ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
Benji Hughes writes songs that make you want to do one of two things: hit the dance floor or roll down the windows and cruise the Strip.
(Soundbite of "Lyegue")
Mr. BENJI HUGHES (Musician): (Singing) I can't believe that you're with me.
SEABROOK: Of course, we're in D.C. So the Strip is Pennsylvania Avenue. Right now, I'm halfway between the Capitol and the White House, but I am 1,000 miles away. So, this is Benji Hughes. It's his first album. I'm headed back to the studio to talk to them here in just a second. The CD's called "A Love Extreme."
So I'm thinking my first question has to be, Benji Hughes, are you in love?
Mr. HUGHES: Definitely.
Mr. HUGHES: You.
SEABROOK: All right. Introduce yourself for us, would you?
Mr. HUGHES: Hello, my name is Benji Hughes.
SEABROOK: And you're from Charlotte, North Carolina?
Mr. HUGHES: Yes.
SEABROOK: The title of the album "A Love Extreme," an obvious reference to John Coltrane's album, "A Love Supreme," yes?
Mr. HUGHES: That is the greatest recording made pretty much (unintelligible).
SEABROOK: The Coltrane album?
Mr. HUGHES: Yeah, everybody knows "A Love Supreme." That's the supreme. And this is just extreme.
SEABROOK: Okay. Let's listen to a track. Let's listen to "Tight T-Shirt."
(Soundbite of "Tight T-Shirt")
Mr. HUGHES: (Singing) Tight T-shirt, a tight T-shirt, tight T-shirt on a real sweet girl. Tight T-shirt, tight T-shirt, tight T-shirt on a real sweet girl. Only have known that girl for a while. She used to be a paralegal. She wants to be a doctor or maybe train horses. She does this back and forth between them. She once (unintelligible) circus selling cotton candy, telling people rotten candy.
SEABROOK: Critics have compared your songs here to Stephin Merritt, Beck, how do you build a song?
Mr. HUGHES: I, years and years ago, stopped writing any lyrics down. I never write anything down. If it's not good enough to remember, then it's not good enough for you to hear. If it's not good, you're not going to want to hear "Tight T-Shirt" because it would've been a medium sized T-shirt on a real kind of cool girl.
(Soundbite of "Tight T-Shirt")
Mr. HUGHES: (Singing) Tight T-shirt, tight T-shirt on a real sweet girl.
SEABROOK: You have 25 songs on this two-disc album. Why make it two discs? Why not just one?
Mr. HUGHES: We worked on the record for about three-and-a-half years. There were so many songs that it seemed wrong to leave anything out. And to put it all on one CD and make you have to listen to something for way too long. Like, listen to the first CD, it's about 30 minutes and if you want to listen to the other one, cool. If not, then listen to, I don't know. It just made sense. This is where the interview is over. Everything's gone totally wrong.
(Soundbite of "Love on a Budget")
Mr. HUGHES: (Singing) Love on a budget doesn't make much sense anymore, forty dollars at the movies if you want to pop popcorn. If things go well, it's only going to cost you more. (Unintelligible) markets bleeding from your pockets, they don't give away much (unintelligible).
SEABROOK: It seems pretty unusual to release a two-disc album for a debut. What connects them to each other then?
Mr. HUGHES: There's a theme. I'm not going to tell you what it is.
SEABROOK: I would guess that the theme is love.
Mr. HUGHES: I can't comment on that.
SEABROOK: So many of the songs on this album are love songs.
Mr. HUGHES: Do you think there's one that isn't?
SEABROOK: That's a good question. "Neighbor Down the Hall"?
(Soundbite of "Neighbor Down the Hall")
Mr. HUGHES: (Singing) Small apartment, okay side of town, somebody in my building must be wigging out. None of them complained in three weeks. The landlord's (unintelligible) coming down on me. He says if he gets just one more call in the middle of night I've got my stereo, oh no.
SEABROOK: Do you think that living in the south influences your music, being from the south?
Mr. HUGHES: No doubt about it. I love it.
SEABROOK: What is it you love?
Mr. HUGHES: The beauty of the mountains that I grew up in Greenville, Tennessee and Charlotte, North Carolina. And it's right there where you can have the mountains over the beach. I'm kind of more of a mountain guy. I live rivers and stuff. I like to go tubing. I love it. It really did change my life; tubing. Sitting on an inner tube and riding down the river all day.
SEABROOK: It's a good metaphor, isn't it?
Mr. HUGHES: Yeah.
SEABROOK: Learning to just be super Zen and just ride the stream.
Mr. HUGHES: Yeah, and some of my friends, they're like that. They'll lay there, and (unintelligible) he'll just let it take him wherever, but I am kind of, like, I'll look around and try to make sure I don't run into a branch.
SEABROOK: Yeah, you got to have a little control, I guess. The album is "A Love Extreme." The singer-songwriter is Benji Hughes. Thanks so much for speaking with us.
Mr. HUGHES: Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.
(Soundbite of "Why Do These Parties Always End the Same Way?")
Mr. HUGHES: (Singing) Why do these parties all, why do these parties always end the same way? End the same way? Why do these parties all, why do these parties always end the same way? End the same way? Why do these parties all, why do these parties always end the same way? End the same way? Why do these parties all, why do these parties always end the same way? End the same way?
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