Young Hines is a talented songwriter from Nashville by way of Georgia and the first signing for Readymade Records, the label recently founded by Brendan Benson of The Raconteurs. He spoke with us from Nashville about his indie rock- folk infused album, (out April 10th), and the unlikely karmic path that brought him and Brendan Benson together.
Weeping Elvis: What was the process for writing songs for Give Me My Change?
Young Hines: It’s the best of the past couple years of my writing. I gave Brendan sixty demos and he picked his favorite songs from that batch. They were written prior to meeting him.
WE: Were the days in the studio typical, did you have a routine or was it different every day?
YH: In the most respectful and complimentary way, Brendan reminds me a lot of my grandfather on my father’s side. That speaks mainly to his work ethic. My grandfather was just that guy who could get up with the rooster’s crow and work all day long, stayed focused, never wavered at all, end of the day goes to sleep and gets up and does it again without complaining. You just count on it, it’s like sunrise and sunset.
That’s what it’s like working with Brendan Benson. From day one it was immediate there was no “we’ll get to the magic take eventually”. It was from day one. He has an incredible work ethic. Any lazy musician need not work with him. He just goes for it. No idea is too much. His time is really just what’s most valuable to him, with a son around. I think he’s really into projects that he wants to; things that he’s learning from and that he shares knowledge with, I think he’s really in a cool spot for him in his life.
WE: I read that you did a lot of recording on reel to reel, so was it pretty natural for you to work in Brendan’s all analog studio (1979)?
YH: Yeah it was. They pay a lot more attention to detail though. I consider most of my stuff to be at best lo-fi, heart felt demos, you know. Though I think there’s a market for that these days. So going into the studio I was concerned about polishing things to much, even though it’s analog. I think with what some people confuse with that sound that is analog is really just sloppiness. It can really be achieved on anything, a digital recorder. It’s really just not putting too much into it and capturing a moment.
Going from doing it sloppily at home on analog to 1979 where every “T” was crossed every “I” was dotted, I was a bit nervous that it would get too good but it ended up being perfect to me and not perfect in a boring sense it was just right on, there were a lot of cool moments dynamically. Having been the writer and then hearing how one of my favorite writers interpreted it…I like it.
WE: One of my favorite songs on your album is “I Ask This of You”, how did that come about?
YH: I had a loop pedal and a girl that’s a close friend of my to this day, she and I were sitting there and I had a melody in my head. I said, “I’m gonna sing this melody line just sing it with me and we’ll loop it”. We did that one afternoon in Nashville. I just looped and looped and looped it. I carried that loop pedal around forever and when I got a tape machine I imported it. I had verses written around it in my head that I’d been waiting to get somewhere with and then I had a friend, we were looking for a bridge section, he suggested a run of chords. I considered that to be a co-write on that song.
WE: Do things like that happen often for you, melodies that come along out of nowhere? Or do you have more of a structured process when you write?
YH: When I was much younger if you’d asked me that question I would have given you the same answer, they’re just in my head and can’t get them out of my head until I put them down. I would have not comprehended what that meant, but I would have known that’s the right answer. These days I know that’s the truth. They get in my head and I can’t hear anything else. Over time it has become more like a specific thought and melody. It’s a good sickness. The moment I track it down to something I don’t hear it (in my head) at all anymore. It’s funny, so go back and play them live, it feels like I didn’t write them at all.
WE: How did you end up being the first person signed to Brendan’s label?
YH: In 2003, I was looking for my own outlet. The challenge for me, growing up, was feeling like I couldn’t sing this part high enough to be in this band or couldn’t have a song in this key because of that, I could never write a lyric as good as James Taylor. There were so many stumbling blocks.
All that being said, I’m driving along feeling like there’s no outlet for me and someone had given me this new album Lapalco by Brendan Benson. I remember going to visit a girlfriend in New York and I was driving and I popped it in and the first song came on, “Tiny Spark,” I loved it. The first line, “I’ve always felt this way, never known any other way to feel, had the right of way and all the others must yield.” I thought it was a great opening line. The last song, “Jet Lag,” I consider that to be a how-to for the music industry, any new artist should listen to that. I genuinely connected to that. I felt like “this feels fresh, he’s got a stethoscope on the street and the one’s on his heart and his ear.” It felt like right now.
I started pushing his music to everyone that I met and it turned out he was a lot more popular than I would have thought. Then I was blown away that he was in The Raconteurs. People were like, “Who’s this guy playing with Jack White?” and under my breath I was like, “That’s the guy, he’s awesome, this is Brendan.”
That whole thing went and I don’t know, call it energy, I’ve heard people say if you focus on the car crashed on the side of the road eventually your car starts to drift towards it.
I was living in Chicago. I released two volumes of the demos….and I was playing 120 dates a year doing 60’s covers and about 40 dates a year playing originals. I was happy to play and finally to discover writing as my own and to have some life experience that I felt necessary for my medium.
Those events happened, I put all that stuff out there and one day I came home from a show and I checked my inbox and I had an email that said it was from Brendan Benson. It said: “Hi Young, Is this you are you there?” “I hope you don’t mind I did a cover of your song ‘Only in a Dream’. “ That was a song I’d just put out on the Internet. A friend had burned it, took a bunch of my other demos, and they happened to be painting his house. They didn’t know who he was. They had painted several houses that day. They said, “This dude, he plays with Jack White, he took the CD and asked who it was and we told him that it was our friend Young.” I said, “Well he just sent me a version of one of my songs.” They didn’t even bother to tell me that he took the CD; months had passed so he had time to do this recording (of my song) and he was working on a new album. All along I was following what he was doing online.
He just hit me with it. It was a killer version. Next thing ya know he said, “Come down to Nashville let’s write one.” I drove down to Nashville. I didn’t even get out of my car, he was in his driveway and he said “Ok, I’m thinking like an F# minor.” It just went. I’ve gotten to know Brendan some but I’ve worked with him a lot.
I couldn’t believe it. I quit my job in Chicago and came down here and recorded the record. Sam Farrar from Phantom Planet and Brad Pemberton from The Cardinals donated their time to play on the record all these great people that all seemed to genuinely love the music. I felt really good about it and I felt really surprised.
I just want to make the most out of it. I’ve never known Brendan to take chances like this and put other artists on his website and promote someone else’s career. It’s an awesome thing to do. I just want to make sure that he’ll keep doing it for other people in the future, so I want to do the best I can this first time out.
WE: You’ve lived in Nashville three times, how has being there affected your songwriting?
YH: I was in Austin recently doing SXSW and Austin’s great but I was so glad to come back to Nashville. Every time I left Nashville I was pulled from here. My soul is restored here. It’s close to where I grew up in Georgia. It’s close to the mountains, there’s water. There are artistic people everywhere you go. It’s okay to sit and play and be as you are here.
WE: Will you be performing with Brendan on tour?
YH: I actually have an agenda. The one song, of all the concerts I’ve seen him in, I’ve never heard him play “Jet Lag”, the last song on his album Lapalco. He doesn’t know it yet but I’ve made it my personal mission to contact all of his band members and to get them to learn it. He doesn’t know it yet but we are going to play together and any way possible I’ll have him play “Jet Lag”.
WE: You both are very compatible songwriters, any differences?
YH: I was surprised to find out that Brendan is more of a Stones guy than The Beatles, but we’re both Elvis guys.