In Progress: Recording with Ben Sollee

Ben Sollee and I met at a pizza place in Louisville one night. I was doing cover songs to make some extra cash, and he was with his wife and son. We chatted for a bit, later realizing we had a handful of close mutual friends. From there, a great friendship blossomed.

Ben was in the middle of recording Dear Companion (an album he did with Daniel Martin Moore and producer Jim James) when we met. I thought it was really special. Jim brought something essential to the table for Ben and Daniel — not just his ideas, but also his oversight of the songs in general. For an artist to give another artist their demoed work and say, “OK, help me mold this project,” is a scary and beautiful act of trust.

I was so fascinated by that process that I felt compelled to find a producer to help watch over my songs. I was struggling to get them out, so having a second man behind them really has helped bring confidence to the finished projects. There is honestly no one better in my mind to trust with my songs than Ben. He has an energy and an ear that are inspiring.

We are recording at Shangri-La Studios in Lexington with owner/ engineer Duane Lundy, who has produced Ben’s records, along with These United States and Vandaveer.

In a roundabout way, hanging with Ben has been a learning experience in and of itself. Ben needed help on his trek to Bonnaroo this year. So there I was, driving a tank van through Eastern Kentucky from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. in order to make it to a radio show by 9 a.m. The entire Bonnaroo trip was a mental internship. I met a lot of great people, saw how to handle intense tour situations and learned the importance of good ice cream.

Justin Lewis’ next album, Living Spaces, will be available when it’s ready. Meanwhile, learn more at www.justinlewismusic.tumblr.com.