On July 19, The Nashville Food Project will hold its annual fundraising event, NOURISH, at the dining hall at Montgomery Bell Academy, bringing together Nashville’s
Singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist Ben Rector talks all things Magic and announces his third night playing the Ryman—after selling out the first two!—as part of Magic: The Tour on October 19.
Nashville Lifestyles (NL): Magic debuted on June 22, your first record in three years. What have you been up to?
Ben Rector (BR): The funny thing is, I’m done working on new music so long before it actually comes out. But, I’ve also been on a tour for a while. I think the reason that it took a minute on this one was because we did an extra headline tour—so I’ve been on two full tours, and then Brand New was at radio, so that kind of delayed this album. I’m usually writing a decent amount, and I didn’t start writing for real until after that. Then there’s six months for the recording cycle. That added a little bit of time, and there was a little bit of life happening, too. [Rector’s daughter, Jane, was born last July.]
NL: Yes, tell us about Jane! How did she influence the album?
BR: I’m unabashedly a fan of hers. She’s slowly becoming this little person, and I just want to be around her all the time.
People assumed that Magic would be a bunch of songs about being a dad. Hillary and I have so loved Jane at every stage, but it’s been recently, honestly, that we feel like we’re living with another person. It’s like, ‘Oh man, you’re being funny!’
NL: There’s definitely a nostalgic, kind of familial sentiment to Magic, which is really sweet and relatable.
BR: Yeah, when I started writing again, I didn’t know what I was going to be writing about. Having a little bit of a break, I realized I had been in a dead sprint since college and didn’t have any time to assess where I was at. I’m really not a kid anymore. I definitely felt older, but life stage-wise, I’m kind of just a young guy. I still feel young as a person, but that idea of nostalgia—I was overwhelmed by that. That phase of my life was over. Then I thought it’d be really fun to dress this up as far as production and arrangement; a sonic nostalgia.
NL: How did being in Nashville influence this album or play a part in your creative process?
BR: Being in Nashville has totally raised the bar for me as far as a writer and artist in general. So many of my friends are musicians, and being surrounded by that just constantly sharpens you and raises your game.
NL: Do you have a favorite song or specific memory, story, anecdote, etc. from writing or recording?
BR: I’m still so close to the record—it’s like if you go over to someone else’s house, and everything’s really clean, and in your own house, you’re used to all the nicks and scrapes. I’ll be able to answer that better in a year.
In terms of writing, I wrote “Duo” in Nashville with David Hodges and Gabe Dixon, both of whom I am fans of and friends with. They’re both so good and have such great, strong skill sets. Once we sort of hit a vein writing that song, it just came out and was such a joyous moment. It felt right; quintessential. It was such a fun afternoon with them, and that memory will really stick with me.
NL: Tell us about Magic: The Tour, which includes two—scratch that, three—nights at the Ryman this October.
BR: Basically, the first one sold out, and the second was getting close to selling out when there was talk of adding a third night. It’s still so crazy to me, but I’m super excited to get to play there again. With all the talent in Nashville, it’s like ‘bring your friends to work’ day.
This is honestly the first tour I’ve played where it feels like I’ll get to go back and play places I’m really excited to play again, like The Chicago Theatre, too. Sometimes a place like that you don’t get to fully enjoy, and I’m so jazzed to go back and fully experience it again.
NL: How have you changed since your very first record nearly a decade ago?
BR: I’m way more awesome! No, I’m joking. I hope that I have gotten better and more skilled. My hope is that I’m always getting a little bit better as a whatever—as a father and a singer and a player and a writer. Stylistically, I’ve changed a little bit, but I don’t know—I just want to keep getting better.
Tickets for Ben Rector’s third Magic: The Tour night at the Ryman go on sale Friday, July 13, at 10 a.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit benrectormusic.com/tour.