stage I had been writing all these new songs which seemed to work well together so as a result most of the first sessions were scrapped. I still have that stuff and I like it but it feels more like 10 different songs than an actual album. When I got back I had one song from those sessions called ‘No One’ and I re-recorded it with Oscar and that sort of became pretty popular for a little while so it was then I decided to really give the album thing a go.

Working with an assortment of different performers (Ali Barter, Tyler Millott, Jesse Williams and Andrew Braidner), what did each of them specifically bring to the table that really shines through on this album?

I think it is an interesting question right now where it seems like a trend for people to record all of the instruments and produce their records themselves. While I give props to anyone who can do that, for me it was always about the collaborations with friends. When I demo the music I play all the instruments and record it at home but there is nothing like getting your friends (who happens to be your favourite players) to bring your song into the third dimension. All those people you mentioned are amazing players and some of the highlights for the record for me are the jams and moments where they did something I never would have expected. I think it’s a good idea to give away a part of your song and let someone bring their own personality to it.

The album transverses genres with an eclectic mix of sounds and styles. Tracks such as Commotion Ocean and Heavy have a wonderful blend of synth and Strokes-esk guitar hooks whilst Sand Grabber bursts through the pop stratosphere closely followed by fuzzy pysch out of Where Do All Your Friends Go While You’re Sleeping. Was the fusion of styles one that was intentional from the get go or something that unfolded that way?

No not really, none of it’s really that intentional. I would have loved to have made a really cohesive record where all the songs are a specific genre and really identifiable but it’s just not really me unfortunately. The songs just write themselves really and then we try to have fun in the studio with it all. I like the idea of just letting the song be what it’s supposed to be so I think we try to do that and naturally the results are varying but usually pretty cool. Each song can be a microcosm yet still fit within the broader collection of an album. I think what brought these songs together was more thematic than a result of trying to create a specific sound. I tend to go through crazy phases of different types of music and it all starts to rub off I guess.

Considering the length of time between starting and finishing the LP, lyrically was it a fluid process whereby the subject matter you address in these songs changed over time or remained fixed throughout?

I think they became fixed because out of all of the songs that I had been writing at the time there were certain ideas that kept on reappearing in my writing. That is how we realised these songs should be on an album together. There was lots of other things I’d been writing about at the time but these particular songs seemed to tell the stories that underlined that particular period of my life. I wrote ‘No One’ in 10 minutes I think and never changed it at all whereas ‘The Great Divorce’ was largely written in one go but was refined over the whole period of recording (even though it was never really going to be on the album).

You are roughly half way through your current tour. Do you find the time on the road to be inspirational and something that lends itself to writing more material or are you so focused on the task at hand that writing takes something of a backseat?

I think meeting people and having more interesting experiences fuels writing but I don’t really put too much pressure on myself if I’m on the road. It just comes out naturally I think if I don’t force it and I’ll always have a ton of ideas and guitar parts after any tour I do. I haven’t been writing too much on this last leg because it’s been a bit hectic but I’m playing around with about 30 new songs whenever I’m finding some time that I hope will become the next record.

Having performed throughout the nation and meeting so many different individuals and performers, have there been any instances that really touched you and altered the way you approach your craft?

Yeah I mean I’m learning all the time. Every band we play with seems to have some cool idea that I hadn’t thought of or some cool song or something. It never ends. That being said I think being apart of the Up The Guts Tour last year was a bit of a game changer. Me and Four other bands drove from Hobart to Darwin in 20 Days I think and played 18 shows together. There was lots of great things about that tour but I think for me spending so much time around people who all approached music so differently but were all in the same space together was pretty wild. Not to mention the enthusiasm the organisers who had a mission to try to get some of Melbourne’s bands to some of the more remote places in the country. It was pretty cool and allowed us to play some pretty special places along the way.

What does the rest of 2017 have install for you?

We’re pretty much touring endlessly around Australia I think. We’re looking at maybe doing around 52 in total this year and getting to some really cool spots I haven’t been yet. We might head to the U.S. at some stage. I don’t really know. After all of that I think everyone will probably be pretty sick of the record so I’ll pop into the studio when we get back to Melbourne and maybe give album number 2 a go!

Thanks for your time and good luck with the rest of the tour.

Thank you!


Friday 2nd June The Loft, Warrnambool

Saturday 3rd June The Exeter, Adelaide

Sunday 11th June Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine

Thursday 20th July Sand Bar, Mildura

Friday 21st July Sand Bar, Mildura

Saturday 29th July Northcote Social Club, Northcote