Ben Morey is a songwriting machine with a broad focus. Citing a short attention span, Morey fronts and plays in numerous bands with a pervading cool-and-casual demeanor, like a hepcat polar bear.
Besides his primary outlet Ben Morey and the Eyes, the man plays in Dumb Angel and Soft Opening. He also performs as a solo acoustic act and as half of the countrified, Johnny and June-esque duo with Katie Preston, which just wrapped up a month-long US tour. Morey seemingly has no end of outlets for his prolific and varied output.
His sound is cohesive throughout his various endeavors, including his latest release, "With Birds," but the songs are significantly varied. They don't at all sound alike. The music's best described as anti-folk dressed in lo-fi precision and countrypolitan elegance.
Morey, 31, who has been writing and performing music since age 15, studied music recording at Finger Lakes Community College and musicology at SUNY Geneseo. He also teaches music, and dreams of opening the Submarine School of Music to further that calling. In the meantime, he's thinking up new projects, writing songs, and trying to finish them.
He said as much when he stopped by CITY Newspaper HQ for a sit-down. An edited version of the interview follows.
CITY: So, you must get bored easily.
Ben Morey: I'm always writing music and listening to different things that don't always fit in one project. I like having a lot of projects going on, so I can write a song and give it to this project or that project. I have ADHD and can't focus on just one project for too long.
How do you delineate from project to project, style to style?
I'm just writing in different ways. I like having projects that are hungry for songs. It keeps me busy and trying new things. I do a lot of lo-fi stuff.
Our new album "With Birds" was recorded on ¼ inch tape on a 1970s reel-to-reel.
Do you or do your fans consider your songs lyrically maudlin or musically "melancholy?"
I think "melancholy" is a good word for it. I wouldn't say that I'm a melancholy person. I'm an upbeat dude. But that's how I write.
Do you find beauty in the sadness?
I think sad songs are a lot more interesting. I think that music ought to be beautiful, and a real good way to get to the beauty is to find the sadness and the melancholy.
Do any of your songs wind up in more than one project?
Occasionally I'll use the same song twice, but there's never too much overlap. I try to keep the projects separate, but the song tells me where it wants to go.
What do you struggle with as a writer?
Usually it's finishing a song. At first the ideas for a song come really easily. But then it can take me a year to figure out how to finish it. I'll play the same minute of the song all year, waiting for that next part to come out, but it doesn't. At any point, I have 20 songs waiting to be finished.
What comes easy for you?
Starting a song. I'll sit down with the guitar or at the piano and an idea will just come out. I'll get the chorus or the first verse. But it just takes me forever finding that next step.