It seems fitting that Ben Bridwell would be calling from a place called Mount Pleasant. The name evokes the same kind of woodsy, rustic setting as a lot of the music he makes with Band of Horses.
Of course, it's really a bustling suburban city and the fourth-largest municipality in South Carolina. But at least he's near family — when he's not on tour — which is the reason he moved back there several years ago.
“I don't get where the ‘Mount' comes from but it is certainly ‘Pleasant,' if not a little bit warm,” the singing, songwriting, guitar-playing Band of Horses leader said in a recent phone interview with The Oklahoman.
He wouldn't be home for long, however, as the alternative-country-rocking quintet was about to release their fourth full-length studio album, “Mirage Rock,” which would require a tour.
One leg of that tour was originally scheduled to travel by train, stopping in Oklahoma City among other places, with Willie Nelson and others on board as well, but that date was canceled when the Railroad Revival Tour derailed — figuratively speaking — due to logistics problems.
So Band of Horses is making it up to its Oklahoma fans with a rescheduled concert Tuesday at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa — sans Willie Nelson and others.
“We've played Norman on the campus, and Oklahoma City and Tulsa as well,” Bridwell said. “And being kind of students of the Tulsa sound, we're fans of the area. Yeah, we've always had a good response in the area. I don't know if it's because we'll do the pandering and throw out a J.J. Cale cover or Leon Russell or somethin'. But whatever it is it seems to mesh well.”
The meshing could be due to the fact that there's a pretty sizable Oklahoma audience with a taste for Band of Horses' special blend of indie-rock (check out the rollicking “Knock Knock,” which opens the new album), country-pop (“How to Live”) and magnificently melancholic acoustic folk (“Slow Cruel Hands of Time”).
It's a recipe that won the group a Grammy nomination for their 2010 album “Infinite Arms.” And to perfect this tasty Americana-based formula, the band called in the long-standing British king of the studio console — Glyn Johns.
“Workin' with Glyn Johns, who produced us, and he did so many of my favorite records growin' up,” Bridwell marveled. “And even to this day, with the Rolling Stones and the Who and the Faces and so many fantastic artists, that to step back into that time machine of no computers and, you know, you're all supposed to play at the same time, like you've touched a guitar before and like you sang a song before. Just go do it. And move on to the next song and quit bein' such babies about it.”
“That, I think, kind of permeates the entire feel of the record, that it is a bit more loose, at least.”
Bridwell admits that at first there were concerns within the band about a possible generation gap. After all, this guy had been around since the '60s. He'd worked with Dylan, the Band, Clapton, even the Beatles. Would he try to impose old-school rules on their creative process? Would he even get some of their songs, like the twisted “Dumpster World,” for instance?
But the worries were needless.
“I mean, there were certain songs that I was surprised that he actually ended up gravitating towards, that were more — I don't know if angular is the right word,” Bridwell said. “Maybe a bit out of his usual wheelhouse. No, I wouldn't say that he tried to temper us in any way of that stuff. He certainly leans a little bit more towards the ‘and roll' side of ‘rock,' you know? Some blues-influenced, you know, British rock even. You know, like the American blues-influenced British rock.
“So there were certain songs that we knew were in his wheelhouse, and some that we figured might be kind of, you know, go over his head. I wouldn't say that in any way he tried to temper our creativity, though.”
And when a day's recording was done, the stories John could tell ...
“I mean, yeah, besides the actual punching up the tape and knowing his pedigree, getting to hear his stories after the whistle blows,” Bridwell said. “He'll definitely remind your a — — of who you're talkin' to. He's got fantastic stories that, honestly, I mean moments that I wouldn't trade anything for.
“Gettin' to hear straight from the horse's mouth, as it were, some of those incredible stories of working with people that really invented rock 'n' roll.”