"It's been a constant exceeding of expectations since 2004 and it just continues. Never any damn doubt. The other side would be going back to something like flipping eggs for a living," enthuses Ben Bridwell, lead singer and songwriter of Grammy-nominated southern rockers Band Of Horses.
"You'll [only] see us being happy as clams doing this."
Born in South Carolina, Bridwell moved to Seattle in the late-90s where he started a record label in his early twenties and drummed in slow-core band Carissa’s Wierd. When that group broke up, he founded Horses before discovering a defunct Los Angeles band, formed by the songwriters behind bubblegum anthem 'Incense and Peppermints,' had already claimed that name. Sub Pop called when the now-Band of Horses dropped the "Tour EP" and gave them some opening slots for indie folk acts like Iron & Wine.
"When I was throwing away a bunch of stuff for spring cleaning, I came across some of our first shows that we had recorded," Bridwell says of those early days. "I was thinking, dang if at some point we ever reissue that first album that this would be a treasure trove."
Four acclaimed records in, they've traveled to sold-out iconic venues from Carnegie Hall to Massey Hall, performed before audiences of tens of thousands and alongside idols like Neil Young and Willie Nelson.
"To get invited to go overseas was like, 'Dang, man, this is crazy and how could people actually have heard of us?"" says Birdwell, 36. "People know the words, even in broken English and they're clapping along. That was the pinch-me moment. That was a good kick in the butt right there."
Regardless of the accolades, Bridwell is an unabashedly humble man and says he does not even consider himself a songwriter. "I'm a random dishwasher guy that plays music. Singer sometimes and a terrible guitar player. Husband and father."
One of the benefits of having been around for a decade now, Bridwell says, is the opportunity to learn more from his early songs. He specifically credits their process of rearranging their catalogue for an acoustic setting on their last tour and the subsequent "Acoustic at the Ryman" release.
“In the process, you kind of discover some of the core things about why it was written that you kind of forgot about because you had been so busy hitting that correct guitar part or something for the past ten years. But sometimes, obviously stripping away, you can get to the core of things. That was a nice little kick in the pants, too, where it didn't feel like we were doing the same old thing and covering ourselves every night.
"We really got to reimagine how we went about the song and also rediscover what might have started it in the first place."
If there is one thing connecting anyone that listens to Band of Horses, whether casual or hardcore, it would be the cinematic moment when they heard Bridwell's clear voice drifting amidst chiming guitars on the band’s first single on their debut album, "The Funeral."
"It's funny. I wonder if it is the combination of the notes that start off the song, but it actually sounds like a jingle," says Bridwell with a squint, of the song that has been sampled by Kid Cudi and provided an emotional staple for soundtracks that include "How I Met Your Mother," "One Tree Hill," "Gossip Girl" and "CSI."
"I don't know if it is like Pavlov's dog or something that people immediately spark up when they hear it. But I really think those opening four notes are kind of what draws people into it," he says.
"I remember writing it, because I'm still stuck with these guitars. I never learned how to play guitar, so I just put my hands on the fret board and detuned the strings where my hands are comfortable. Now I'm stuck with those guitars for the past ten years! I remember trying to figure out where to go with the thing and where the hand shape felt comfortable, but I still have trouble playing the damn thing ten years later. So I should just have tried to write the song in standard, but it wouldn't have been that song."
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