What work of art has most shaped your ideas about love?
I liked Love in the Time of Cholera, and The Satanic Verses. But everyone’s asking me about love and romance and shit, and I don’t really fucking get it. Making up these answers, I’m losing my mind! [laughs] Everyone thinks the record [The Alternative To Love] is only about love and relationships. I think it’s the title.
I’m interested in the love-songwriting fulcrum!
You’re probably talking to the wrong guy! I have no fuckin’ idea! I think maybe I was in love once, maybe twice. I‘m still sort of wondering myself. I guess but I’m kinda lost.
Any musical guilty pleasure?
I don’t think there is such a thing as a guilty pleasure. But I know what you mean. Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street,” the theme from Grease, the soundtrack to Annie.
Oh man! Favorite Annie song?
“Hard-Knock Life,” that’s a jam!
If you could meet anyone, who would it be, and what would you ask them?
John Lennon. I’d ask him, “What advice can you give me as a songwriter?”
What advice would you give a novice songwriter?
None! Chances are, I probably would be more interested in his or her songs. My advice would be, at whatever cost, don’t ever think about it too much. Try to retain that naiveness.
Pardon me if this is presumptuous, but it sounds to me like you haven’t
yet met your great love.
I think storybook love comes from childhood. Like drugs or twilight — twilight’s so special because it doesn’t last.
Do you think childhood grief is the main font of songwriting creativity?
Yeah, definitely. Most of my songs are images and feelings from childhood applied to describe something current. But the soul of it is childhood.
Which is one of the great things about John Lennon.
Yeah! You’re right! Plastic Ono Band . . .
What does he mean [in “God”] when he says, “God is a concept by which we
measure our pain”?
Oh wow, I never thought about it. I never liked that song. I think it might be gibberish.
Brendan Benson performs Tuesday, July 26, at the El Rey; Robbers on High
Street open the show.