EXTREME LOVER Benji Hughes

The Tarheel singer-songwriter has had enough of
silly love songs.

 

BY JOHN
SCHACHT

 

Charlotte, North
Carolina, native Benji Hughes describes himself as an
“extreme songwriter,” and there’s little about his debut to argue the point. How
many opening salvos are sprawling double discs of 25 playful-but-poignant love
songs and carry a loaded title like A
Love Extreme
?

 

“Maybe
this is as close to [John Coltrane’s] A
Love Supreme
as a guy like me can get,” laughs Hughes, whose thatch of red
hair and fulsome beard suggest he could be a descendent of extreme Norseman
Eric the Red.

 

A June
tour of the U.S.
with Rilo Kiley followed by a European trek in October as Jenny Lewis’ opening
act may have increased Hughes’ profile some, but to most he remains a newcomer.
Yet the 33 year old is actually a veteran of the music business, having penned
his first song in his mid-teens and, except for occasional house-painting
stints, shown enough songwriting talent that he’s done little else for a living
since.

 

Legendary
record exec Seymour Stein signed him (along with Muscadine co-founder Jonathan
Wilson) to a contract with Sire in the mid-90s, and it was Twin/Tone founder
Peter Jesperson who helped land him at New West Records in 2005. In between, the
then-bicoastal Hughes signed with an L.A.
song-publishing company, and wrote with the likes of Alice Cooper, Burt
Bacharach, Holly Palmer, Bill Bottrell, Chris Body and even rapper Mickey
Avalon. (Other credits: The “put a little Captain in ya” Captain Morgan Rum ad jingle,
and “Let’s Duet” from Walk Hard: The
Dewey Cox Story
).

 

The key
connection he made, however, was with former Everlast beats-maker/keyboardist
Keefus Ciancia. Thrown together in 2004 to come up with a song for a birth
control product advertisement, the two turned out to be an unlikely musical
peanut butter-and-chocolate tandem, Ciancia’s processed beats bringing out the
playful side of Hughes’ often moving love songs.

“I’ve got
the whole rest of my life to make bummer records, and I’m sure that I will,”
says Hughes. “I love that kind of stuff, I mean I love country music, but I
really wanted to make a record that was fun to listen to and overall more
upbeat.”

 

 

[To read a review of Hughes’ album go HERE.]

 

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